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The right to water: Water cistern demolitions in Hebron area

23 April 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

On Monday April 23, 2012, the Israeli occupation forces destroyed four water cisterns outside of the city of al-Khalil (Hebron). Two of the destroyed cisterns were located in the Abweire area, a small agricultural neighborhood of 400-500 residents northeast of al-Khalil. The other two cisterns destroyed were located in Hal-Houl, south of al-Khalil. The demolitions came just one week after another four cisterns were destroyed in the Meshroona area south of al-Khalil.

Palestinians in these areas, who are located in Area C, are forced to depend on rain water cisterns for their crops and livestock because of unequal distribution of water resources to surrounding illegal, Zionist settlements. The destruction of such cisterns is part of a calculated strategy of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing in occupied Palestine. According to the Israeli organization Diakonia, water cistern demolitions over the past two years have directly affected almost 14,000 Palestinians, among whom several hundred have been forced to leave their homes because of lack of water. International law forbids the targeting of structures essential for the survival of the civilian population.

The day after their water cistern was demolished, activists with ISM visited members of the Ashfour family in Abweire in order to talk and survey the damage. The occupation forces did not stop with removing the top of the cistern, but actually smashed the sidewalls, rendering the structure totally useless. The occupation forces came without warning in four jeeps, an armored personnel carrier, an armored bulldozer, and another armored earth-wrecking machine, along with personnel from the Israeli permits and construction offices. They claimed that the cistern was constructed illegally, without the necessary permits, and began to destroy the cistern.

Within an hour the Ashfour family’s hopes for irrigating their crops lay in ruins. According to Hisham Ashfour, the cistern had been built almost ten years ago and served not only his family but about fifty people in his neighborhood. The other cistern destroyed in Abweire was also rendered completely unusable, having been filled in with dirt by an Israeli bulldozer.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hebron Home Caged Due To Settlements

By Hamza Al-Hattab – WAFA News – April 23, 2012

Steel bars surround the home, not only sliding down the windows, but all over the place, covering it from every side and corner, covering its doors, covering its external yard and topping its walls, making it look like a box, at first you might think it is a big cage for birds, and maybe some animals, but if you look closer, you will find 15 members of Abu Aisha family living there, in their home, that was transformed into a prison due to illegal settlement activities, and extremist, fundamentalist Israeli settlers.

Still From WAFA Video
Still From WAFA Video

The home of Mohammad Hamed Abu Asiha, is there, and has always been there, but now, it is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements in the heart of the Old City of Hebron, surrounded by Beit Hadassah settlement, Beit Romano and above that by an Israeli military base, wall-to-wall with their home.

Heading home or leaving it requires a permit, a permit from an army that occupies the city, an army that is not there to protect, but to oppress you.

The owner, Hajj Abu Aisha, said that he has owned the land for fifty years, but now, he is imprisoned in his own home.

“I own this land, I built my home on my own land, I live there, and I also rent part of the building out, but in 1984, Israel constructed the illegal Ramat Yishai settlement, and that was when the first of the ongoing attacks against us, started, “Abu Aisha said, “They want us to leave, not only our property, they want us out of the whole area, this is exactly what happened with the family of Zackariah Al-Bakry, when the settlers took his two-story home, and expanded their illegal colony”.

The seventyish old man is there, and will remain there, Israel’s violations, attacks and arbitrary searches are still part of his life, but he turned his home into a “heaven on earth”, simply because it is his home, because, unlike those invaders, he is the owner of his property, while they are the occupiers.

Hajj Abu Aisha has many stories to tell, one of them happened when he was watering and tending to his small garden, a few olive trees, and a number of different plants; the settlers asked him to sell them his home, and his land, and he rejected their “offer”.

He told them he is willing to pay them so that they leave the illegal outpost. When the settlers realized how determined and steadfast he is, they stepped-up the series of endless attacks.

“Every member of my family has been harassed, verbally abused, and physically attacked by them”, the Hajj said, “Children, adults, women… you name it, all of them have been attacked and beaten by the settlers, they even have been hospitalized due to these attacks”.

The attacks have different types, ranging from beating, hurling stones, eggs and trash, to spraying them with waste-water, and ongoing death threats. The family cannot even open its windows, cannot communicate with Palestinian neighbors; their home became their prison.

Reema Abu Asiha said that nobody is able to visit them, her parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, nobody is allowed to visit them; nobody can.

“When my sons and daughters got married, nobody was allowed to come, we had to move the wedding reception to the houses of their uncles”, Reema added, “Even when we need to fix our home, we have to apply for a special permit from the military, yet, we are not allowed to bring construction materials in”.

She continues, with tears flowing down her cheeks; her eyes glossing and her lips moving in pain, “I lost two fetuses in the past, one in 1988, when the ambulance could not enter the area, and I had to walk to hospital while in labor.

A year later I became pregnant again, twins this time, we filed all needed documents, coordinated with the Red Cross one month before my due date, yet, when I was in labor, my husband called the ambulance, but due to Israeli restrictions it took them more than two and a half hours to arrive, by then, my twins were dead”.

The father complained that officials and journalists do not pay attention to their hardships, their misery and suffering.

“Last time we saw any official was in 2007, when the governor of Hebron, Areef Al-Ja’bary visited us”, he said, “The Press does not pay attention to us, even local Palestinian press agencies do not visit us, nobody cares about what is happening to us, nobody helps us”.

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the occupied territory, B’Tselem, and the youth coalition against settlement, equipped the property with surveillance equipment to document the Israeli violations.

The family filed dozens of complaints, provided the Israeli police with videos and pictures of these attacks, but to no avail.

Hajj Abu Aisha said that every time he and his family were attacked, they filed complaints to the Israeli Police, adding that he keeps count for these attacks, and complaints, but nothing happened; the violations, or at least some of them were exposed, but the Police did nothing. B’Tselem even published the pictures and videos on their webpage exposing these violations, but the Police would not do a thing about it.

But the videos managed to expose these violations, and even led to the release of Abu Aisha and some members of his family when they were arrested by the army and the police; the settlers have their own claims and their own share of fabrications, but the camera reflected the truth, what really happened, and exposed the lies of the settlers.

In one instance the Israeli Authorities even apologized to the family after a settler woman, the wife of extremist settler, Shalom A L Cobi, attacked the children of the family, cursed at them and terrified them, the video reached international media, and Abu Asiha said that “what was shown on TV stations, is only a small part of the real nature of the attacks”.

“What we’ve seen on TV is just a very small part, a small report on the bigger picture”, Abu Aisha said, “The violations we face are constant, we live through these attacks, day by day”.

In 2002, settler Shalom A L Cobi invaded the home of the family after breaking its main door, family members resisted his attack, and caught it on tape.

The family then filed a complaint, and the police admitted the video as evidence, the family was “victorious” this time, but it is still surrounded, imprisoned in its home, and repeatedly attacked.

The family is still there, living under constant harassment and attacks, physical and verbal abuse, but determined to stay.

“This is our home”, they say, “We will not leave it, and we will not abandon it, this is out home, and this is where we will stay”.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Wheat farmers under fire in Gaza: We must continue to work our land

By Nathan Stuckey | International Solidarity Movement | April 23, 2012

Today we went farming with the family of Ahmed Saadat. We arrived in Khuzaa at about 7 AM and met Ahmed. He told us that the Israeli’s had already shot at his family when they went to their land to begin work. We went to the land, which lies 300 meters from the border and directly on the buffer zone. You immediately know the buffer zone, nothing is planted in it, no trees are left, and everything has been destroyed, only weeds grow there.

Ahmed and his family began to work, ten people on their knees harvesting wheat by hand. To harvest the wheat they pull it up by the roots and tie it into sheaves to be taken to a threshing machine. The land is quite large, in the past perhaps they would have hired a combine to harvest the wheat so that they would not have to do it by hand, but now it is dangerous to bring equipment near the buffer zone. Now, they work by hand.

At about 7:45 AM an Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Humvee pulled up onto a hill north of us. Soon shots began to ring out, these were not directed at us, they were directed at farmers harvesting wheat to our northwest. At about 8 AM soldiers in a tower next to the Humvee launched either tear gas or a smoke grenade, it landed extremely close to the tower, which was about 400 meters from us. This was soon followed by shooting at us.

Bullets whistled past our ears, they slammed into the ground around us, most of them about 20 meters away from us. The farmers were scared, but most of them kept working. They have little choice, the IOF shoots a lot in this area, it is inevitable that they will be shot at while they try to harvest their wheat. After a minute or two of shooting the bullets stop. Soon the Humvee drives down off of the hill and moves further down the border. All morning long the Humvee drives up and down the border, accompanied by two jeeps.

The farmers continue to work harvesting wheat. At about 8:30 Ahmed receives a phone call. It is from Ma’aan organization. They say that the Red Cross has called them asking Ahmed and advising him to leave the area. He is advised to go two kilometers from the border because of the danger. The Red Cross had been called by the IOF asking them who we were, and if we were internationals with the farmers.

Ahmed laughs, two kilometers is the other side of Khuzaa. The farmers continue harvesting their wheat until about 11 AM. While they work chmed tells us a little bit about his family. Like most Gazans, they are refugees. His family is from Salame, near Jaffa. They were expelled in 1948. His family still has the documents proving that they own the land they were expelled from. Now, his family works what land they have managed to buy in Gaza over the years.

He said, “What am I to do, Israel expelled us from our land, now they steal more of it, they shoot at us, but we need this wheat to live, we must continue to work our land.”

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Video, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

The Holocaust, Sacred Ground and Obama’s Selective View of the Struggle for Human Dignity

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | April 23, 2012

In a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., flanked by such Zionist luminaries as Elie Wiesel and Michael Oren, President Barack Obama referred to “those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem,” the vast Holocaust memorial complex in Jerusalem. But considering the horrors of the Holocaust didn’t occur anywhere near the grounds of Yad Vashem, one has to wonder what makes those grounds so hallowed.  After all, Auschwitz is over 1,500 miles away from Jerusalem; Treblinka is nearly 1,600 miles away; Dachau is almost 1,700 miles away; Buchenwald is over 1,800 miles away.  Do all Holocaust Museums stand on “sacred ground” just because of the subject matter they commemorate?  If so, wasn’t Obama himself standing on sacred ground at 100 15th Street SW in the District of Columbia?  Will the ground upon which the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of (In)Tolerance is being built be sacred because of the museum, or because of the ancient Muslim cemetery it has uprooted and destroyed?

Perhaps the grounds of Yad Vashem are sacred, though.  Only a short distance away, within eyesight, is where Deir Yassin used to be before Zionist militias wiped it and its inhabitants off the face of the Earth.

Obama spoke of atrocities committed upon countless innocents, “just for being different, just for being Jewish” and warned against “the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.”  One wonders what he would say if confronted with the fact that the indigenous people of Palestine are deliberately, systematically and institutionally discriminated against, imprisoned without charge or trial, occupied and colonized, bombed and burned, shot at and under siege because they are not Jewish and because they refuse to forget who they are and where they come from, they refuse to acquiesce to the six and a half decades of ethnic cleansing, aided and abetted, funded, immunized and ignored by the nation Barack Obama now represents.

Obama said that “‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security — and that includes the State of Israel.”  He mentioned Israel by name six additional times in his speech.  Never once did the words Palestine or Palestinians cross his lips.  He then proceeded to conflate Zionism with Judaism, present international law as anti-Semitic, and pulled a Netanyahu by warning of the looming specter of a caricatured Iran, one that exists only in the warped minds of fear merchants and warmongers.

Said Obama, “When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Obama also spoke of civilians “subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights,” he spoke of “all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them,” and vowed to “sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine” to those desperately in need.  Obama praised those who “still brave the streets,” who “still demand to be heard” and “still seek their dignity.”  He praised the “people [who] have not given up.”

He was referring to Syria, of course, and not to Bil’in, Ni’lin, or Budrus. He didn’t mean tanks in Gaza, IDF snipers who open fire on unarmed protesters and murder schoolchildren or the torture and abuse of Palestinians- including children – in Israeli jails.  When he spoke of “unspeakable violence,” the “humanitarian effort” and the “legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice,” Obama obviously didn’t mean the devastation of Gaza by the Israeli military, the ongoing humanitarian crisis there or the recommendations of the Goldstone Report.

Obama patted himself on the back for “sign[ing] an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.”  Of course, these sanctions were not extended to U.S. chums Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, or South Korea – all places where internet censorship is rampant and pervasive.

Obama concluded by stating, “To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future — to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice” and declared, “If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.”

He was speaking, rightfully, to the survivors of the Holocaust.  But he was also, unwittingly and unwillingly, speaking for those who continue to struggle for equal rights, for universal rights, for dignity, freedom, sovereignty and self-determination, for justice long deferred in their own historic and ancestral homeland.  He was speaking for Palestine.

But don’t tell Elie Wiesel.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian Gas to Israel: Plugging the Leak

The provision of under-priced natural gas to Israel under the Mubarak government has long been fuel for public anger, but critics predict that the current powers will not be willing to permanently sever the old deals.

By Rana Mamdouh | Al Akhbar | April 24, 2012

Cairo – The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation’s decision to halt natural gas supplies to Israel – not in order to end the squandering of public funds, but due to overdue Israeli payments – has failed to impress campaigners who have long demanded the scrapping of the deal under which Israel has imported 1.7 million cubic meters of Egyptian gas annually since 2008.

The arrangement, which provides Israel with 40 percent of its gas needs, has been a subject of public anger for the past five years. Over that time, experts estimate that Egypt sustained losses amounting to Egyptian pounds (LE) 28 million (US$4.6 million) per day, as a result of exporting gas to a number of states such as Turkey, Spain, Jordan, and Israel at a price of US$0.705 per million British Thermal Units (MMBtu) at a time when world prices were fluctuating between US$2 and US$6 per MMBtu. The gas is exported through a 100 kilometer-long pipeline from Sinai to Asqalan on the Mediterranean coast.

The gas was supplied under the terms of an agreement signed by the Egyptian government and Israel in 2005, brokered by businessman Hussein Salem, a friend of deposed former President Hosni Mubarak. It guarantees nearly 2 billion cubic meters of Egyptian gas being exported annually to Israel for a 20-year period from the Eastern Mediterranean Gas (EMG) Company – a partnership involving Salem, the Israeli Merhav group, the Ampal American Israel Corporation, the Thai firm PTT, and American businessman Sam Zell – at a price below half the cost of extracting and transporting it.

Despite objections raised by some Egyptian MPs at the time, the agreement was rubber stamped by parliament, thanks both to the dominance of the then-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and the fact that a presidential confidant was involved (Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa were also rumored to have been paid commissions by Salem for facilitating the deal). EMG was also granted a three-year tax exemption from 2005 to 2008 by the government.

Public opposition to the deal persisted, however. Political groups held demonstrations against it, legal challenges were mounted in the courts, and campaigning organizations were set up to stop it. But the regime was undeterred, even when geologists joined political activists in opposing the agreement, warning that Egypt’s gas reserves were being depleted to dangerously low levels. Jurists, too, opined that the agreement encroached on Egypt’s sovereignty and control over an important national resource.

A later bid by the Egyptian government to improve the terms of the deal was snubbed by the Israelis, according to Judge Adel Ferghalli, former head of the Administrative Courts division. He told Al-Akhbar that in 2008, the government referred seven agreements related to the export of gas to Israel to the Council of State’s legislation department, the judicial authority which reviews agreements and bills before they are put to parliament. The government requested that the accords be reviewed with a view to raising the export price from US$.705 to US$3.65 per MMBtu. This was duly done, but the Israeli side refused to agree to the higher price and insisted that the Israeli importing companies were bound by the 2005 agreement which set prices from US$.705 to a maximum of US$1.75.

This did not prevent Mubarak’s government from concluding further agreements with Israel in late 2010 to increase the quantity of gas supplied from 1.7 to 2.9 billion cubic meters, for a 20-year period starting in 2010 and at the old prices. This was claimed by a number of Israeli companies about two months before Mubarak was ousted from office, and not denied by the Egyptian government at the time.

With the outbreak of the January 2011 revolution and the assumption of power by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), demands for an end to gas sales to Israel became more vociferous. In response, former prime minister Essam Sharaf indicated shortly after he was appointed in early April last year that while Egypt could not breach contractual obligations to export gas to Israel it could review the terms, and promised to do that so as to raise Egypt’s yearly revenues from its gas deals by US$4 billion.

But time went by and nothing was done. So Egyptians took things into their own hands, as Ibrahim Yousri, a former ambassador and coordinator of the pressure group No Gas Sales to the Zionist Entity, put it. “They started relying on themselves to express their rejection of the squandering of public funds and the export of Egyptian gas at below world prices to a number of countries, especially Israel, which they consider their enemy,” he said. The pipeline supplying the gas to Israel has been bombed on 13 occasions in the year since Mubarak was ousted.

Yousri was dismissive of the decision to halt exports, suspecting it will prove temporary.

“If the military had wanted to salvage their reputation and avoid the accusation of squandering national resources, the agreement would have been scrapped completely,” he remarked.

He said the reason exports were halted was that the Israeli company importing the gas had withheld Egypt’s dues since 2010. Otherwise, SCAF had been doing exactly what Mubarak had done since 2008, effectively donating some US$10 million dollars daily to the Israeli treasury – the value of the gas supplied by Egypt. “That is not going to make them cancel the agreement outright, but just temporarily halt exports,” he said.

~

SCAF’s Image Vis a Vis Israel

By Bisan Kassab

Cairo – The decision to halt Egyptian gas exports to Israel cannot be seen in isolation from the impending end of the transitional period in Egypt, or the apparent falling out between the Muslim Brotherhood and the SCAF.

The ruling generals are badly in need of an “image boost,” according to Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University and a former member of the SCAF’s civilian advisory council.

While Cairo, represented by the head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) Muhamad Shuaib, officially attributed the move to the Israeli side’s failure to comply with its contractual obligations, the decision “is in essence political and not commercial,” Nafaa remarked.

He said the SCAF would certainly use the announcement, which was bound to receive wide public acclaim, to try to bolster its political standing. But he judged that any additional popularity it gained would be fleeting, and would not give it a political edge over its critics – especially in light of the recent legislation proposing the disqualification from politics of senior figures in the Mubarak regime, which has narrowed the SCAF’s room to maneuver.

He added that the dispute over late payments by the Israeli side provided the SCAF with a convenient means of acting without inviting undue pressure from the United States and Israel.

Nafaa’s skepticism seems well placed.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga – the Mubarak-era holdover who spearheaded the recent campaign against NGOs that receive foreign funding – has said that EGAS informed the Israelis that “the Egyptian side had no objections to reaching a new contract with new conditions and a new price.”

She stressed that the decision to halt exports was not taken suddenly, but after Israel had been notified five times that it was not meeting its financial obligations under the old contract, adding that the last deadline it was given for making its overdue payments was March 31.

Husam Issa, a professor of international law and member of a group seeking to recover public funds embezzled during the Mubarak years, remarked that the Israelis had no grounds for objecting. Non-payment was clearly a sufficient reason for terminating a contract without being accused of acting out of political motives or under public pressure, he said.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela’s Chavez dismisses death rumors in interview

Press TV – April 24, 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he will return home this week after receiving another round of radiation therapy for cancer in Cuba, dispelling rumors that he is critically ill.

“I should be there in Caracas, God willing, on April 26,” Chavez told state television VTV on Monday in a phone call interview after a reported 9-day silence.

“It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war,” he added.

Chavez left for Cuba on April 14 for what he reported as a final round of radiation treatment and has since been absent from state media and only communicated via Twitter and written statements.

“Some people would like to see me leave here sprinting … not yet, let me recover. I have to rest and look after my diet, the treatment and the hours I keep,” Chavez said.

He complained that radiation has taken a physical toll on him, saying, “The treatment is going well, but it’s very hard and you need to have a lot of willpower and strength.”

The 57-year-old leader also said he would need to return to Cuba for another round of radiation and tests.

In late February, Chavez had surgery in Havana after the recurrence of the cancer he was originally diagnosed with last year.

He began the treatment in Cuba following a tumor removal in late March 2011.

Doctors in Cuba have operated on President Chavez twice to remove the cancerous tumors but he has not specified the type of cancer.

Chavez insists that he will overcome the cancer and win re-election in October. His rivals, however, claim that he is not fit to govern the country because his health is deteriorating.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception | | 1 Comment

South Sudan orders Sudanese oil workers to leave

Sudan Tribune | April 24, 2012

KHARTOUM – South Sudan has ordered 154 northern Sudanese nationals working for Chinese-led oil consortium, Petrodar, to leave its territories within 3 days, drawing Beijing once again into Juba’s conflict with Khartoum.

The news was announced from Khartoum on Tuesday by the official spokesman of Sudan’s Foreign Ministry, Al-Obaid Adam Marawih, who also revealed they were already engaged in contacts with South Sudan’s foreign ministry to discuss the possibility of sending a plane from Khartoum to take them back home.

Marawih pointed out that the Sudanese staffers were working for Petrodar in Fulug oilfield in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

The tension and military confrontations currently dominating relations between Khartoum and Juba can be traced back in part to their failure to agree on terms of using Sudan-based pipelines to export South Sudan’s oil.

China, which is the biggest investor in the oil sector on both sides of the border, was embroiled in the conflict despite its policy of balancing relations between Khartoum and Juba.

In February, as the oil dispute intensified with Juba halting production, South Sudan expelled the head of Petrodar, accusing him of complicity in Khartoum’s confiscation of southern oil.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is currently on a visit to China where he is planning to ask Beijing to fund an alternative pipeline for exporting southern oil.

Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir announced following the end of fighting with South Sudan’s army last week around the oil-producing area of Heglig that Khartoum will never allow the south to export its oil via Sudan again.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

South Sudan president in China seeking diplomatic support in conflict with Khartoum

Sudan Tribune | April 24, 2012

KHARTOUM – The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir pleaded the case of his country with China saying that Khartoum has declared war on Juba as he started a five day visit to Beijing.

“It [this visit] comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan,” Kiir said during his meeting with China’s president Hu Jintao.

“I have undertaken this visit because of the great relationship that I value with China. China is one of our economic and strategic partners,” Kiir added.

Last Friday, the Sudanese army managed to recapture the oil-rich region of Heglig after South Sudan occupied it for 10 days sparking the worst military conflict between the two sides since the country split into north and south in July 2011.

On Monday witnesses and officials in South Sudan said that Khartoum’s air force carried out bombing raids in Unity states that fell on a market in Bentiu.

The escalation comes as a reflection of the failure of Khartoum and Juba to settle through negotiations a number of key post-independence items and particularly the issue of how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through the north’s pipelines.

China has been the largest single importer of oil from Sudan prior to the south’s breakup. The latter took 75% of the country’s oil when it seceded.

But earlier this year South Sudan suspended its oil production after Sudan started taking part of the oil as payment in kind to make up for what it called unpaid fees.

Last February, Juba ordered Liu Yingcai, the head of the Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar, out of the country and accused him of not honoring the terms of reference of the memorandum of understanding which they signed in December.

The latest Chinese customs data show crude imports from Sudan fell nearly 40 percent in January and February compared to a year earlier.

China made a failed attempt last December to mediate between the two countries on the oil issue. Following that, Beijing remained largely silent while calling on Khartoum and Juba to continue dialogue.

But last week, Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir threatened to crush the “insect” government of the South, and said the time for talks was over.

The Chinese president appeared careful not to take sides on the Khartoum-Juba row and urged continuation of dialogue.

“The urgent task is to actively cooperate with the mediation efforts of the international community and halt armed conflict in the border areas,” Hu was quoted as telling Kiir during a meeting in Beijing.

“China sincerely hopes that South Sudan and Sudan can become good neighbors who coexist in amity and good partners who develop together,” Hu added.

Kiir and Hu witnessed the signing of several agreements between the two countries that cover humanitarian aid, solar energy and financial cooperation.

Gum Bol Noah,an official from Salva’s office, said China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) was willing to offer South Sudan technical support if Juba decided to build an alternative oil pipeline, making it less reliant on the pipeline running through Sudan.

Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin confirmed to Dow Jones China’s interest in financing the project.

“The Chinese are already there and we will continue with them, no problem” Benjamin said.

“Everybody will apply and we will see who has the capacity and who can generate a good consortium of companies to create money” he added.

Kiir attended the opening ceremony of the South Sudanese embassy in Beijing yesterday and will meet Vice-Premier Li Keqiang today.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment