Widespread Palestinian rioting erupts in West Bank
Widespread rioting erupted in the West Bank on Friday after Palestinians said they would confront the IDF over security prisoners on hunger strike.
Large groups threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers, who responded with various riot dispersal means.
In Beitunya, west of Ramallah, near the Ofer security prison, some 300 Palestinians rioted and threw rocks at the IDF, lightly wounding two soldiers, an army spokeswoman said.
Four Palestinians were lightly wounded by rubber bullets in the clash. An army source said reports of a Palestinian moderately wounded in the incident were being examined.
Palestinian medics said 156 Palestinians were treated for smoke inhalation, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Sixty Palestinians gathered at Kafr Kaddum, west of Nablus, and threw rocks and firebombs at soldiers.
Some 80 Palestinians appeared at Nabi Salih, near Ramallah, to take part in a violent disturbance, and 30 Palestinians attacked soldiers in the Kalandiya area, between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Palestinians said that the IDF was using live fire, a claim denied by the IDF Spokesman’s Office.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian people would never forget their prisoners in Israeli jails.
“We will not forget, and we will not leave you to suffer behind the bars of the occupation,” he said during a visit to a protest tent in Ramallah, according to Ma’an.
Smaller demonstrations in solidarity with the hunger strikers were also held across the West Bank on Friday, including in Bethlehem, Jenin and outside the Efrat settlement, according to Ma’an.
The activists were seeking the release of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi, arrested by the IDF in Operation Defensive Shield during the second intifada in 2002. A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Issawi was sentenced to 30 years in prison for terrorismrelated activity. He served 10 years, and in October 2011 was released along with 476 other Palestinian terrorists and criminals in the Egyptbrokered Schalit deal between Hamas and Israel.
He was re-arrested in July 2012, as the IDF said he had violated the terms of his release. He began a hunger strike shortly after his arrest.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) told The Jerusalem Post last week that his party was trying to internationalize the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by seeking help from the United Nations and other countries with regards to the release of four Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli jails.
This tactic has already had a modicum of success, as the representative for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released a statement saying she was “following with concern” the reports about the deteriorating heath of the hunger strikers.
“The EU calls on the government of Israel to allow for the immediate restoration of [the prisoners’] family visiting rights and calls for the full respect of international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners,” the statement said.
It also cited the EU’s “long-standing concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention orders,” which currently apply to two of the hunger striking prisoners.
“Under international law, detainees have the right to be informed about the reasons underlying any detention and to have the legality of their detention determined without undue delay,” the statement read.
“The EU calls upon Israel to bring formal charges against any individuals detained, with a view to bringing them to a fair trial without undue delay.”
An Israeli government official responded to Ashton’s statement by saying Israel “strictly abides by all international laws and conventions regarding our prisoners, who have the right of judicial review all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, the Kfir Brigade’s Haruv Battalion carried out arrests of nine Palestinian suspects overnight from Thursday to Friday, in the West Bank village of Azun, on suspicion of throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles and causing injuries.
The arrests followed intelligence gathering in the village, which has been a hotbed of rock throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks on passing Israeli vehicles in the area.
Bahrain police, youths clash after funeral
(Reuters) – Police firing tear gas clashed with hundreds of stone-throwing youths in Bahrain on Saturday in heightened unrest that could complicate new efforts to end political deadlock in the strategically placed Gulf Arab kingdom.
The violence has clouded the atmosphere around talks begun on February 10 between the mostly Shi’ite Muslim opposition and the Sunni Muslim-dominated government to find a way out of the impasse over Shi’ite demands for more democracy.
Witnesses said the confrontation, in which some of the hundreds of opposition demonstrators also threw petrol bombs at police, followed the funeral of a teenager the opposition said was killed in clashes between police and activists on Thursday.
The disturbance in the village of Sanabis west of the capital Manama was the latest in a series of skirmishes between Shi’ite youths and police since Thursday, when opposition activists commemorated the second anniversary of a pro-democracy revolt in the U.S.-allied state.
The kingdom, base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in political turmoil since the protests erupted in 2011, led by majority Shi’ites demanding an end to the monarchy’s political domination and full powers for parliament.
Thirty-five people died during the unrest and two months of martial law that followed, the government said, although the opposition puts that number at more than 80. The government has accused opposition groups of being linked to Shi’ite power Iran.
Bahrain remains volatile, and its Shi’ite villages are the scene of almost daily clashes between youths and police.
The next round of talks is meant to happen on Wednesday, February 20, Isa Abdul Rahman, the spokesman for the process, known as the National Dialogue, told Reuters.
The next gathering had been due to take place on Sunday but at a February 13 session of the talks all participants decided to postpone the meeting to February 20, he said.
Earlier on Saturday police found a bomb planted on a busy causeway linking the Gulf island to Saudi Arabia, and four officers were shot and wounded in a village, officials said.
The 2-kg bomb, discovered on Thursday near a mosque on the Bahraini end of the route used by thousands of people a day, was safely defused, according to the Information Authority.
Late on Friday, four officers were hit by birdshot pellets in the Shi’ite village of Karzakan, the authority added, quoting public security chief Major-General Tariq Hassan al-Hassan.
Bahrain denies accusations of discrimination against Shi’ite citizens and accuses Iran of stirring up trouble in the kingdom, something the Islamic Republic denies.
The Interior Ministry said on Thursday a security official had been killed in a “terrorist attack” using what it said was an inflammable projectile, according to a statement on its Twitter account.
Protests Close Buildings at Suez Canal, but Shipping Continues
CAIRO — Thousands of demonstrators shut down the administrative buildings of the Suez Canal terminal in the city of Port Said on Sunday, as part of a general strike protesting the death sentences handed down three weeks ago to 21 local soccer fans for their roles in a deadly riot last year.
The protests marked the closest that the chaos in Egypt over the last two years has come to threatening the operations of the Suez Canal, an artery of shipping critical to both international commerce and the battered Egyptian economy.
The administrative facilities were emptied as the protesters approached, residents said, but a military guard protected the port from disruption. President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, had deployed the military to protect the city when the protests there started three weeks ago.
The success of the strike, as life had begun to return to the streets, was a vivid reminder that the government in Cairo has not yet restored full control over Port Said, a major city at the Mediterranean head of the Suez Canal with a population of about 600,000. The government essentially backed down from its attempt to impose a curfew, and nothing has diminished the underlying anger behind the riots, first over the initial death sentences and then over the deaths of dozens of protesters in clashes with the police.
The possibility of a threat to the flow of traffic through the canal remains remote, but the Sunday protest raised the specter of such disruption at a critical time. Political turbulence has cut deeply into tourism and economic growth in the two years since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. And now the political instability keeps delaying a proposed $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, whose seal of approval is essential to obtaining the further billions in loans needed to close the country’s deficit.
The Egyptian pound is falling sharply against the dollar. Unemployment is high and prices are rising. The Suez Canal is one of Egypt’s main sources of hard currency, along with tourism, foreign aid, and remittances from Egyptians abroad.
The protest was also a rare example of major civil disobedience in Egypt since the revolution that overthrew Mr. Mubarak in early 2011. It was the first day of the work week here, and Egyptian state media and residents of Port Said said that demonstrators had gathered outside the provincial headquarters at 7 a.m., blocking access to the building.
The protesters urged employees of the provincial government, the court house, the telephone and natural gas utilities, customs offices and other government institutions to quit work and join their strike. Many did, the Web site of the state newspaper Al Ahram reported. Protesters blocked railways. Photographs that circulated on the Internet showed women sitting on desks they had dragged outside in a shutdown of a school, although residents said some schools and courts remained opened.
Al Ahram reported that the demonstrators were demanding legal action against police officers who had killed protesters during last month’s clashes. They also sought a review by a “neutral court” of the death sentences against the local soccer fans delivered in Cairo. The soccer brawl in the case took place at a match between bitter rivals, El Masry of Port Said and Al Ahly of Cairo, both of which have large followings of violent hard-core fans. Many residents of Port Said say they believe the sentencing judge succumbed to pressure from violent Cairo soccer fans who demanded retribution.
Kurdish protesters clash with police in Turkey on anniversary of rebel leader’s capture
ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish news agency says demonstrators have clashed with police during protests marking the 14th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
The Dogan news agency says police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a group of protesters who threw stones and firebombs at riot police in two towns in the mainly Kurdish Hakkari province. Similar clashes broke out in other provinces while a group of militants set two buses on fire in Istanbul in an act believed to be in protest of Ocalan’s continued imprisonment.
The pro-Kurdish news agency, Firat News, said three people, including a journalist, were injured in the clashes.
Ocalan was captured in Kenya in 1999 and returned to Turkey where he is serving a life term in prison.
Medupi protesters arrested
JOHANNESBURG – Limpopo police on Friday confirmed that 46 people were arrested at the Medupi Power Station following yet another violent protest.
The police’s Hangwani Mulaudzi said the group was arrested on Thursday evening after demonstrators torched an Eskom vehicle.
He said a police vehicle was also damaged.
“Hardly a week goes by before we are called into that particular area. We also want to ensure the perpetrators of this violent protest are brought to book.”
Mulaudzi says no court date has been set.
“The suspects are expected to appear in court, but a date has not yet been set. They will be charged with public violence and malicious damage to property.”
Limpopo police will continue to monitor the situation.
The Medupi Power Station has in the spotlight over the past few months following violent wage protests.
In January, demonstrators stopped transport vehicles from accessing the construction site.
The first of six units at the plant have already been delayed by more than a year due to problems with boiler contracts.
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma earlier warned government will no longer tolerate violent protests.
He said while people have the right to voice their grievances, destroying property is illegal.
Municipal property has been destroyed throughout the country in recent months during violent protest action.
Authorities to rescue abducted paramilitary personnel in Surigao
MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) – Joint forces from military and police have launched rescue operation for a paramilitary member who was allegedly abducted by the leftist New People’s Army (NPA) recently in the southern Philippines, local police said today.
The victim was identified as Ronald Macasarte, 20, a member from Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) assigned at 23rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army patrol base in Sta. Juana village in Tagbina, a town of Surigao del Sur province, police spokesman for Caraga Region Martin Gamba said.
Investigation disclosed that the rebels from NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee seized Macasarte when the latter was on the way to his farm Thursday afternoon in Sta. Juana village, he said.
The military and the police have maximized their intelligence monitoring to track the movement of the leftist group while rescue operations continue, Gamba added.