A captured ship Israel says carried advanced rockets from Iran bound for Gaza militants arrived to port Saturday, where authorities prepared its cargo for a public display Israel hopes will step up pressure on world powers as they negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program.
The KLOS C freighter sailed into Israel’s southern Eilat port accompanied by naval vessels and masked commando forces that seized it days earlier in the Red Sea. Israel says the ship was packed with dozens of Syrian-made M-302 rockets that would have put Israel’s biggest cities well within reach of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. It accuses Iran of orchestrating the delivery in an elaborate 5,000-mile (8,000-kilometer) journey that included covert stops across the region.
Officials in Iran and Gaza have denied being involved with the shipment. But in an interview with Israel Channel 10 TV aired Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that once the ship was fully unloaded “the truth will come out.” Israel plans to unveil the cache Monday with the country’s leaders in attendance.
“The project bears two goals - economic and political,” said Amir Dajani, deputy managing director at Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which heads the city’s construction. “The city provides and will provide thousands of jobs, and in the political angle, the idea is to construct the Palestinian state through establishing this city, as well as other cities.”
The city is planned to spread over 6 million squared meters, and its first stages include 630 housing units - which have already been almost entirely sold, in buildings of four and five floors.
Some 70% of those who purchased apartments are newly married couples and relatively young people from the northern West Bank; most have academic degrees and a steady job, and only 11% are single. Among those who purchased apartments are Arab-Israelis who bought a second apartment, and are planning to use it during the weekends, as well as East Jerusalem residents who are hiding the transition for fear of losing their Israeli IDs.
Meanwhile, three schools, a mosque, a church, a large amphitheater and a soccer field are all being built in the city. The construction of a large commercial center with stores, a hotel, a hi-tech center and a cinema complex is nearly finished; a kilometer away from there, a logistics center for light industry has been established.
The neoconservative Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is out with a new report about how Muslim Brotherhood supporters and critics alike have embraced an anti-Semitic narrative, driven in part by Egyptian tabloids that are frequently cited by American right-wing news outlets.
While it should be noted that MEMRI has a history of “twisting translations to portray criticisms of Israel and its driving ideology, Zionism, as anti-Semitic,” in this case it is reporting on the widely-observed fact that several pro-government press outlets in Egypt have promoted the conspiracy theory that Israel is behind the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The pro-government press in Egypt,” The Economist reports, has spread warnings about a “Zionist-American-Muslim Brotherhood plot” to “divide and weaken Israel’s most powerful Arab neighbours, one by one…. Here, the cabal of Israeli, Western and Islamist plotters set out to foment sectarian strife, and to install a Muslim Brotherhood government that would divide the country into two, perhaps four, weakened micro-states.”
American conservatives have championed many of these same Egyptian media outlets because they are heavily critical of President Obama, with some even accusing the president of being an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The State Department on Monday condemned the treatment of Christians living in the Syrian city of Raqqa following an extremist Islamist group’s edict that Christians either convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.
In a statement, State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the decrees from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) — a group recently disowned by al-Qaeda and considered to be among the most radical fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad — “violate universal human rights.”
“ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people,” Psaki said.
This article does not lend itself well to paraphrasing - and really is worth reading in its entirety - this is worth quoting :
Although accurate figures on the number of atheists in the Gulf are nearly impossible to come by, a 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International titled “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism” published a surprising number of self-professed Saudi atheists. The researchers found that up to 5% of the Saudi respondents declared themselves to be atheist, a figure comparable to the United States and parts of Europe.
Read more @ AL-Monitor
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rallied against government plans to force them to serve in the Israeli military, blocking roads and paralyzing Jerusalem on Sunday, March 2, 2014. The widespread opposition to the compulsory draft poses a challenge to the country, which is grappling with a cultural war over the place of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society. With secular Jews required to serve, the issue is one of the most controversial between Israel’s secular majority and its devout minority.
read more @ Mercury News
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused political rivals of shameless fabrication of a telephone tap of him telling his son to dispose of large sums of money on the day police raided houses in a graft inquiry into his government.
In a dramatic session of parliament after posting of the 11-minute audio tape on YouTube, Erdogan said his political enemies had penetrated encrypted state communications. He did not name the opponents but made it clear he was talking of a network run by former ally, Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Supporters of Erdogan, locked in a power struggle with Gulen whom he accuses of contriving a graft scandal to topple him, shouted “Tayyip, we came here to die with you”, “stand tall, don’t bow” and “time is on our side”.
Mr. Kerry’s analysis is correct, so far as it goes. The Assad regime made no pretense of taking seriously the nominal purpose of the Geneva talks, which was to agree on a cease-fire, the opening of corridors for humanitarian aid and a transitional government acceptable to both the government and the opposition. Nor did Russia pressure its ally to go along with that agenda. Instead, both tried to turn the talks into a forum for discussing how to combat “terrorists” in Syria — a label that Damascus and Moscow apply not just to al-Qaeda but to all armed groups that oppose the regime.
That still leaves the question of why Mr. Kerry spent months insisting that Mr. Assad and his Russian backers would go along with a negotiated settlement — and therefore that pursuing Geneva 2, as opposed to more robust measures to stop the mounting bloodshed, was the best U.S. policy. Prior to launching the Geneva 2 effort last May, Mr. Kerry had been a proponent of “changing the calculations” of the Assad regime by providing more military support to the opposition.
he al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed a twin bomb attack in Beirut on Wednesday, saying such attacks would continue until Hezbollah forces withdrew from the fighting in Syria and its own fighters were released from Lebanese jails.
The radical Lebanese group, which claimed the attack on its Twitter account, also said it was responsible for a November 19 attack on the Iranian embassy that killed 23 people, using the same tactic of twin suicide bombs. In both cases, most of the victims were civilians.
Hezbollah is a powerful Shi’ite Muslim political and militant group in Lebanon that is funded by Iran. The group has sent hundreds of fighters to neighboring Syria, giving a boost to its ally President Bashar al-Assad against mainly Sunni rebels seeking to topple him.