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MIDDLE EAST

While the leader of the NTC bows to pressure from the international community over the precise circumstances regarding the death of the ex-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the bodies of him and his son Muatassim, as well as one of Gaddafi's top aides, have been buried in a secret desert location.

 

With Colonel Gaddafi's family wishing for the bodies to be buried outside the former leader's hometown of Sirte and the NTC, as well as the world, expressing their concern over the burial ground becoming a shrine to the dictator's past, an 'Unknown location' chosen, along with a burial performed in secret, was the obvious solution.

 

There is no over-shadowing the fact however, through his last minutes alive shot on amateur video, that the ex-Libyan leader came under vengeful attack by those rebels who captured him.

 

An investigation is underway with the NTC leader announcing that he has set up a committee to look into the events and circumstances of Gaddafi's death. Before their secret burial, the corpses of Gaddafi, his son and a former aide were stored in a commercial freezer in a warehouse area of Misrata and on show for all to see, in anticipation of the final burial taking place.

 

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), said that Libyans would have preferred to see their deposed leader stand trial and be held accountable for his war crimes. "We have formed a committee to investigate how Gaddafi was killed during the clashes with his supporters while arresting him," Abdel-Jalil said in Benghazi. However, it has been made apparent, that there has been atrocities on both sides.

 

Evidence of killings against captured regime supporters emerged with a report that the bodies of 53 Gaddafi loyalists, some bound and shot in the head, have been found in Sirte.

 

TV channels continue to screen video of Gaddafi's final moments as well as showing rebel fighters in the cold store squatting around his corpse and cursing him. This weeks newspapers showed yet more explicit and gory images on front pages.

It has been five long years for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas militants who tunneled their way into Israel in 2006. But it has come at a cost. His freedom, which was brokered by Egyptian mediators, has meant that Israel will release 1,000 terrorist prisoners, allowing them to walk free.

 

The first 477 are being released, with the rest soon following in a carefully orchestrated sequence of events. This has been denounced as totally disproportionate by the families of the victims that some of these terrorist prisoners have killed, seeing the swap with Sgt Shalit as a very high price to pay.

 

Gilad Shalit, was only 19 when he was taken while on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. No-one ever presumed to see him again. Shalit, now 25, has been taken to the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and there will be handed over to Egypt in the presence of Israeli officials. Only when 50% of the Palestinian prisoners have left Israel from the Kerom Shalom crossing will Shalit be allowed to be identified by the Israeli representatives. He will still be under guard by Hamas militants until the complete release of all 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have left Israel.

 

The obvious joy at seeing Gilad return to his family is tempered by deep concern at the high price the Israeli government has had to pay. More than 1,000 Palestinians have been released from jail in the deal to bring Gilad home. The bombing of a Jerusalem pizza parlour that killed 15, with the person who scouted the suicide bomber into the centre of Jerusalem that day, being let free to a heroes welcome, even by the rather moderate President Abbas of the Palestine Authority who says that none of the militant's actions have been in vain.

 

The poignant thing is, many of those militants being released from Israeli prisons remain fully committed to the violent destruction of the Jewish state, with Hamas completely opposed to any peace process. Hamas, who held Gilad as prisoner in Gaza, have already claimed a great victory. The soldier was denied every human right. He was held in solitary confinement for over five years, denied sunlight during that entire period, was not permitted a single Red Cross visit, and was returned to Israel malnourished. The Shalit family was regularly taunted on Hamas controlled media.

 

On the other side of the patch, the Palestinians celebrate the prisoners swap deal, viewing them all as heroes and saviours.

 

This proves that everyone has a son that they want home, however, when the weight of one young, lone man is balanced up with the might of a 1,000 militant soldiers who are eager to take life as well as their own for what they believe in, it does say an awful lot for Israel's commitment to their own sons.

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Disproportionate deal gets thumbs down

Gaddafi buried in secret desert location

However, fighters of Libya's new regime are still fighting the remains of Gaddafi loyalists in Sirte which has defied attacks until just recently, but which will soon be under total control of the new regime.

 

They have launched a fresh assault on the tough desert oasis of Bani Walid as the fighting dies down in the city of Sirte. "We have resumed combat operations and we have advanced from the northern front as well as from the south,' said Musa Yunis, who heads the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces in Bani Walid, some 170km southeast of Tripoli.

 

NTC fighters surrounded the town but their commanders pulled them back last week after suffering heavy losses and to prepare for a new offensive against the 1500 pro-Gaddafi fighters thought to still remain in Bani Walid.

 

The NTC fighters had only just a week ago paid a very heavy price for their lack of co-ordination, having to abandon control of the Bani Walid airport, suffering heavy casualties with 17 men killed and more than 80 wounded.

 

In Sirte, on the Mediterranean coast, where fierce clashes between NTC forces and those loyal to the deposed leader Gaddafi have raged for over a month, last Sunday saw a lull with only intermittent shelling and rocket-fire.

 

'We are shelling with tanks and anti-aircraft weapons and then we will send our troops into the streets,' said Salem Ahmed, a tank commander from the eastern city of Benghazi.' But we are constantly thwarted by snipers and they are hard to dislodge.'

 

'A few snipers can stop an army. They are very professional. They shoot in the heart, the head, the chest.' Ahmed said the advance was being held up by pro-Gaddafi  snipers. Snipers have played a big part in the Gaddafi Loyalists defence of Sirte and of other strongholds.

 

Medical sources said one sniper was killed adding that 10 people were injured in the fighting, without specifying if they were pro- or anti-Gaddafi forces.

 

The lull contrasted sharply with Saturday afternoon, when Gaddafi loyalists mounted a fierce counter-attack, forcing back the NTC fighters under a barrage of rockets and shelling. A medic at a field hospital behind the eastern front line said four NTC fighters were killed and 22 wounded in the fighting on that side of the city on Saturday.

 

'Those killed were mainly from sniper bullets. And the wounded were injured by explosions and rocket attacks,' Dr Ahmed Bushariya said.

 

A commander on the western side of the city echoed the concern about the sniper threat.

 

'At the very front line, they have very professional snipers,' said Salah al-Jabo. 'According to doctors, 80 per cent of the fighters killed in the past two days were shot in the head or in the chest. They are the danger. They are hard to detect and they have some of the latest high powered guns.'

 

It is fairly well-known that Gaddafi bought the latest firepower with the massive amounts of cash he had at his disposal and that this very arsenal of weaponry, probably originally bought from the West, has brought down many UN warplanes and the lives of many of the NTC fighters.

 

Take out the snipers and you may just win the war, for he may be known as 'The Lonely Sniper' but he certainly takes a lot of casualties for company with him when he finally meets his Waterloo....As they all eventually do!

The compound of former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has been torn down in Tripoli.  It was a symbolic gesture as residents do their best to remove all remnants of the former tyrant's presence.

In todays War Zones a well-equipped and competent sniper ....can hold an army at bay

to bring an end to the political violence that had brought disruption to the country for over half the year. However, with pictures being released showing Syrian tanks bombarding residential districts of Homs - the city where the uprising has been especially strong - the agreement was obviously just another form of shallow appeasement.

 

The violence followed sectarian killings this week that raised tensions between majority Sunni residents and the minority Alawite sect. Local activists said forces loyal to Mr Assad shot dead at least 11 Sunni Muslim villagers they had stopped at a roadblock north-west of Homs on Wednesday.

 

This is all happening in the wake of a 15,000 strong army of activists gathering to take on Syria and it's President. The insurgency is being coordinated from Turkey which risks plunging the entire region into open warfare. Thousands turned out to shout slogans against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during the funeral of villagers killed on Wednesday, in Hula, near Homs.

 

Mr Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect which dominates power in Sunni-majority Syria. The latest crackdown comes 24 hours after Syria's  government claimed to have accepted a peace plan to stop such violence and remove its troops from Syria's streets. Arab leaders in Cairo have said the agreement would bring an end to such killings. It has not.

 

The deal would also see Syria release all political prisoners and open talks with opposition groups. But those same opposition leaders say the plan is merely an attempt by the regime to buy more time. Their understanding of Assad's sly brinkmanship manoeuvres proves they were right.

 

The national "Syrian Free Army" aims to be the "military wing of the Syrian people's opposition to the regime". Confirmation of an armed force operating with the covert approval of the Turkish authorities follows evidence that attacks inside Syria are causing high levels of casualties in the security forces.

 

Although a former ally to Mr Assad, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, the Turkish premier has shown anger and distrust towards the President's broken promises causing an irreparable rift. The 'Syrian Free Army' claim they are the future army of the new Syria. That they are not in league with any particular sect, religion or political party, but believe in protecting all elements of Syrian society. This comes from the Army's leader, Col Riad al-Assad.

 

The group made up of defectors from the regime's army, SFA fighters are conducting "high quality operations against government soldiers and security agents," Col al-Assad said. Last week the SFA claimed responsibility for the killing of nine Syrian soldiers in battles in a town in central Syria. On Friday a further 17 regime soldiers were reported killed in violent clashes with defected former comrades in the city of Homs, a hotbed of resistance. With the violence continuing, escalating the number of deaths on both sides, it looks like any formal mediation will not be forthcoming.

 

Turkey's formal position is that of a humanitarian role in Syria with Col Assad coy on whether the SFA was conducting cross border operations. Re any strategy he may have. All the Col was willing to say was, "It depends on the political developments among the Arab League, the Middle East and the International Community.

Army gathers to take on the 'Monster of Syria'

Their hearts and minds are willing, but without being properly armed, the Syrian activists are weak.

People continue to gather in protest as government forces using terrific force in the form of tanks, bombard the city of Homs, killing at least 20 people. The reports come a day after the Arab League said president Bashar al-Assad's government had agreed

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SYRIA: Hollow words, where action is what counts

-Anne Hunt-

-Sam Watts-

-Anne Hunt-

What does one do if they want to rattle the foundations of a dictatorial establishment, plus seek a little bit of worldwide notoriety at the same time? Be an Iranian woman and appear naked for a French Magazine and then post the same nude image on your Facebook page.

 

If it were anyone else we would all just yawn and go back to sleep, but when you happen to be Iranian, and a woman, a certain modest attire is expected and strictly followed - at all costs - otherwise, mind the consequences. The consequences in Golshifteh Farahani's case is she is now banned from returning to her homeland.

 

For Ms Farahani, a 28 year old actress who has co-starred along side Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2008 spy drama 'Body of Lies' and who had moved from Iran to Paris a year ago. The political uproar over her naked appearance in the news magazine 'Madame Le Figaro' could not highlight better what she calls, "the ultra-conservative cultural policies, which are restricting Iran's film industry." She has received both praise and condemnation on both sides of the political argument.

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Iran: A Storm in an 'A' Cup

They say, 'talk can be cheap' and in the U.S.A's case, Israel may just have a point. However, the US-Israel alliance, which has always been a bonding point of contention for the rest of the Middle East, is now beginning to show a few frayed edges. A report showing that an Israeli security source conveyed that Israel was shocked when it learned that the US-Israel security exercise that had been planned for two years was postponed by the U.S. fuelling reports that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu does not trust President Obama to come through with support and is concerned that the American

Israel: Is a storm brewing?

leader would do everything in his power to prevent an attack if he knew about it in advance. The report mentions that Israel told US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey during his recent visit that Israel will not ask for the permission from the US to attack Iran and will only give America a 12 hour warning before the attack. This comes after a statement from Israel's President Peres to General Dempsey which said, "The State of Israel thanks to Obama and the U.S. Army: This is a great privilege to be your allies," "I am confident that we will fight against Iran on top with our hands." Dempsey replied that the mutual partnership with Israel was an honor. Looks like Israel will not be waiting around to check that out.

Iranian model.

Ms Golshifteh

Farahani

Syrians were called to the polls on Sunday

to vote on a new constitution in the face of opposition calls for a boycott, and with the

deadly violence still being waged with targeted precision in the cities of Syrian civilians, many regard this ironic chess move to be the

biggest joke of the entire 'Arab Spring.'

The presented text ends the legal basis for the five-decade stranglehold on power of the ruling Baath party but leaves huge, almost unstoppable powers in the hands of the current ruler, President Bashar al-Assad.

 

The opposition agree, the changes are simply a facade and a 'dressing up' of the constitution with the only solution acceptable, that Assad would get the 'Royal Order of the Boot.' After 11 months of repression by his security forces, human rights groups around the world, including the Red Cross and Amnesty International, say his dictatorial regime have left more than 7,600 people dead.

 

On Saturday alone, 98 people were killed, 72 of them civilians, the 'Syrian Observatory for Human Rights' claim.

 

In the central city of Homs, which has now been under assault by regime forces for

more than three weeks, shelling also resumed on the rebel district of Baba Amro, ruining all Red Cross hopes of a lull in fighting long enough to allow the evacuation of two wounded Western journalists. Syrian State Television aired live footage from a number of polling stations around the country and reported that “large numbers of voters” had turned out.

 

“I am voting because this is the outcome of reforms introduced by the president, and if they succeed, we will have a democracy, but not like in Libya and elsewhere,” Balsam Kahila, 32, naively told AFP after voting in the capital at the finance ministry where she works. 'Western Democracy is not a reliable form for our State.'

 

Asked whether she thought it was right to hold the referendum in the thick of bloodshed, she said: “I am voting in spite of the armed gangs,” (obviously brainwashed into using the term employed by the regime to refer to 'rebel fighters' and 'mutinous troops).'

 

At the voting centre, clearly not accessable to the so called 'Rebels' many did not even bother to use the booth. In Homs, no voting appeared to be taking place, activist Hadi Abdullah said after  touring parts of the city where rebels are active. “There are no people in the streets. Everything is shut, and there is not a single polling station,” he said. Foreign journalists have very limited freedom of movement in Syria as a result of stringent restrictions imposed by the authorities.

-James Hubbard-

- Sam Watts -

SYRIA: At the Polls

-Anne Hunt-

-Alan White-

-Alan White-

levels' of civilian deaths were still being reported. Despite an April 10 deadline that former UN chief Annan agreed with Damascus to end its military offensive on protest cities, the regime forces are still launching fresh attacks on rebel held cities daily.

 

The United Nations says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year in his attempts to crush pro-democracy demonstrations across the country. Syria told the world body last week that 6,044 had died, including 2,566 soldiers and police.

 

Although the advance UN team headed by Norwegian General Robert Mood, a Middle East specialist, will discuss with the authorities 'the modalities of the eventual deployment of the UN supervising mission,' western diplomats express skepticism about the reigning leaders intentions. With an image of constant broken promises being shown to the world, it appears that al-Assad intends to fight to the bitter end, however bitter that end might be.

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SYRIA: Assad continues his crackdown

Syrian government forces continue their violent crackdown on rebel strongholds even as a United Nations team lands on Syrian soil, paving the way for a reconciliation.

 

Kofi Annan said the Syrian government had announced a partial withdrawal from protest cities, but that this had not been confirmed and that 'alarming

-Alan White-

LIBYA: Saif Gaddafi - 'Is he Safe?'

The one time "Son of Libya's" ICC defence official, Xavier-Jean Keita has accused Libyan authorities of depriving Saif Gaddafi his fundamental rights. 'As well as Gaddafi being physically attacked, he also suffers pain due to the absence of dental treatment,' the lawyer said.

 

'Gaddafi has been interviewed by domestic authorities without the benefit of legal representation, and has been provided misleading information concerning the status of domestic investigations against him,' the statement continued. ICC officials said Gaddafi was in a legal black hole having been held by Libyan militias in informal detention facilities for 139 days. The ICC confirm that the charges of crimes against humanity come from his role in trying to put down the uprising to unseat his father in Libya last year.

Saif al-Islam, the son of slain Libyan  leader Muammar Gaddafi, has been attacked while in detention in Libya.

 

Although the captured son of the infamous leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for two counts of alleged crimes against humanity, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, has only been charged with trivial matters  such as failure to licence his camels, human rights campaigners have claimed.

- Sam Watts -

In recent polls in 5 countries, two thirds of westerners approve of the idea of the Arab League and Turkey establishing safe havens inside Syria, to provide Syrians who are at risk of being attacked by government forces a place to retreat.

 

And, nearly half approve of a Western Nation or NATO to the even USA providing air cover, although nearly just as many oppose that idea completely.

 

But, the idea of contributing foreign troops for the safe havens gets extremely low support, with three quarters opposed. The idea of providing weapons for the safe havens is only supported by approximately 35% of people.

 

These are some of the findings when research was done apropos participation in action and sanctions - and it's a fifty-fifty split of those who feel support should come from outside of countries in the region, to nearly the same who believe it should be Middle Eastern countries doing all the 'dirty work' of taking steps to protect civilians at risk. However, they are divided about US air power getting involved and clearly most do not want to send in ground troops.

 

Interestingly, in the USA, unlike in the UK and France, Republicans and Democrats are unified, with majorities approving safe havens and the US  providing air cover, while the independents are much less supportive. The findings of a new poll conducted early in April by the Program on International Policy Attitudes splits opinions right across the board.

 

Steven Kull, director of PIPA commented, "Clearly Americans are feeling concerned about the situation in Syria, but it's so far away and with Presidential elections coming on, far too many people feel it's a matter that can be put on the back burner.'  

 

The real question is, can it really wait? Over 9000 innocents have now lost their lives.

The people who are the most serious about the problem is not the UN itself, nor the people far removed from the area, like Europe and the USA.

 

It's really members of the Arab League, especially Turkey who have already provided a safety net on the border areas inside Syria and even inside Turkey itself for those who are fleeing Syrian  gunfire.

 

Sixty-seven percent of Muslims polled in Arab Nations called such safe havens a good idea, while only 24% disagreed.

 

Yet, even those countries feel other nations outside the region still need to provide military aid to protect them in this operation. They also introduced to the debate the query; would the world say, that action would violate Syria's sovereignty.

 

While others within the Arab League claim that the international community has a responsibility to protect Syrians at risk, just as they did in Libya. 

 

The western world could reply, that after so many Middle Eastern involvements, no matter what it does, good or bad, help or hinder, their intentions will always be met with scepticism and resentment?

 

Catch 22 or catch desperate Assad on an off day?

From the back-streams of the Danube to the hallowed halls of The White House...and beyond, opinions on how to handle the Syrian dilemma varies from the positive to the 'Keep heads buried deep in the Desert Sand' theorists.

How serious is any other country, within the Arab world - or indeed, outside it, about getting too deeply involved?

Western attitudes to the Syrian problem

-Anne Hunt-

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-Anne Hunt-

In a world that has become so benign to bloodshed. With a twenty-four hour news coverage where the daily mention of death and destruction brings on the next question...numbers.

 

Whether it be a Tsunami, a murdering racist on the rampage or some evil, wayward despot with a long, sloping skull intent on hanging onto power at any and all cost, by going on a slaughtering frenzy - murdering indiscriminately, and yet, with careful, methodical planning and oh, so very, very personal!

 

The shallow cry from the government based capital of Damascus, repeatedly denying wrong-doing and pointing the finger instead squarely on the shoulders of the 'terrorists' they are fighting.

 

Regardless, the numbers keep escalating and the U.N's diplomatic efforts prove that they may as well not exist.

To the Syrians at large, the International community has all but abandoned them, leaving them in the murderous hands of the government-backed malitia who are taking lives any way possible and by whatever foul means.

 

Over 80 people in the single village of Qubair in the province of Hama have now been slaughted, most were defenceless women and children and all either stabbed or shot.

 

Activists are reporting a total loss of 140 lives nationwide this last Wednesday accounting for one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began. This death-bath comes on the coat tails of another equally unforgettable massacre in Houla just two weeks ago.

 

Although the Un-Arab League, along with Presidents and Prime Ministers across the globe are condemning the violence in the harshest of terms, one can not help but try and ascertain that 'actions indeed speak louder than hollow words.' And, of course, there is only one word that violent people ever recognise, and that's more stringent violence!

 

Negotiations will always be empty words which land on deaf, defiant ears. One must fight fire with the very same fire. That is the only hope the people of Syria have. But they cannot do it alone...

 

RUSSIA PLEASE NOTE.

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More Syrian massacres. Up close

and very, very personal

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Egypt's Morsi hits out at Assad

who are aiming for change and who are standing by the Syrian rebels. As host nation of a gathering of the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement, a Cold War-era group that Tehran hopes will transform into a powerful bloc to challenge Western influence.

 

Morsi has proposed that Iran take part in a four-nation contact group that would include Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to mediate an end to the Syrian crisis. The U.N. chief Ban ki Moon also said Iran has a key role to play in finding a solution to end Syria's civil war, which activists say has claimed at least 20,000 lives.

 

"The bloodshed in Syria is the responsibility of all of us and will not stop until there is real intervention to stop it," Morsi said. "The Syrian crisis is bleeding our hearts."

Egypt's President Morsi  speaking at an international conference in Tehran made no bones about the fact that Syria's Assad should step down, saying that the regime was oppressive and that it had lost all legitimacy.

 

Iran, a firm supporter and key ally of Bashar Assad, showed the wall of division between them and the large support network gathering from regional and global powers

- Sam Watts -

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FLY SOON

-Anne Hunt-