A sense of joy in most of Syrian cities overshadowed the death Syrians are living daily, where they were able to go out in demonstrations, which they pledged to continue until the regime is toppled, due to withdrawal of some demilitarization. They went out in 795 demonstrations to renew the revolution’s oath, confirm their demands, and color Syria’s streets with chants of freedom.
Residents of Idlib were determined to continue what our revolution’s martyrs has started so they went out in 150 demonstrations; despite the massacres that were committed in the governorate.
Despite the fierce military attack on Aleppo and the massacres committed in its neighborhoods demonstrators were determined to go out in 125 demonstrations challenging regime’s oppression and violence, followed by Hama with 142 demonstrations despite the heavy military deployment and suffocating security siege in the area.As for Damascus Suburbs, which witnessed several massacres and daily shelling in most cities, demonstrators went out in 75 demonstrations, where they demanding the release of detainees and chanted for the capital Damascus. 60 demonstrations took place in Deir Ezzor, despite shelling and violence witnessed in the governorate over the past week.
As for the capital Damascus, which witnessed unprecedented military escalation since the beginning of the revolution and heavy deployment of regime’s army tanks, demonstrators were determined to go out in 58 different demonstrations. 55 demonstrations were documented in Daraa, which is still under shelling by regime’s army warplanes, and demonstrators chanted for the martyrs and revolution’s detainees. Hassakeh witnessed 50 demonstrations, where demonstrators chanted for unity, followed by Homs and Lattakia with 25 demonstrations each, then Raqqa, which now includes thousands of displaced people, demonstrators went out in 20 demonstrations and confirmed that the revolution will continue until the regime and all its symbols are toppled, then Tartous, which suffered from a suffocating siege, witnessed 7 demonstrations, and finally comes Qunaitra with 3 demonstrations.
Eleventh Meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council
The European Union (EU) warmly welcomes this 11th meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council as a demonstration of the significance the EU attaches to its relations with the State of Israel. The EU reiterates the importance of further developing our broad bilateral partnership and looks forward to a comprehensive dialogue and cooperation with our Israeli counterparts. Click here to read the full statement of the European Union. Statement as PDF
PCHRO – Following the Association Council meeting on 24 July 2012 between the European Union (EU) and Israel, it was announced that the EU has agreed upon developing cooperation with Israel by offering it 60 new activities in 15 fields. The EU also declared that it would continue technical discussions with Israel aimed at identifying areas for future cooperation.
As organisations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), we are strongly concerned about the EU’s lack of commitment to human rights in light of what is essentially an intensification of bilateral relations with Israel.
In recent months, the EU has made progress in recognising and condemning Israel’s practices and policies in the OPT which constitute systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. We welcomed the 14 May Council Conclusions which expressed “deep concern about developments on the ground which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible” and waited for words to turn into action from the EU’s side.
The Association Council, the most high-level meeting to take place between the EU and Israel, is, however, a step backwards. Aggravatingly, the Association Council statement comes at a time when Israel is relentless in expanding its illegal settlement enterprise; maintains the continued closure of the Gaza Strip which amounts to collective punishment; continues to revoke residency permits of Palestinians; displaces the Palestinian people, especially those residing in Area C; discriminatory allocates natural resources, such as land and water; as well as continuing the construction of the Annexation Wall.
Indeed, in the past two months alone Israel has issued demolition orders to some 50 structures in Susiya and ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills so that the land can be used for the training of the Israeli military. These are all methods and means of the Israeli Government aimed at fragmenting the OPT, illegally appropriating Palestinian land for the benefit of the settler population and Israel, and diminishing Palestinian presence and control over Palestinian lands. The statement also comes at a time where Israel remains unaffected by the Palestinian prisoners nearing death in Israeli prisons, and where Israel unabatedly resorts to excessive use of administrative detention.
Editor Addition: Ethnic Cleansing Video of 2011 / Cowardly Soldiers
Videos Of Theft Of Palestinian Water
Palestinian Susya has been razed 5 times in 1985, 1991, 1997 and twice in 2001. Since it is classified within Area C of the West Bank, it lies under Israeli military occupation and control. Though they own much of the land, Susya’s 350 residents are denied permits to build homes, schools or clinics and dwell mostly as a result in a collection of shabby tents. This rebuilt village made of tents, cinderblocks and tarps, is under an Israeli court order to be demolished in 2012
No master plan exists for the Palestinian Susya as opposed to the Israeli settlement of Susya, and Palestinians are required to obtain permits from the Israeli Civil Administration.
On November 3 2011, electricity poles connected Umm Faqara to a grid were uprooted by an Israeli demolition team. On the 24 of November, 2011 bulldozers razed what Israeli law defines as illegal constructions: two tents where the Mughnem family dwells on their own land in Susya; another family’s small residence; a guest room of another family and a rabbit pen. A small mosque in the cave village of Umm Faqara, though not illegal, was damaged during the bulldozing. On June 13 an Israelli court issued 6 demolition orders covering houses in most of the Palestinian village of Susya. Other than thousands of square metres of compounds, the orders are expected to include the destruction of a kindergarten, a clinic, and the solar panels that generate the only available electricity for the village.
By agreeing to further develop bilateral relations with Israel, the EU has failed to adhere to its self-commitment to international law, and appropriately implement the recent EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy which emphasized that the “EU is founded on a shared determination to promote peace and stability and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law” and that these principles are to underpin EU’s external policies. Moreover, individual member states of the European Union are under a legal obligation to respect and ensure respect of the Geneva Conventions. The recent intensification of relations is certainly not based on consideration of seeking conformity with these legal obligations.
If adherence to international law is to be a corner stone of the EU then it must make a link between its actions and its verbal and written condemnations. As such, the EU needs to stress to Israel that until it shows tangible progress in its compliance with international law it will not benefit from further cooperation with the EU, on the basis of or outside the current EU-Israeli Action Plan. Only in the instance that the EU does not allow for Israel to enjoy impunity will Israel be persuaded to comply with all its international legal obligations, including those owed towards the occupied Palestinian people.
As Palestinian human rights organisations, we are deeply disappointed with the EU’s decision to sideline human rights and humanitarian law when it suits the EU and Israel, and thus oppose the EU’s decision to effectively upgrade its relations with Israel. The recent agreement amount to the condoning of Israel’s illegal practices and, by virtue of the acquiescence of the EU, contributes to both their continuation and the deterioration of the human rights situation in the OPT.
Posted on 07/28/2012
Photographer John Wreford has lived in Syria for many years and still remains in his house in Damascus’ Old City. Here, he gives a very personal account of the last couple of weeks’ events.
A warm summer evening sitting in a central Damascus restaurant overlooking the city, the mountain of Qasyun lit like a Christmas tree, we were under no illusion all was well in Syria. But here in the capital life went on almost as usual. We discussed how things the last week or so had calmed down, then for a moment we paused for thought, the calm before the storm perhaps.
No more than a few days later the storm well and truly blew into town. For months, the opposition and regime had been battling each other in the outer suburbs of Damascus. The sounds of shelling and artillery echoed across the city, peaceful protestors were still coming out in large numbers, more and more clashes could be heard, but by and large everything tended to take place in certain areas.
It was pretty well known that the Free Syrian Army had been moving into Damascus and was encamped in the more militant neighbourhoods such as Midan and Kfra Souseh. But many of us felt able to go about life as usual despite knowing that sooner or later things would change. From Sunday we felt that change. The war had been on the doorstep but was now passing over the threshold, more explosions, more shooting, the awful sounds moving closer and closer, the continuous drone of helicopters that had become a regular feature over recent weeks.
Where I live in the Old City between Bab Touma and Bab Salam, ancient houses in a warren of alleyways, things were calm, children playing in the streets and many preparing for Ramadan. I would sit on my roof early morning and in the evening, able to get more of a fix on where the sounds of gunfire may be coming from. I can see very little, four large satellite dishes prostrated toward Mecca have seen to that. Monday through Tuesday the fighting became more intense, my house shook as a helicopter was shot down in Qaboun and at one point a couple of stray bullets whizzed through the air above my head, the sound like an email being despatched from an iPhone. The explosions and gunfire continued all through the night.
I woke up on Wednesday to more of the same. I felt safe enough near my house but the thought of what was happening elsewhere in the city was stomach churning. How can we know what weapons are creating those sounds, what carnage they can be causing? Then a couple of very loud bangs, from some distance but I felt a shudder. A car bomb had exploded outside the law courts a couple of weeks earlier and it felt much the same, it seemed already I was learning the difference between car bomb and artillery. Soon the television news was reporting on the attack on the security meeting and possible deaths of government ministers. I left the house and as I arrived in Qamaria, near my home, the shopkeepers were excitedly rushing from shop to shop with updates on the unfolding events. Some were just staring at the screens in almost disbelief, the attack happening in one of the most secure areas of Damascus, a stone’s throw from the presidential office and American embassy.
The sounds continued, the crackle and pop of God knows what. Then while on the phone stressing that this little corner of the Old City was going about its business as usual, I watched two armed men climb onto the roof of a house a couple of streets away. I went downstairs and told the neighbours’ children to go inside. I walked around the alleys close to my house. I have always considered my immediate neighbours as loyal to the regime. They seemed ok with the gunmen on the roof, and the children were soon back playing in the street. It’s this last point that gives me cause not to trust their judgment.
Back in Qamaria people were closing their shops early, some had already preferred to stay the previous night in their shops. As the sun was setting I checked the roof again, the gunmen had made themselves comfortable and had hung flags to indicate they were from the regime. A little after dark a couple of loud explosions, some distance away, and then the electricity was cut. Suddenly several bursts of gunfire from somewhere in the neighbourhood, then quiet again, for the next couple of hours it was calm, the neighbours preferred to chat in the alley under the still working lamp. The power returned just before midnight, then at two am a whizz and explosion in one of the surrounding alleyways, then quiet again.
That Wednesday in Damascus, it seemed as though all hell had broken loose, so much happening in so many places. People were finding it difficult to process the overload of events, only pulling themselves away from the television news to answer the phone from a friend or relative, first trying to find out if everyone was safe then updating on the latest bulletin, with rumour and conspiracy as ever rife.
The dawn broke on Thursday with the familiar awful sounds of war, the hollow thud of what no doubt must be tank fire, somewhere east of the Old City, Qaboun maybe. Helicopters circling high above the city. Slowly people came back out onto the streets, not many, only locals, gathering in small groups discussing the night’s events. Very few shops opened, some shop owners preferring to stay the night in their shops rather than risk the journey home. Never have I seen the Old City like this, it’s the last Thursday before the holy month of Ramadan and the streets would normally be crowded with shoppers. Hushed tones and nervous expressions, glances to the sky as another explosion echoed. As the day passed the noise of fighting seemed less intense, the news coming from the outside suburbs though was horrific. Those who could find room elsewhere were trying their best to leave for safer areas, many extended family members had already moved in with others, my neighbour has all his relatives from Harasta now living with him. The small house must have a dozen or more living there now. Another neighbour borrowed bedding from me.
The rubbish was already piling up in the streets, the refuse collectors had not turned up at all and it doesn’t take long for the smell in the Damascus summer heat to become offensive. Late afternoon I visited the vegetable market on the other side of Straight Street. The usual thriving souk was deserted, little fruit or vegetables available, rumours of panic buying had already circulated around the wider city. Most likely the suppliers were simply unable to get through, or not willing to try. We know which areas are having the worst problems and we can call ahead to get details but the journey between is an unknown quantity, few people prepared to risk it. By six in the evening the few shops open were closing. In the year and a half of the on-going crisis the Old City has never felt this way. The only guest eating in the city’s most prestigious restaurant was the manager.
Thursday night passed with relative calm, probably for many the first chance of some sleep, but just before 7.30 on Friday morning the drum-like sound of artillery shakes me literally from my sleep, a few minutes later another salvo of several blasts, then quiet again. I tried to convince myself that the neighbourhoods where the shells must be landing would now be empty of its inhabitants and the battle was between two warring armies, in my mind those horrific images from wars past, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, Chechnya.
The next 24 hours would see the start of Ramadan, in Syria such an important and happy time, the time for families to come together, more about the food than the fast. Syria is overwhelmingly Muslim but moderate, Ramadan is more a cultural celebration, more like Christmas in Europe. For many it’s the only time they go to the Mosque, that is until the beginning of the revolution when the mosque became the only place a crowd were able to gather. The fast is more often than not followed by a feast with visiting family and friends all through the night, going out to restaurants for the pre dawn meal of Suhur. By the time Abu Tableh comes around banging his drum in the early hours most have not even gone to bed.
This year was always going to be different, food prices have risen and the cost of cooking gas has trebled. There were little sign of any preparation. The pounding of suburbs east of the city continued on and off all day, several large explosions too.
The Old City was almost completely deserted, a few grocery shops open, a few shopkeepers who had not been home in days. The only people about were local residents. Generally things were calmer around most of the city, the rubbish that had not been collected for a couple of days and was beginning to reek was being cleared. Raslan, Osama and Hasan – the kids in my alley – were using wheelbarrows to cart it off elsewhere. As night fell there were still echoes of what was going on further away, a gun battle that sounded quite close only lasted a few minutes, then very little.
The rest of the week passed relatively peacefully. We can still hear the sound of clashes and explosions from time to time but for the most part things feel better, for how long we do not know.
So many Syrians are suffering now, so many are scared, so many would like to leave but have no option but to stay. For now I will also stay, as long as I can. My heart goes out to every single Syrian who has been effected by this terrible conflict, and so many have.
Ramadan is underway and people are determined to carry on regardless, the mood is sombre and not one of celebration as it should be. More people are out and about, the rubbish is being collected, the markets have food. But still people are afraid, everyone knows there is more to come, many are leaving. Most are just praying for peace.