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Egypt cancels natural gas deal with Israel, stakeholder says

Al-Masry Al-Youm – 22/04/2012

The head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company said Sunday it has terminated its contract to ship gas to Israel because of violations of contractual obligations, a decision Israel said overshadows the peace agreement between the two countries.

Ampal-American Israel Corporation, a partner in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which operates the pipeline, said it had notified Egypt it was “terminating the gas and purchase agreement”.

The company said in a statement that the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) had notified them of the decision, adding that “EMG considers the termination attempt unlawful and in bad faith, and consequently demanded its withdrawal”.

Mohamed Shoeib, chairman of EGAS, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that EGAS is using its right to terminate the contract due to EMG’s breach of the gas supply agreement. He added that the decision was made after a thorough legal review by local and international legal experts.

A source within the petroleum ministry told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the dispute is purely commercial and has no other connotations.

The 2005 natural gas deal has become a symbol of tensions between Israel and Egypt since the uprising. For many Egyptians, it typifies the close relations the regime of deposed President Hosni Mubarak forged with Israel, despite wide hostility toward the Jewish state among his people.

Critics charge that Israel got the gas for bargain prices and that Mubarak cronies skimmed millions of dollars off the proceeds.

Egyptian militants have blown up the gas pipeline to Israel 14 times since the uprising.

Israel insists it is paying a fair price for the gas.

Companies invested in the Israeli-Egyptian venture have taken a hit from numerous explosions of the cross-border pipeline and are seeking compensation from the Egyptian government of billions of dollars.

The pipeline was financed by the National Egyptian Bank.

Ampal and two other companies have sought $8 billion in damages from Egypt for not safeguarding their investment.

Shoeib told the Associated Press said Israel has not paid for its gas in four months. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denied that.

He told Egyptian TV the decision has been in place since Thursday.

The English website of the Israeli daily Haaretz on Sunday quoted sources close to EMG as saying “Egypt does not understand what it is doing. This move will bring back the country – politically and economically – by 30 years. This is a breach of the peace agreement with Israel.”

On Sunday, Israel Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the unilateral Egyptian announcement was of “great concern” politically and economically.

“This is a dangerous precedent that overshadows the peace agreements and the peaceful atmosphere between Israel and Egypt,” he said in a statement. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, but relations have never been warm.

The Israeli side said the decision was “unlawful and in bad faith,” accusing the Egyptian side of failing to supply the gas quantities it is owed.

Israel insists it is paying a fair price for the gas. Israel’s electricity company has been warning of possible power shortages this summer, partly because of the unreliability of the natural gas supply from Egypt.

For the long term, Israel is developing its own natural gas fields off its Mediterranean coast and is expected to be self-sufficient in natural gas in a few years.

Hussein Salem, a close friend of Mubarak was among the shareholders of East Mediterranean, the joint Egyptian-Israeli company that carries the gas to Israel.

On the Israeli side, EMG sought international arbitration in October because of the Egyptian side’s failure to supply the quantity of gas stipulated in the contract — because of the frequent bombings.

Under the 2005 deal, the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas Co. sells 1.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas to the Israeli company at a price critics say is set at $1.50 per million British thermal units — a measure of energy.

The gas deal has been the subject of litigation in Egypt. An appellate court last year overturned a lower court ruling that would have halted gas exports to Israel. Opposition groups that filed the suit before the uprising claimed that Israel got the gas too cheaply under the 15-year fixed price deal between a private Egyptian company, partly owned by the government, and the state-run Israel Electric Corporation.

Ibrahim Yousri, a former Egyptian diplomat who had brought the issue to court, welcomed the decision announced Sunday.

“It has become a scandal bigger than the (ruling) military council can withstand,” he told the privately-owned channel CBC.

He said there are gas shortages in Egypt, and growing economic woes, further inflaming popular unrest. He called the business deal “treason” to national interests, adding, “This is a great political step.”

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Egypt cancels natural gas deal with Israel, stakeholder says

Khalil al-Wazir: Paving the Way of Armed Struggle

Abu Jihad coordinates with fedayeen (Palestinian guerrilla fighters) during the siege of Beirut in 1982. (Photo: Archive)
By Mohamad Bdeir | Al Akhbar | April 17, 2012

It took Israeli intelligence over two decades and many assassination attempts before they managed to hunt down the PLO’s military mastermind Khalil al-Wazir. On the 24th anniversary of his death, Al-Akhbar recounts his story.

When Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) began his endeavor in the early 1950s, Israeli intelligence had no idea he existed. At the time, he was the twenty-something leader of the Palestinian al-Haq Brigade in Gaza. His family had been displaced from Ramleh in 1948.

Back then, the security establishment in Israel did not believe that Palestinians were capable of organizing a resistance movement. Operations by the fedayeen (Palestinian guerrilla fighters) were believed to be entirely orchestrated in Egypt.

It took Tel Aviv about 10 years to begin to know al-Wazir, who would go on to play a major role in establishing the first and largest Palestinian national liberation movement. Moreover, he would coin the idea of “armed struggle” as the only path to liberate Palestine.

News of Abu Jihad first reached Israel in 1964 through a secret Mossad unit named “Ulysses” whose mission was to spy on Palestinian refugee communities in Arab countries. Operatives spoke about the creation of a Palestinian national liberation movement led by Yasser Arafat and al-Wazir and sounded the alarm in Israeli security agencies.

According to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot– which pieced together the story of the assassination of Abu Jihad based on public and private sources – the Mossad formed a secret unit in 1965. Its prime directive was to investigate methods of countering “Palestinian terrorism” and approve assassinations. It immediately suggested two primary targets: Abu Ammar (Arafat) and Abu Jihad.

The first assassination attempt was in Damascus when a planned car bomb operation was not executed properly. It was carried out by an agent of Unit 504 of the military intelligence, responsible for recruiting and running operatives.

Abu Jihad’s role in pushing for armed struggle against Israel became apparent, especially in the period following the naksah (the defeat of Arab armies in 1967). In 1970, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir retaliated by issuing him a “Red Card,” essentially a direct assassination order.

The Israeli secret service was adamant to settle scores with Abu Jihad and put an end to his dossier. In 1975, the Israeli air force raided a building in Beirut based on information of a Fatah movement meeting taking place there. In addition to Abu Jihad, Fatah leaders Arafat, Faruq Qaddumi, and Mahmoud Abbas were supposedly attending.

The Ben Hur operation missed the target and encouraged an escalation of attacks on Israel, coordinated by Abu Jihad, who was now the deputy chief commander of the Palestinian revolution.

On 11 March 1978, he planned the Kamal Adwan operation (named after a Fatah leader assassinated in Beirut in 1973), which was carried out by the Deir Yassin group led by Dalal Mughrabi.

The operation led to the death of 35 Israelis, with dozens more injured. It created a shock wave inside Israel especially following Abu Jihad’s announcement that the operation “demonstrated the ability of the revolution to reach Israel and carry out operations anywhere it wants.”

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the PLO’s relocation to Tunisia, Abu Jihad attempted to reverse the setback in armed struggle.

He visited various Arab countries, exposing himself to three assassination attempts, according to the Israeli account.

Abu Jihad, for his part, was planning an “unprecedented” operation that would strengthen the PLO’s position and impose new conditions on the struggle with the Israelis.

Twenty resistance fighters were supposed to reach Yafa by rubber dinghies, hijack a bus, drive it to the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, and attack the entrance known as Gate Victor. But the Israeli navy surprised their ship and sank it on 20 April 1985.

Abu Jihad did not hesitate and pressed on with plans for another major operation. In 1988, he picked Dimona, the location of Israel’s nuclear reactor.

On March 7, three Palestinian commandos captured a bus carrying workers from the nuclear facility. The fighters were consequently killed along with three of the workers in an exchange of fire with an Israeli army unit.

The Mossad concentrated its resources on the pursuit of Abu Jihad, by now the number one wanted person in Israel. Defense minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, ordered a direct operation that would not resort to remote targeting such as an air raid. He wanted to send a message to the Palestinian movement that Israel can reach its enemies in their homes.

The Mossad surveilled al-Wazir’s home in Tunis, 4km from the beach. It began planning an assassination attempt and sent a unit from Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit) to the Tunisian shores.

It was to repeat the same scenario used successfully 15 years earlier against three Palestinian leaders in Beirut (know as the “Verdun Operation”).

On 13 April 1988, the quarter century chase after al-Wazir was almost over. Mossad agents carrying Lebanese passports arrived in Tunis and split into two groups.

The first group rented cars to transport the assassination unit from the beach to the targeted house, which was being closely watched by the second group.

In the meantime, Israeli navy vessels carrying the assassins were waiting at sea. In the evening, a unit of 26 Israeli commandos reached the beach and took the rented cars to al-Wazir’s home. After 23 years, they finally managed to assassinate him.

The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was asked about Israel’s involvement in the assassination. Scowling, he replied, “I just heard about it on the radio.”

From Ramleh to Yarmouk

Omar Nashabe

Khalil al-Wazir was born in 1935 in Ramleh and was expelled from Palestine along with his family in 1948. He studied in Alexandria University and then moved to Saudi Arabia.

Later, he went to Kuwait where he met with Yasser Arafat and joined him in creating the Fatah movement.

Leaving Kuwait in 1963, he founded the first Fatah office in Algeria, where he was allowed to establish the first Palestinian military camp.

He then moved on to Damascus in 1965 to establish the military command headquarters and coordinate with fedayeen cells inside Palestine.

During the 1967 war, he planned and executed operations in Upper Galilee, then became the head of the western sector of Fatah until 1982.

Abu Jihad strived to develop military capabilities throughout his struggle, playing a leading role in defending Beirut against the 1982 Israeli invasion.

In his meetings with the fedayeen, he would focus on tactics and also on ethics, telling them to save ammunition and explosives, not to be zealots, and not to steal.

One time, when he was ordering the fedayeen to avoid killing children, one of them replied, “Our children in Shatila and Sabra were the first to die… I lost 12 members of my family.”

Abu Jihad’s reply was clear, “In spite of this, we will not become like those fascists. We are not fascists. [The Prophet Muhammad’s second successor] Omar Bin Khattab commands us not to cut down trees or kill children.”

Memory of Resistance

Qassem Qassem

Those who knew Abu Jihad speak of his special relationship with Imad Mughniyeh. At the end of 1978, a 16-year-old Mughniyeh joined the Fatah cell in Chiyah.

Bassem Haidar, who was in charge of the cell between 1977 and 1979, says that the boy was always with another young man, Ali Khodor Salama (Abu Hassan), assassinated by Israel in 1999 in Abra, near Sidon.

The newcomer soon caught the attention of the higher command of the Palestinian revolution, specifically Abu Jihad, due to his skill in planning ambushes in the area between Tayouneh and Asaad al-Asaad street (south of Beirut).

He was none other than Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s military commander who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008.

“Mughniyeh was the only person able to provide the cell with the weapons they needed. He would go to the Fakhani neighborhood (PLO headquarters in Beirut) and get it,” Haidar remembers.

“Once, we needed 3.5 inch anti-tank missiles, so he was sent to get them.” Haidar continues, “Had Mughniyeh’s relationship with Abu Jihad not been good, he would not have been able to get them, since they pass directly through the leadership.”

In 1978, Mughniyeh left the Chiyah cell after “he was summoned by the leadership in Fakhani and began clandestine work in a secret security unit. We never saw him again.”

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Khalil al-Wazir: Paving the Way of Armed Struggle

Ex-Palestinian prisoner: captivity in Israel, living in graves

Press TV – April 22, 2012

Interview with former Palestinian prisoner Abdulaziz Umar

“They (Palestinian prisoners) just live in graves and their families do not know anything about them; they’re not allowed to contact their families and they are deprived of everything. Some of them are suffering from handicaps and others are even suffering from psychological problems. Of course they spend all this long time in these dark cells under occupation without having any access to the external world.”

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , , | Comments Off on Ex-Palestinian prisoner: captivity in Israel, living in graves

Prisoner society challenges Barghouthi confession report

Ma’an – 22/04/2012

RAMALLAH – Head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society Qadura Fares said Saturday that Israeli media reports on the interrogation of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi failed to prove he confessed to any charge.

Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday reported that records of the leader’s questioning by Israeli internal security service Shin Bet show Barghouti giving partial confessions of his awareness of attacks on Israelis, and late President Yasser Arafat’s tacit acceptance of attacks.

Barghouthi — a revered political figure and former presidential candidate — was convicted by Israel of five counts of murder in 2004, but refused to present a defense, saying the trial was illegitimate.

Fares on Sunday questioned the timing and content of the Haaretz report, ten years after the interrogation took place.

“The Israeli security services, which failed to make Barghouthi give any confessions during four months of interrogation using the ugliest ways of psychological and physical torture, come today with false claims and baseless lies,” Fares said.

“If there were such confessions, the Israelis would have disseminated them at that time, and they would have used them for political gains,” he added.

“I challenge any Israeli service to show any document or paper of any kind signed by Marwan Barghouthi.”

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Prisoner society challenges Barghouthi confession report

UN: Israel displaced 67 Palestinian refugees over week

Ma’an – 22/04/2012

A boy surveys the rubble of his home in Azzun Atma near Qalqilia, demolished by
Israeli forces. (MaanImages/Khaleel Reash, File)

BETHLEHEM – Israel forcibly displaced 67 Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem over the last week, UN agencies said Sunday.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces evicted two Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina. Jewish settlers moved into the homes the same day.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli authorities destroyed the homes of seven families in al-Khalayleh in East Jerusalem, displacing them for the third time in six months.

A day later, Israeli forces demolished and confiscated emergency tents provided to the families by humanitarian organizations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Relief and Works Agency said in a joint statement.

UNRWA’s director in the West Bank Felipe Sanchez said the forced evictions broke international law.

“We urge the Israeli authorities to find an immediate solution to enable the Palestinian population of the occupied West Bank, to lead a normal life, in full realization of their rights,” Sanchez said.

The head of OCHA’s local office Ramesh Rajasingham added: “More than 1,500 Palestinians have lost their homes as a result of demolitions and evictions since the beginning of 2011.

“Forced evictions and demolitions cause extensive human suffering, increase humanitarian needs and vulnerability.”

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , | 3 Comments

S. Sudan Withdraws from Heglig, Damages Revealed

Al-Manar | April 22, 2012

South Sudan’s army has completed its withdrawal from Sudan’s main Heglig oil field, the military said Sunday, but condemned the north for bombing the area.

Juba seized the flashpoint oil hub on April 10, claiming that Khartoum was using Heglig as a base to attack the South’s oil-producing Unity State.

Although South Sudan disputes it, Heglig is internationally regarded as part of Sudan.

The South’s Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) “completed its withdrawal from Heglig yesterday,” the South’s military spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP.

However, Sudan’s presidential assistant, Nafie Ali Nafie, has accused South Sudan’s government of deceiving its people by saying that its army withdrew from Heglig, Sudan Tribune reported.

Addressing a mobilization rally of Sufi groups in the capital Khartoum on Saturday, Nafie claimed that Juba had in fact pleaded with international mediators to stop Khartoum from shelling SPLA troops inside Heglig.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon branded Juba’s 10-day occupation of the region illegal and US President Barack Obama has said the long-time rivals must negotiate to avoid further military escalation along their contested and volatile border.

For his part, The Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Taha ruled out quick return to negotiations with S. Sudan, suggesting that negotiations with the South are pointless.

In an interview with Blue Nile TV, Taha also accused Juba of launching economic war on Sudan when SPLA damaged the operating system software of Heglig oil facilities and set the main controls of the plants on fire. The details and scope of the destruction will be revealed in the coming hours, he added.

Sudan state TV aired footage from inside Heglig showing major destruction in the town while oil facilities were still burning and efforts were made to put out the fires.

The Washington-based Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) said in a statement today that new satellite imagery revealed that a key part of the pipeline infrastructure was destroyed.

“The damage appears to be so severe, and in such a critical part of the oil infrastructure, that it would likely stop oil flow in the area,” SSP’s statement read.

The Heglig violence was the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war in which about two million people died.

Tensions have gradually mounted over the disputed border and other unresolved issues.

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Comments Off on S. Sudan Withdraws from Heglig, Damages Revealed