"Am I therefore become your enemy,because I TELL YOU THE TRUTH...?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"IT IS FOR YOUR SAFETY":Iowa National Guard Lt. Colonel on Alex Jones Tv--PART TWO

"IT IS FOR YOUR SAFETY":Iowa National Guard Lt.Colonel on Alex Jones Tv--PART I

POLICE STATE WATCH:National Guard scraps plans to invade rural town;'This operation could be pretty intrusive to the people'

DES MOINES, Iowa-Following publicized reports that the Army National Guard was planning a military training exercise on the streets of a rural Iowa town, the commanding officers have called off the mock "invasion."The Guard had planned a four-day urban military operation in tiny Arcadia, Iowa, population 443, sending troops to take over the town and search door-to-door for a suspected weapons dealer.The exercise was designed as a mock scenario to give soldiers the skills needed for deployment in an urban environment, and military officials stressed that only households that consented to be part of the drill would be searched."It will be important for us to gain the trust and confidence of the residents of Arcadia," Sgt. Mike Kots, readiness NCO for Alpha Company, told Carroll's Daily Times Herald. "We will need to identify individuals that are willing to assist us in training by allowing us to search their homes and vehicles and to participate in role-playing."We really want to get as much information out there as possible," Kots continued, "because this operation could be pretty intrusive to the people of Arcadia." Military spokesman Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood, however, told WND that the operation has now been "scaled back" and no longer involves an "invasion" of Arcadia.And while Hapgood confirmed the Guard had been inundated with objections from citizens concerned about soldiers patrolling the streets of an American town, he said most came from people out of state and unfamiliar with the operation. Iowans, he explained, typically cooperate with the Guard. The change in plans was based on troop evaluation, he said, not public outcry."Higher headquarters leadership," Hapgood told WND, "given the unit's status of training proficiency, made a decision to scale back the exercise."Kots described the original operation to the Herald as set to begin on Thursday, April 2, with reconnaissance and exploratory patrols. On April 4 convoys were to be deployed from the armory in Carroll to nearby Arcadia, where soldiers would knock on doors, showing a picture of the invented "arms dealer.""Once credible intelligence has been gathered," said Kots, "portions of the town will be road-blocked and more in-depth searches of homes and vehicles will be conducted in accordance with the residents' wishes."One of the techniques we use in today's political environment is cordon and knock," Kots explained. "We ask for the head of the household, get permission to search, then have them open doors and cupboards. The homeowner maintains control. We peer over their shoulder, and the soldier uses the homeowner's body language and position to protect him."The planned drill had also included overhead supervision from a Blackhawk helicopter, crowd-control measures and simulated extraction of "injured" people, culminating in capture of the "arms dealer.""This exercise will improve the real-life operational skills of the unit," said Kots. "And it will hopefully improve the public's understanding of military operations.""There are no active duty bases in Iowa, so there are no urban warfare training areas of any size," Hopgood said. "In order to get that larger neighborhood feel or city feel, we have to be creative and partner with our communities."
Hopgood further told WND that in past cooperative exercises with the community, the people of Iowa have welcomed learning how their sons and daughters operate in action.Plans for the urban operation training, Hopgood explained, are still set to continue, but will be conducted in a smaller, platoon-by-platoon basis in the near vicinity of the Carroll armory.
By Drew Zahn

As in the days of Noah...

BIG BROTHER WATCH:UK:"CCTV cameras at supermarkets to keep track of alcohol sales"

Big Brother CCTV cameras are to be fitted inside shops and supermarkets on the orders of the state to keep track on anybody buying alcohol.A law is being quietly pushed through Parliament giving councils the power to order licensed premises to fit the surveillance cameras. Pubs will also be covered.The footage of people innocently buying a bottle of wine in a shop or a pint of beer in a bar must be stored for at least 60 days, and be handed over to the police on demand.Critics say it will mean that citizens will now be tracked everywhere they go. The UK already has more than four million closed-circuit TV cameras covering the streets – the largest number in the world. Cars are also automatically monitored using cameras that check registration plates. Now shops and pubs will also be covered.The measures form part of the Policing and Crime Bill, but have not been highlighted by Ministers.Under a code of conduct, which will be enforced by the Bill, any business that intends to sell alcohol will have to agree to install the cameras.Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: ‘We are already a country with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the civilised world, but this law is systemising the surveillance of a nation. People will be treated like suspects wherever they go.’James Brokenshire, a Tory home affairs spokesman, said: ‘The risk is that these provisions could be used as a way to impose blanket CCTV requirements where they just aren’t necessary. This mustn’t be another way of extending the surveillance society by the back door.’Earlier this week, the Mail revealed how police were warning pubs they would not support their licensing applications unless they agreed to train the intrusive cameras on their customers.The first blanket policy has been introduced in the London borough of Islington, where all applicants wanting a licence to sell alcohol are being told they must fit CCTV.Other forces are adopting similar tactics. But the planned new law goes much further, as it will allow councils – which ultimately hand out all licences-to insist on the CCTV cameras.Ministers have also been restricting the public’s right to ‘watch the watchers’.Earlier this week, a law came into force which carries a maximum ten-year jail term for anybody taking a picture of a police officer if it is ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, who is piloting the CCTV measure through the Commons, recently admitted that he couldn’t remember the last time he was in a pub.Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘It’s an extraordinary admission from someone who is proposing measures that, on the Government’s own admission, will cost the pub sector hundreds of millions of pounds a year.‘It shows how disconnected he is from the realities of what it’s like trying to stay in business in the current environment.’The Home Office said the clause in the Bill was intended to allow police and councils to target premises where problems were occurring, such as underage sales.It was not meant to penalise businesses that act responsibly. It will be up to councils to decide which premises must have cameras, and they will be trained on the areas where alcohol is sold.
By James Slack

As in the days of Noah...

ENVIRO CRAZE WATCH:Health expert warns of "Psychological Instability" as climate heats up

TASMANIA faces an ominous and burgeoning epidemic of chronic disease in its climate change future, the State's Director of Public Health said yesterday.Dr Roscoe Taylor said the spectre of an influenza pandemic was also very real.The foreseeable risks to health worldwide had been documented, he said, but Tasmania faced its share of public health concerns brought about after events that could only be attributed to climate change.He said the increased frequency of extreme weather would cause physical injury and psychological instability, as the population became anxious about storm, drought or extreme heat events."With changes in Tasmania's weather patterns, we will see more severe weather events," he said."An ageing population of people living with chronic medical conditions might not readily cope with heat stress."Longer term, Dr Taylor said drought would threaten reliable, nutritious food sources and water supply."There are significant threats to public health and nutrition when our natural food sources are affected with seasonal interruptions," he said.The extreme weather would also bring social isolation and anxiety. "There will be community anxiety about the future.We have to be careful not to transfer our own fears on to our children."We have to give them a sense that they can minimise the risks and do something about the future."Very real evidence of climate change across Tasmania's water supply was already playing itself out, he said."We are seeing the impact of climate change on our water supply with increased and longer algal blooms," he said."At Ross the population has had to seek alternative water supplies because of an ongoing blue-green algae outbreak, and on King Island blooms are appearing in the water catchment dams."There are marine coastal blooms in the Huon and Statewide they are extending and lasting longer."These are subtle but definite effects of climate change."It would appear that water scarcity is likely to persist, and a range of adaptation measures will be required to ensure the viability of communities and food supplies in the longer term."

As in the days of Noah...

Drought to cut off federal water to California farms

SACRAMENTO, Calif.-Federal water managers said Friday that they plan to cut off water, at least temporarily, to thousands of California farms as a result of the deepening drought gripping the state.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said parched reservoirs and patchy rainfall this year were forcing them to completely stop surface water deliveries for at least a two-week period beginning March 1. Authorities said they haven't had to take such a drastic move for more than 15 years.The situation could improve slightly if more rain falls over the next few weeks, and officials will know by mid-March if they can release more irrigation supplies to growers.Farmers in the nation's No. 1 agriculture state predicted it would cause consumers to pay more for their fruits and vegetables, which would have to be grown using expensive well water."Water is our life - it's our jobs and it's our food," said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the farm bureau in Fresno County. "Without a reliable water supply, Fresno County's No. 1 employer - agriculture - is at great risk."The drought would cause an estimated $1.15 billion dollar loss in agriculture-related wages and eliminate as many as 40,000 jobs in farm-related industries in the San Joaquin Valley alone, where most of the nation's produce and nut crops are grown, said Lester Snow, director of the Department of Water Resources. California's agricultural industry typically receives 80 percent of all the water supplies managed by the federal government - everything from far-off mountain streams and suburban reservoirs. The state supplies drinking water to 23 million residents and 755,000 acres of irrigated farmland.Farms supplied by flows from the state's system of pumps and canals would also see cutbacks but still get 15 percent of their normal deliveries, Snow said.This year, both the state and federal reservoirs have reached their lowest level since 1992.Dwindling supplies would have to be routed to cities to ensure residents, hospitals and fire crews have enough to meet minimum health and safety needs, said Don Glaser, the federal reclamation bureau's Mid-Pacific Region director.The water shortages are so severe most cities will have to start mandatory ration programs by summertime, and residents will be asked to reduce their usage by 20 percent, Snow said."You've got to think about water as a precious resource," he said. "It may seem a stretch to conserve 20 percent of your water, but that's nothing in comparison to the consequences of the drought and job loss in agriculture."
As in the days of Noah...

Saudi officials block children's marriages

MARRIAGE officials in Saudi Arabia have refused to marry three 13-year-old girls, amid an outcry by rights activists over child marriages.Last week marriage officials told the parents of three girls they were too young, citing a recent instruction by the head of the Dammam regional courts, Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Raqib, Al-Watan newspaper reported.When the father of one then sought permission from Raqib, he was told to wait until she was 15. Saudi Arabia has no law setting a minimum age for marriage for either gender, leading to occasional cases in which girls are married off by their parents before reaching their teens, some even younger than age 10. Saudi human rights activists have sought to have a law banning the practice of child marriage and setting a minimum age of 18, but some powerful religious officials have resisted. In January, the grand mufti, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, said girls as young as 10 may be married, and he lashed out at critics. "If a girl exceeds 10 or 12, then she is eligible for marriage, and whoever thinks she is too young, then he or she is wrong and has done her an injustice," he said.
As in the days of Noah...

Tamil Tigers Attack Colombo

Sri Lanka rebels say suicide air raids successful

COLOMBO-Tamil Tiger rebels called a defiant suicide air raid on the Sri Lankan capital a success on Saturday despite both planes missing their stated targets.One small Tiger aircraft slammed into the main government tax office in central Colombo, killing at least two people and wounding 53, the military said.The other was shot down and crashed in a marsh outside the international airport, the site of the Tiger air wing's first strike in 2007. State TV showed triumphant soldiers around the bullet-riddled fuselage of the small plane and its dead pilot.The attack was the latest proof of the Tigers' ability to strike far from the war zone on the island where troops have encircled them in just 87 sq km (34 sq miles) of jungle and are within reach of ending a separatist war that began in 1983.The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a news release the raid targeted Sri Lanka's air force headquarters in Colombo and its airbase at the international airport, pro-rebel web site www.TamilNet.com reported.TamilNet said the mission was flown by "Black Air Tigers," or suicide pilots, and they had carried out successful air raids. The military said each plane was carrying more than 200 kg (441 lb) of explosives.Both planes came close to their targets. The tax office is near air force headquarters and the crash site of the other plane was adjacent to the boundary of the airbase.TamilNet showed a photo of the men it said were the pilots smiling with Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran standing with his arms around them.The rebels' air wing has flown nine previous sorties since debuting in 2007. The military said it shot down one plane in September but no wreckage was found.
By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez
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US finds 13 civilians died in Afghanistan strike

In this Handout photo released Saturday Feb. 21, 2009, by US Military, showing Brig. Gen. Michael A. Ryan, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, hugs a mournful Afghan man Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, as he offers his condolences to families of those killed during a U.S. operation targeting insurgents near Herat province, Afghanistan. A U.S. military operation in western Afghanistan killed 13 Afghan civilians along with three militants, the U.S. said Saturday.(AP Photo/US Military)
KABUL-An operation the American military at first described as a "precision strike" instead killed 13 Afghan civilians and only three militants, the U.S. said Saturday, three days after sending a general to the site to investigate.Civilian casualties have been a huge source of friction between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has stepped up demands that U.S. and NATO operations kill no civilians and that Afghan soldiers take part in missions to help prevent unwanted deaths.A U.S. military statement said the decision to dispatch a general to the western province of Herat to investigate shows how seriously the U.S. takes civilian casualties. The U.S. rarely releases the findings of civilian casualty investigations, and the disclosure this time could show the effect of Karzai's criticisms.The U.S. military originally said 15 militants were killed Tuesday in a coalition operation in the Gozara district of Herat province, but Afghan officials said six women and two children were among the dead, casting doubt on the U.S. claim.Afghan officials say the group targeted in the airstrikes were living in two tents in a remote area. An ethnic group of Afghans known as Kuchis travel the countryside with livestock and live in tents. Photographs obtained by The Associated Press from the site showed the body of a dead young boy-bloodied and dirtied.In response, Brig. Gen. Michael Ryan traveled to the site to meet with Afghan elders. Investigators found weapons and ammunition, but concluded that 13 civilians were killed along with three militants, the U.S. said.An expert on civilian casualties said she was "cautiously optimistic" the U.S. is taking a new approach in dealing with civilian casualties. Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, said more high-ranking military officials are visiting gravesites and apologizing.In recent weeks, she said, Defense Secretary Robert Gates "turned the old way of doing things on its head.""Instead of immediately denying civilian deaths, which deeply angers Afghans and with good reason, he said the U.S. will instead immediately investigate, make apologies and provide amends where appropriate," she said.The U.S. on Saturday released photos of Ryan talking with Afghan elders and embracing a mourning man.
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As in the days of Noah...

US tests military exit routes out of Iraq

BAGHDAD – The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said.The convoys-carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items-mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years.It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials told The Associated Press."Because they are starting to see a potential reduction of forces, they are looking to get more stuff out," Terry Moores, the deputy assistant chief of staff for logistics for Marine Corps Central Command, said Saturday."We started slow," Moores said, but added "it's picked up speed" in recent months.The Iraqi-U.S. security pact, which took effect Jan. 1, calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities by June 30 and completely pull out troops by 2012-a timeline that could speed up if President Barack Obama keeps to a campaign promise to have troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office.In testimony before the U.S. House of Representative earlier this month, the independent Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon needed to redefine its withdrawal strategy, saying it did not take into account either the security pact deadline or Obama's possible accelerated timeframe.The biggest obstacle is the question of how to move tens of thousands of personnel and millions of tons of equipment out of Iraq, according to testimony by a GAO managing director.The U.S. brought most of its material in through Kuwait, one of the main staging grounds for the 2003 invasion. There are currently more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq."The capacity of facilities in Kuwait and other neighboring countries may limit the speed at which equipment and material can be moved out of Iraq," the GAO report said.It recommended looking at multiple routes through Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey, where the U.S. has already constructed bridge overpasses for heavy tanks on the road between the Iraqi border and the Mediterranean ports of Iskenderun and Mersin.Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the Pentagon has already examined exit routes through Turkey and Jordan. Both countries, longtime U.S. allies, support the withdrawal planning contingencies, said Mullen.The Marines have made 17 shipments of vehicles and weapons-totaling 20,000 items-through Jordan's Aqaba port, using contractors to haul the items to either commercial container ships or U.S. Navy ships, Moores said in a telephone interview from Bahrain, the base of the U.S. 5th Fleet."Jordan and Kuwait offer a great mix of routes and great infrastructure to get our stuff out," he said.
By CHELSEA J. CARTER, Associated Press Writer
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Abu Ghraib Reopens With New Name

Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison reopened, with a new name and official promises Saturday of humane treatment in a lockup notorious as a center for abuse.

Iran offered nuclear deal to stop Iraq troop attacks: BBC

Shiite militants prepare a roadside bomb on the corner of a street in the southern city of Basra in March 2008. Iran offered to stop attacking troops in Iraq if the West dropped opposition to its nuclear programme, a top British official said in comments to be broadcast Saturday.(AFP/File/Essam al-Sudani)
LONDON-Iran offered to stop attacking troops in Iraq if the West dropped opposition to its nuclear programme, a top British official said in comments to be broadcast Saturday.Sir John Sawers, Britain's current ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC that Iranian officials had privately admitted their role in supporting insurgents' roadside bomb attacks on British and US troops.But the proposed deal, floated in teatime meetings at London hotels, was rejected by the British government.It was not clear exactly when the deal was suggested, according to pre-released extracts of the interview, which will appear in a documentary later Saturday."The Iranians wanted to be able to strike a deal whereby they stopped killing our forces in Iraq in return for them being allowed to carry on with their nuclear programme," Sawers told the BBC.He paraphrased the terms of the proposed deal as: "'We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear programme without let or hindrance'."It was proposed in a series of meetings between Iranian and European officials, he added."There were various Iranians who would come to London and suggest we have tea in some hotel or other," Sawers told the broadcaster."They'd do the same in Paris, they'd do the same in Berlin, and then we'd compare notes among the three of us."Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying in response that the country's authorities "have many times stressed that Iran has no role in attacks on American and British troops.""The Islamic Republic of Iran from the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has played a role for the return of peace, stability and calm in these countries," he said."It had regular dialogues and cooperation with international forces with regard to these issues."The revelation is one of several in the documentary about backroom talks between the West and Iran since 2001.Quoting Iranian and American officials, the programme also says Tehran cooperated closely with the United States to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks, even providing intelligence information to help with bombing raids.Hillary Mann, a former senior official under ex-president George W. Bush, told the BBC how one Iranian military official "unfurled the map on the table and started to point to targets that the US needed to focus on."Iran's then president Mohammad Khatami was reportedly willing to help get rid of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying he was also Iran's enemy.But relations reportedly soured when Bush labelled Iran part of the "axis of evil" in 2002.The former third-highest ranking official at the US State Department, Nicholas Burns, told the documentary: "We had a very threatening posture towards Iran for a number of years. It didn't produce any movement whatsoever."

As in the days of Noah...

Iran blocks Web sites promoting reformist Khatami

TEHRAN,Iran-Iranian authorities have blocked two Web sites promoting the presidential bid of Mohammed Khatami, reformists said Saturday, in a first sign that powerful hard-liners might seek to thwart his challenge to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election.Khatami(picture left) declared on Feb. 8 he would run again for president, setting the stage for a major political showdown in coming months between the popular reformist-who made dialogue with the West a centerpiece of his eight years as president-and the country's ruling hard-liners.His candidacy poses a serious threat amid popular discontent with Ahmadinejad over the sagging economy, and the action against the Web sites came as Khatami named leaders in charge of his election campaign.The Web sites, http://www.yaarinews.com and http://www.yaari.ir, were set up last summer in anticipation of Khatami's candidacy.They could not be accessed from inside Iran on Saturday, though they were viewable outside the country.Khatami's own campaign site, http://www.khatami.ir, was still accessible."At midday, we learned that our Web sites have been blocked...Closing down our Web sites means hard-liners are not going to tolerate Khatami challenging Ahmadinejad," Behrouz Shojaei, editor of one of the sites, told The Associated Press Saturday.Yaari News, which Shojaei runs with other Khatami supporters, has reported on his candidacy, the reformist's views and growing support for his presidential bid. The other targeted Web site presented people's views on Khatami's candidacy.Shojaei said the government was also likely angered after the sites reported that provincial officials bused people in to attend a rally where Ahmadinejad was speaking in the city of Yazd on Wednesday. Ahmadinejad allies claimed that the relatively large crowd showed the hard-line president's popularity. It might also have been an attempt to strike a blow to Khatami, whose birthplace is Yazd.Prominent Khatami ally Majid Ansari said blocking the sites was simply an attempt to increase pressure on reformists before the election."Reformist opponents assume they can block the path of people's understanding but people are wise enough to judge these actions," Ansari said."Blocking sites won't stop Khatami from challenging (Ahmadinejad)," he said.Khatami's candidacy poses a serious challenge to Ahmadinejad, whose mixture of anti-Western rhetoric and fiery nationalism sharply contrasts with Khatami's tempered tones and appeals for global dialogue.Khatami's decision to run against Ahmadinejad could significantly shake up Iran's politics, appealing to citizens disillusioned by the country's failing economy and Ahmadinejad's staunch anti-U.S. foreign policy.Relations between the United States and Iran improved marginally during Khatami's eight years in office, and he encouraged athletic and cultural exchanges. But it deteriorated after the Sept. 11 attacks when former President George W. Bush declared Iran belonged to an "axis of evil." Ahmadinejad widened that gap after he was elected in 2005.But Khatami's decision to run comes as President Barack Obama has signaled a willingness for a dialogue with Iran, particularly over the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program.Hard-liners have vowed they would never again allow reformists to take control of the government and have used the Guardian Council, an election watchdog that vets candidates, and other institutions they control to block reformists from gaining power. It is unclear if the Council will move to block Khatami's candidacy.Reformists have suffered setbacks in past years as hard-liners and conservatives have consolidated power. Hundreds of reformist newspapers have been shut down, and the Guardian Council barred thousands of reformist candidates from running in parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2008.

As in the days of Noah....

New pro-Saudi terrorist group suspected of Katyusha attack from Lebanon

The rocket attack which slightly injured three Israelis in the Arab Christian village of Mailiyeh early Saturday, Feb. 21 is attributed by DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources to the "Jihad Movement for Gaza"-a new terrorist organization operating out of the Ain Hilwa refugee camp near the South Lebanese town of Sidon. No organization has taken responsibility for the attack.This ragtag group of Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi terrorists is headed jointly by Jamail Hamad, a Palestinian Sunni Moslem, and Gandi Suhmurani, a Lebanese Shiite, with funding from Saudi intelligence to buy recruits, weapons, explosives and rockets.Most of the recruits are drawn from groups linked to al Qaeda, such as the violent Jund al Sham, Hizbt al Nasser and Fatah al Islam and ex-Sunni insurgents on the run from Iraq. The Jihad Movement of Gaza has recently seized large sections of Ain Hilwa from Fatah control, at the same time running courses for its recruits in the use of bomb cars, rocket fire and suicide attacks. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources name the group's three operations officers-Abdallah Liyani, a former Sunni insurgent from Ramadi, Iraq, another Iraqi called Hamad Naouchi and Hamis Ahmed, a Syrian.Saudi intelligence is investing in the new group to create a militia for challenging Hizballah's sole grip on South Lebanon and Iran's inroads on Lebanon. To win recognition and legitimacy, the Jihad Movement for Gaza is trying to seize the war initiative against Israel and show Hizballah up as all talk and no action.In the last two weeks, operations against UN peacekeepers and Israeli forces and rocket attacks on Galilee have been in the pipeline. UNIFIL has been on a high alert. But, although this information has been in Israel's hands since the last week of January, the authorities refrained from putting Israeli border communities and towns on guard. This is compatible with the policy pursued by defense minister Ehud Barak and his senior adviser Amos Gilead to put all Israel's security eggs in the Egyptian basket-and indirectly in Saudi hands.Cairo and Riyadh's interests diverge sharply from those of Israel in the areas adjoining its borders-Gaza and Lebanon. Saudi sponsorship of a new terrorist organization in South Lebanon illustrates this conflict of interests.Earlier, DEBKAfile reported:One rocket fired from Lebanon early Saturday, Feb. 21, destroyed a home in the West Galilee village of Mailieh, a second fell on the Lebanese side of the border. Three civilians hit by shrapnel, two suffered shock. Hizballah has denied responsibility for the attack which no other terrorist organization has admitted. Israeli artillery returned the fire emanating, according to Lebanese sources, from al-Qulaila and al-Mansouri near the Lebanese border town of Naqoura. The sources link the rocket attack to the flares Israeli forces fired over the border along 4-6 km of the south Lebanese coast Friday night after a soldier was reported by the Dubai-based Al-Arabia TV to have gone missing in the sea. No reports of a missing soldier came from Israel.UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bou Zayan denied information about a missing person but confirmed flares were fired over Lebanese territorial waters. Unconfirmed Lebanese sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the reportedly missing soldier might have drowned, explaining the flares. Early Saturday, the body of a wind-surfer was found on the beach north of the Israeli town of Naharia.The last Katyusha attack from Lebanon occurred last month during Israel's Gaza operation.
As in the days of Noah...

Egyptian war game in Sinai practices rebuffing "Israeli attack"

DEBKAfile's military sources report that the Egyptian 2nd Army's mechanized division carried out a 10-day military exercise in Sinai dubbed "Bedouin 3." Infantry, armored and artillery units took part as well as F-16 fighter-bombers, Mirage 5E2 fighters and Apache assault helicopters, using live ammunition.Their scenario hinged on a mock hostile Israeli invasion of Sinai aiming for the Suez Canal. The Egyptian units ranged in an east-to-west line across the mountainous Jebal Libni of central Sinai south of El Arish to cut off the "Israeli advance."The game ended Wednesday, Feb. 18, with high praise from its commanders. They found that in a two-day engagement, the Egyptian forces had forced the "Israeli attackers" to retreat behind the international border to the Negev, displaying greater mobility, flexibility and speed than in previous exercises.The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty permits Cairo to maintain a single army division in demilitarized Sinai.
As in the days of Noah...

Barack Obama concludes secret pact with Saudi King

DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals the terms of the accord US president Barack Obama has secretly forged with Saudi King Abdullah and the ways in which they plan to work together in the Muslim world, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.Moscow in contrast is deepening its ties with Tehran.The implications of this widening divergence are examined in the latest issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly out Friday. Also details of Saudi king's sweeping modernizing reforms and new appointments....
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'Iran secretly accelerated A-bomb drive'

Iran is speeding ahead toward the production of a nuclear weapon, and is operating a shadow nuclear program in tandem with its public program to achieve that goal, a US analyst of the Islamic republic has said, following the publication of a UN report that suggests Teheran already has enough enriched uranium to build a bomb.In a report unveiled in Vienna on Thursday, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had produced 1,010 kg. of low-enriched uranium. The figure includes an additional 210 kg. of low-enriched uranium, a third more than Iran had previously disclosed.The low-enriched uranium would have to undergo further enrichment before it could be used in a nuclear weapon.The IAEA report based its findings on an annual survey by inspectors of Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant."Because it takes more time to create LEU [low-enriched uranium] than to go from LEU to HEU [highly-enriched uranium], the discovery of the additional LEU suggests that the Iranian regime has accelerated its quest for nuclear weapons capability," Prof. Raymond Tanter, president of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told The Jerusalem Post.The Iran Policy Committee is comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence services, as well as academic experts, who believe that Iranian opposition movements should be given a central role in pushing for democratic change in the Islamic republic."If inspectors had overlooked such a large amount of uranium, it is an additional indication that Teheran operates a shadow nuclear program in coordination with the public one, the latter of which is open to inspection," Tanter said.UN inspectors said the discovery of an additional 210 kg. of enriched uranium was a product of a case of mistaken underreporting by Iran. According to a New York Times report, the inspectors said the the inconsistency was "reasonable for a new enrichment plant [Natanz]."UN officials were dismissive of suggestions that "Iran could smuggle enriched uranium out of the Natanz plant for [further] processing at a secret location," the report added.
But Tanter challenged the UN dismissal, saying, "Contrary to explanations by the UN officials, the regime probably smuggled enriched uranium out of the Natanz plant for additional processing at a secret location, such as a military site called Lavizan-2 in the northeastern area of Teheran."Because Lavizan-2 is a military site, it is my understanding that it is not open to inspection. Buried deep in tunnels, the regime conducts covert enrichment activities at Lavizan-2, operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC]," Tanter said."The regime has a sophisticated method to hide its bomb-making research and development. The Islamic Republic of Iran hides a secret nuclear program under the cover of a legitimate program to complete the construction of the Bushehr civilian facility."Materials legitimately acquired for Bushehr are diverted to the covert military program operated by the IRGC," Tanter said.The IAEA report exposed an urgent need for more intelligence on the ground in Iran, Tanter said.He added that "one of the best sources of intelligence about the Iranian regime's quest for nuclear weapons status are Iranian opposition organizations - the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its largest component, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. They first revealed the parallel Iranian nuclear military program in 2002 and continue to make startlingly accurate revelations."The EU recently took the Mujahedeen-e Khalq off of its list of terrorist organizations, but the US has kept the organization on its own list of such groups.Teheran was also swiftly developing missile technology that would enable delivery of any future nuclear weapon, said Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies."Iran is moving full steam ahead, not only with uranium enrichment but missile development as well. It's going to reach its goal - whether nuclear weapons or remaining one step short of them - very soon, or it could be that they are indeed already at the 'one step before' stage," Landau said."The situation is very serious, and you can see already a certain escalation in statements issued in Israel about the severity of the threat and preparations for the possibility of some kind of action," she said.No substantial diplomatic efforts to put real pressure on Iran had been attempted so far, Landau said."I'm not very optimistic to say the least, because I don't think the right approach is being taken, and mainly because so much time is slipping away with nothing at all being attempted - the last sanctions were decided upon in March of 2008, almost a year ago - and Iran of course is pushing forward all the time," she said.Landau stressed that "pressure on Iran is not an alternative to engagement, but rather a prelude to it. In other words, pressure is essential to get Iran to be serious about negotiating. But, as I said, I don't see any indication that things are going in that direction."The Foreign Ministry released a statement on Friday saying the new IAEA findings indicated "a continuation of the uranium enrichment project which goes against the Security Council's resolutions, and proves Iran's lack of cooperation with the IAEA's effort to clear up heavy suspicions over the military goals of Iran's plan."Thursday's IAEA report also said that traces of uranium were found at the Syrian site which the international media says was bombed by IAF planes in September 2007. Syria had alleged the the uranium came from Israeli munitions, but UN inspectors said that was unlikely."Iran and Syria are secretly working on nuclear technology in a manner which risks peace in the region and the world, while blatantly ignoring their international obligations," the Foreign Ministry said.•

As in the days of Noah...

Kadima urges Livni to hear Netanyahu out on unity gov't

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu will begin efforts to form a national-unity government on Sunday by meeting with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Labor chairman Ehud Barak.President Shimon Peres on Friday officially appointed Netanyahu to build a coalition.He has until March 20 to put together a government, but he could request another two weeks from Peres, which would give him a final deadline of April 3.In his acceptance speech at Beit Hanassi, Netanyahu asked all the parties to "put politics aside for the good of the country," singling out Livni and Barak."I believe we can find a joint path to lead Israel to security, prosperity and peace," Netanyahu said."The biggest tragedies in the history of our people came when we failed to unite in the face of great challenges. The biggest victories came when we were able to put our differences aside and unite at the moment of truth."The most likely scenario remained forming a narrow government with the 65 MKs of the Right bloc, Likud officials said on Saturday night. It would be difficult to add Kadima or Labor, because in the former the party's top figures want to join but the head of the party does not, while in Labor, the head wants to join but the rest of the faction wants to remain in the opposition, they said.Livni told Netanyahu when he called her on Friday afternoon that her views had not changed and that the ideological gaps between their parties were too large to bridge.But the leaders of her party asked her to not give Netanyahu a final no until after she reported to her faction on Sunday evening on what he offered her."We are still seeking a rotation in the Prime Minister's Office, but the main question that needs to be answered when they meet is about Netanyahu's flexibility on diplomatic issues," Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi said."If he says he would be in favor of diplomatic concessions, this might persuade us to join and other parties to remain outside the coalition. But we will be surprised if he says he is willing to make diplomatic concessions after he ruled out withdrawing from a single settlement."Vice Premier Haim Ramon added that "a Likud-Kadima government is what is best for the nation, but for that to happen he Netanyahu has to disconnect from Shas and the extreme Right. Portfolios don't matter as much as Livni being able to continue her negotiations with Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei."Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said he was willing to join a Netanyahu-led government if the Likud leader would endorse two states for two peoples as his goal.Livni's No. 2, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, held consultations all weekend with Kadima MKs and told them that joining the next government and remaining in the opposition were both options for him, depending on the circumstances."The opposition might be good for Livni herself, but it's not good for Kadima," another top Kadima MK said.Sources close to Netanyahu responded that he would offer Livni the vice premiership and nine portfolios.He will tell her that he wants negotiations with the Palestinians to continue in an effort to live together in peace with defensible borders.But Netanyahu will not agree to leave Shas out of the government, because of an unwritten agreement with the party that convinced Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to prevent Livni from forming a government in October.
Netanyahu vowed in that deal to to add Shas first to any government."The Likud will form a government, and we hope it will be with Kadima and even Labor, but we won't give up our majority that we have without them from the factions that recommended us to the president," Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said.A Likud source said he believed Barak would like to join the government, especially because he knew he would not be opposition leader if Kadima remained outside the coalition.The source revealed that there was "engagement between Likud and Labor," but predicted that it would only get in high gear after Kadima gave Likud a final "no."Sources close to Barak said his views about Labor remaining in the opposition had not changed and he was under no pressure to change them.A senior Labor official said the party would be more likely to join if Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman remained outside the government, something that was only expected to happen if he were indicted on the money laundering allegations police are investigating before a new government is formed. Netanyahu and Lieberman met on Friday but neither side revealed the content of their conversation.
As in the days of Noah....

US has given green light for Hamas-Fatah gov't, PA says

The Obama administration has given the Palestinian Authority a "green light" to talk to Hamas about forming a Palestinian unity government, a PA official in Ramallah said over the weekend.The official said that Washington had also given Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the go-ahead to resume his efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah."The new administration has a different policy than that of former US president George W. Bush," the official told The Jerusalem Post."The administration of President Barack Obama believes that a Hamas-Fatah government is good for stability."Cairo has issued invitations to representatives of Hamas, Fatah and several other Palestinian groups to attend reconciliation talks that are due to begin in Cairo on Wednesday.Fatah and Hamas officials confirmed that the Egyptians had invited them to the talks.Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said that for the talks to succeed, the PA must first release all "political prisoners" from its West Bank jails.The talks were originally set for Sunday, but the Egyptians announced last week that they were postponing them following the failure of negotiations with Hamas and Israel over a new Gaza cease-fire agreement.An attempt by the Egyptians to hold a similar conference in November failed because of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to free hundreds of Hamas detainees ahead of the talks.Abbas, who visited Cairo last week, reportedly told Mubarak that he's prepared to patch up his differences with Hamas.According one of his aides, Abbas urged the Egyptian president to set a new date for convening the Palestinian "national reconciliation" talks in Cairo.At the conference, Hamas and Fatah are expected to form five joint committees to discuss ways of resolving their differences over issues such as control over the border crossings into the Gaza Strip,reconstructing the PA security forces and forming a new unity government. Ahead of the planned parley, Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Cairo and Ramallah over the past two weeks in an attempt to agree on an agenda.Fatah legislator Azam al-Ahmed, who has been participating in the talks with Hamas, said the results of the recent Israeli election, which saw the rise of right-wing parties, required the Palestinians to unite "in the face of the new challenges."He also expressed optimism regarding the prospects of ending the Hamas-Fatah power struggle. Another Fatah official, Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, said the fact that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has been tasked with forming the next government "proves that Israeli public opinion favors war and destruction."In the wake of the "dangerous developments in Israel, the Palestinians must unite their ranks by forming a unity government," Naja said. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders said over the weekend that Democratic Sen. John Kerry's visit to the Gaza Strip last Thursday signaled a change in US policy toward their movement."The visit is a move in the right direction," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. "We consider the visit as an indirect step aimed at ending the boycott of Hamas by the Americans and the international community."Welcoming the apparent shift in US policy, the Hamas spokesman expressed hope that the Obama administration would "repair" the damage and injustice done to Hamas after it won the January 2006 election, when the Bush administration decided to boycott and impose sanctions on it.However, he voiced disappointment over the fact that Kerry did not meet during his tour of the Gaza Strip with "representatives of the democratically elected government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh."

As in the days of Noah...

"Iran,Syria continuing nuke projects"

"Iran and Syria are secretly working on nuclear technology in a manner which risks peace in the region and the world, while bluntly ignoring their international obligations," a statement by the Foreign Ministry said Friday evening.Meanwhile, US State Department officials have said they plan to meet with the Syrian ambassador to the US, Imad Moustapha, to discuss the allegations.The Israeli and American statements were issued following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which indicated Iran was continuing to enrich uranium.The Israeli statement said that "The report on Iran indicates a continuation of the uranium enrichment project which goes against the UN Security Council's resolutions, and proves Iran's lack of cooperation with the IAEA's effort to clear up heavy suspicions over the military goals of Iran's plan," the statement continued.Israel also expressed concern over the Syrian military facility bombed in September 2007 and was expecting the IAEA "to continue investigating, including visiting other sites to which Syria is currently blocking access."The US-Syrian meeting, scheduled for next week, will be the first such session since last September and reflects Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's interest in talking directly with Syria and other countries at odds with the United States, spokesman Gordon Duguid said."It's her belief that direct engagement with Syria will advance US interests," Duguid said.Ambassador Moustapha is to meet with Jeffrey D. Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, at Feltman's request, Duguid said. Clinton is not scheduled to participate."Our concerns include Syria's support to terrorist groups and networks, Syria's pursuit of nuclear and nonconventional weaponry, interference in Lebanon and a worsening human rights situation," Duguid said.Earlier Friday, experts said a recent report by the UN nuclear watchdog which stated that Iran has slowed down its uranium enrichment program neglected to underscore the fact that Teheran already had enough fissile material to produce an atomic bomb.The recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report states that inspectors uncovered 209 kilograms of low-enriched uranium that the Iranians had failed to declare, which brings the total amount that Teheran has so far enriched to over a ton, enough, with additional purification, to produce a nuclear weapon, officials told the New York Times Thursday.Independent weapons experts told the paper that they were surprised by the figures and criticized the IAEA for conducting inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities only once a year."It's worse than we thought. It's alarming that the actual production was underreported by a third," said Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control."You have enough atoms" to make a bomb, a senior UN official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.The IAEA report, which was made public Thursday, stated that the new assessment of the total amount of uranium enriched by Iran factors in 171 kilograms of newly-produced material and 839 kilograms of old production. In the past, however, the agency had only reported 630 kilograms of old production.The discrepancy between the two figures, 209 kilograms, brought the total amount of uranium enriched by Iran to over a metric ton.UN officials were quoted by the Times as saying that the inconsistency could be accounted for by the fact that the Natanz enrichment facility was new, which could make it harder for Iran to make an accurate assessment.The officials rejected the possibility that the gap in the numbers meant Iran could smuggle enriched uranium out of the plant for further processing at a secret location."We're sure that no material could have left the facility without us knowing," the senior United Nations official said, admitting, however, that inspectors only made the inventory rounds once a year. "It's only at that moment that we have our own independent data."The report also updated the figures for the number of centrifuges in place in Natanz, bringing the total figure to 5,600, up from a count of 3,800 working centrifuges in the IAEA's November 2008 report.
As in the days of Noah...

Israeli warning to Obama:"Your talk gives Iran nukes";Ex-Mossad chief says Tehran stalling, worries about president's 'learning curve'

JERUSALEM-President Obama's policy of direct diplomacy with Iran may buy Tehran enough time to produce nuclear weapons, Shabtai Shavit,(picture left)former chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, warned in an exclusive WND interview today."I don't believe there is a political solution which can be achieved through negotiations with Iran," he said."My concern is that until Obama finishes his learning curve of the subject, the Iranians are going to have maybe the first or even more nuclear bombs."Shavit served as director of the Mossad from 1989 through 1996. He clarified that although diplomacy cannot be ruled out, from his experience he doesn't believe there can be a political solution with Iran.He said there is a military option but that at this point in time, an Israeli or U.S. strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities would not completely halt the country's suspected illicit program. "According to the best of my assessment, I'm afraid using a strike to completely disrupt the whole Iranian (nuclear) project and the whole system is not possible. But there still could be a military option. It depends what are the aims you define for any such attack." Shavit told WND that if Obama is intent on pursuing talks, the diplomatic road to halting Iran's nuclear program runs through Russia. Moscow has been cooperating with Tehran militarily and reportedly is supplying Iran with some of the infrastructure used to build the country's nuclear facilities."I believe Obama should start his voyage to change the world's geostrategic situation first in Moscow and only afterwards proceed with Tehran," he stated."Russia supports Iran not because a nuclear Iran is in the interest of Russia. The support is only in order to obstruct U.S. foreign policies and America's strategic objectives," he posited.Shavit recommended that Obama offer a new international relationship with Russia which would allow Moscow to "regain its national pride and dignity.""Since the end of the former Soviet Union as a power in 1991 until today, the Russian perception of U.S. foreign policy is that U.S. policy during this period is intended to humiliate Russia. There is a very long list of issues that the Russians bring out to demonstrate their point," he said.He recommended Obama propose a quid pro quo exchange with Russia, such as willingness to negotiate around a proposed U.S. anti-missile defense system in Europe, in return for a major change in Russia's policy toward Iran."Russia must then join the U.S. and Europe and together they can impose real, very harsh sanctions," he said."This is the best option short of military action to against Iran," he added.In August, the Bush administration inked a deal to build a U.S. missile defense base in Poland, prompting Moscow to warn of a possible attack against the former Soviet ally. The missile defense deal came on the heels of Russia's invasion last summer of U.S. ally Georgia.Already, the Obama administration has projected a conciliatory tone toward Russia. Earlier this month, in his first foreign policy speech in office, Vice President Joe Biden invited Moscow to start its relationship with America anew."It's time, to paraphrase President Obama, it's time to press the reset button," Biden said.Also earlier this month, the Times of London quoted Obama administration officials stating the White House plans to offer Russia a deal in which each country would reduce its nuclear weapons stockpile by 80 percent.Meanwhile, a report in London's Daily Telegraph claimed the Mossad was using hit men, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt Iran's illicit weapons project. It claimed Israel already assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists as part of a covert war against Iran.Shavit responded to the Telegraph report:"Look, since I'm out of the Mossad for quite sometime now, I cannot comment from personal knowledge," he told WND. "Yet it is not forbidden for a former officer to use my intelligence. I've read American articles stating that Bush assigned the CIA to mount covert operations against the Iranian nuke project. It would be only logical to think this is not such a bad idea to try."
By Aaron Klein
As in the days of Noah...

Palestinian TV unveils teddy bear terrorist:Children's character desires to be Islamic 'holy warrior'

Nassur, a new children's character on Hamas TV
Arab television character Assud, who on his "deathbed" boasts of his "martry's" death and calls for the "liberation" of Tel Aviv
A new character has been introduced on the Hamas children's television show "Pioneers of Tomorrow," the teddy bear Nassur, who immediately expressed a desire to be an Islamic "holy warrior" and carry a gun.Likely, he won't be around long, though.WND reported when Assud, a bunny character, was "martyred" on the program, as well as when a Mickey Mouse-lookalike earlier was "martyred" for the Palestinian cause.The new report comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute, which has posted the video on its website, which requires viewers to register and log in.The brief program excerpt shows the teddy bear, Nassur, lounging on a chair in a room with children's toys. "I have come today to the Gaza Strip. Saraa, Allah willing, I will be one of the mujahideen, one of the fighters," Nassur states. "I will join the ranks of the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades,' and I will wage jihad among them and carry a gun."Addressing Saraa, the child hostess of the program, he continues, "Do you know why?""Why," says Saraa."To defend the children of Palestine," Nassur says.Befire the bunny Assud recently was "martyred," he gave a lengthy message to children that they must occupy Israeli cities."We should teach our children that we have a land to which we must return: Jaffa, Acre, Haifa, and Tel Aviv," said Assud. "We will return to all these cities, Allah willing."Previously on the program, Assud was caught stealing and sentenced to having his hand cut off, although the penalty later was lifted because he repented.Earlier episodes of the program featured President Bush being "killed" as well as a children's Mickey Mouse-lookalike who also was "martyred" for the Palestinian cause .The latest episode on the program "Pioneers of Tomorrow", broadcast on Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, was aired Feb. 13 MEMRI said. In January, the "dying" bunny said, "The Zionist enemy is treacherous, and it kills everything, but I never thought it would kill the children of Palestine, and that it would bomb the Al-Aqsa TV station. As you know, Saraa, Al-Aqsa TV has a special section for children. Children always go there to play and have fun. They come to me and you to listen to beautiful stories for their benefit."But Saraa,"Assud said, "I went to Al-Aqsa TV when they said it would be bombed. I couldn't believe it would really be bombed. I went there, and I collected the gifts, books, magazines, and stories, which belong to the children of Palestine, the Pioneers of Tomorrow, so I could remove them before the station was bombed. But Saraa, when I went in – I don't know what happened. All I know is that they brought me here, to Shifa' Hospital, and left me here, Saraa. Praise be to Allah." [...]Assud continued: "Saraa, my will is that you tell our beloved children never to forget Jerusalem, Saraa. You must pass this legacy on to our beloved children. They must never forget Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, the prisoners, or the refugees."Remind them, Saraa, that we have a land to which we must return, by means of the steadfastness of the resistance and the mujahideen, by means of the steadfastness of knowledge and the fear of God. Tell them that Assud died as a hero, as a martyr. Tell them that Assud died a martyr's death, Saraa."[...]"We should teach our children that we have a land to which we must return: Jaffa, Acre, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. We will return to all these cities, Allah willing," the character continued."Saraa, I implore you... I entrust you with the legacy of protecting Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the blessed land of Palestine. Listen to me, Saraa: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and the Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah," Assud said.MEMRI is an independent nonprofit that provides translations of media reports from the Middle East and analysis of those reports.The organization previously reported on Palestinian messages to children through Nahoul, the bee who wept over his "martyred" family.Hamas, which won a majority in parliament in January 2006 elections, officially is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. As WND reported, a prominent Hamas leader was captured on video boasting of using children, women and the elderly as human shields in its firefights with Israeli soldiers.WND also reported Hamas launched a children's website in 2002 that encourages kids to follow the example of terrorist suicide bombers.
As in the days of Noah...

Hamas: Kerry's visit 'big sign' U.S. will engage:Senator most senior American official to come to terrorist-controlled Gaza

TEL AVIV, Israel – Democratic Sen. John Kerry's visit yesterday to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was a "big sign" of a "change" in the U.S. position toward the Islamist group, a Hamas official told WND today."This is part of a new era regarding Hamas in the international community," said Mushir al-Massri, a Hamas spokesman and parliament member, speaking from Gaza.Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday became the most senior U.S. government official to enter Gaza since 2000. The Massachusetts lawmaker announced his trip did not signal any change in U.S. policy toward Hamas, while Fox News reported he accepted a letter from the group to deliver to President Obama."Kerry can say there is no change, but Hamas controls Gaza. It's very important that he came here. I hope next time the U.S. can more openly support Hamas," al-Massri said. He confirmed a Hamas letter was sent to Obama. He said that while he hasn't seen the letter, he understands the communication calls for the U.S. to enage with Hamas."The general message is saying we hope the new administration will open dialogue with Hamas and change its position," he said.WND reported exclusively in November Hamas planned to send a letter to Obama. Ahmed Yousef, Hamas' chief political adviser in Gaza, called Obama's win a "historic victory" for the world and told WND at the time that Hamas was sending a letter of congratulation to the president-elect.Hamas' official charter calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. The Islamist group is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilians.Obama has repeatedly condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that should be isolated until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.But that hasn't stopped Hamas from heaping praise on the American leader.Just after Obama's win in November, Hamas's Yousef called Obama's presidency a "historic victory" for the world and an opportunity to change U.S. foreign policy toward engagement with America's foes.Yousef, speaking to WND by cell phone from Gaza in November, said Hamas was drafting a letter of congratulation to be sent directly to Obama. He said the current draft of the letter praised the president-elect as "another John F. Kennedy, or great Roosevelt.""We want to be one of the first to congratulate him," Yousef said.The Hamas leader said Obama's job will be to "restore America's dignity in the world and put an end to the wars in the region."
By Aaron Klein
As in the days of Noah....

Hamas to Obama: Let's talk!:Terrorist letter invites discussion of change to U.S. policy

TEL AVIV,Israel-After several denials and conflicting news media reports, it has been confirmed that Hamas gave Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a letter to pass on to President Obama in hopes of changing U.S. policy toward the terrorist organization.Ahmed Yousef,(picture left) Hamas' chief political adviser in Gaza, confirmed the communication, a two-page appeal which Yousef wrote, congratulating Obama on his victory last November and petitioning the U.S. president to open dialogue with his Islamist group.An exclusive WND interview with Yousef in November first revealed Hamas' plans to draft the letter of congratulation.Kerry passed Yousef's letter on to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem yesterday, after accepting it one day earlier from UN officials during a visit to the Gaza Strip.FoxNews.com quotes Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones as claiming the Democratic senator was not aware the letter was from Hamas and only heard of its true origin from news media reports, prompting him to forward it to the consulate.Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the most senior U.S. government official to enter Gaza since 2000. The Massachusetts lawmaker announced his trip did not signal any change in U.S. policy toward Hamas.But Mushir al-Massri, a Hamas spokesman and parliament member, told WND Kerry's visit to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was a "big sign" of a "change" in the U.S. position toward the Islamist group.Speaking from Gaza, al-Massri said, "This is part of a new era regarding Hamas in the international community.""Kerry can say there is no change," al-Massri continued, "but Hamas controls Gaza. It's very important that he came here. I hope next time the U.S. can more openly support Hamas."Hamas' official charter calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. The Islamist group is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilians.Obama has repeatedly condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that should be isolated until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.But that hasn't stopped Hamas from heaping praise on the American leader.Just after Obama's win in November, Hamas's Yousef called Obama's presidency a "historic victory" for the world and an opportunity to change U.S. foreign policy toward engagement with America's foes.Yousef, speaking to WND by cell phone from Gaza in November, said Hamas was drafting a letter of congratulation to be sent directly to Obama. He said the current draft of the letter praised the president-elect as "another John F. Kennedy, or great Roosevelt.""We want to be one of the first to congratulate him," Yousef said.The Hamas leader said Obama's job will be to "restore America's dignity in the world and put an end to the wars in the region."
By Drew Zahn
As in the days of Noah...

Senator Kerry in Syria

Lebanon rocket hits Israel

Lebanon Fires 2 Rockets Towards Israel

BEIRUT-Two rockets were fired from south Lebanon at Israel early Saturday,with one slamming into a mostly Christian Arab village and causing minor injuries to at least one Israeli, reported Israeli and Lebanese officials.Lebanese security said the rockets were fired from the Mansouri and al-Qulaila areas near the coastal town of Naqoura, confirming that one rocket appeared to have landed in Israel.An Israeli army spokesman said a woman was injured and the military responded to the rockets.He did not elaborate.Israeli paramedics in Jerusalem said one rocket landed in northern Israel, causing minor injuries to three people who were evacuated to a hospital in the nearby coastal town of Nahariya.Israeli censorship rules do not allow media to report where, specifically, rockets fired from Lebanon land in Israel.The rocket exploded in a mostly Christian, Arab village in the Galilee, leaving a large groove in the ground next to a house. Drops of what appeared to be dried blood were sprayed on the pavement and shrapnel smashed through a kitchen window, filling the sink with glass."I was sleeping when I heard something like a bomb," local resident Masad, who did not give his last name, told Associated Press Television News. "I got up and saw something unbelievable-a katyusha."Around half of the residents of Israel's hilly Galilee area are Arabs, mostly ethnic Palestinians. During Israel's war with Lebanon in 2006, their villages were shelled by Lebanese guerillas, killing a number of them.The Lebanese officials said Israel responded by firing at least six shells on villages in the vicinity of the area where the rockets had been launched. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora condemned both the rocket attack on Israel and the Israeli retaliation.In a statement Saturday, Saniora said the rockets fired from south Lebanon "threatened security and stability" in the region and violated a U.N. resolution that ended the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. He also condemned the Israeli firing of shells on Lebanese territory, calling it "an unjustified violation of Lebanese sovereignty."No one has claimed responsibility for the rocket firing.The militant Hezbollah group has a large rocket arsenal but is not believed to have used them against Israel since their 2006 war. It has denied involvement in recent rocket attacks on Israel.Rockets from Lebanon have been fired into Israel on two occasions during Israel's Gaza offensive last month. Palestinian militant groups are suspected of launching them.However, two Palestinian officials denied Palestinian factions were responsible for the rocket attack on Israel.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' mainstream Fatah group in Lebanon said their factions had nothing to do with the rocket attack.The Syria-based radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command also denied the group was responsible and urged Lebanese authorities to find those who carried out the attack.The firing came a day after the Israeli president chose hard-line Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new Israeli government.
As in the days of Noah....

Senator Kerry meets Assad in Damascus

The US and Syria are exploring the possibility of better relations after years of tension - but questions remain over just how much common ground exists between the two.In a sign that President Barack Obama is seeking better ties, several US congressmen have passed through Syria in the last few days, including Sen. John Kerry, who arrived Saturday and met with President Bashar Assad.The State Department also announced Friday it has scheduled a meeting next week with Syria's ambassador to the US to discuss differences between the two countries - the first such meeting in months.US-Syrian relations have long been tense. Damascus' support for Hamas and Hizbullah has drawn the ire of Washington, which has also accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq. Syria, which staunchly opposed the 2003 invasion, insists it is doing all it can to safeguard its long, porous border.Relations soured further when the Bush administration pulled the US ambassador out of Syria in 2005 to protest Syria's suspected role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus denied involvement in his death, but in the uproar that followed, it was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year military presence. The congressional delegations, led by Democrats, are carrying the message that America wants to engage countries it has been at odds with if they are willing, as Obama puts it, to unclench their fists.Kerry, who heads the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, did not speak after his meetings in Syria Saturday. But during his stop in Beirut on Wednesday, Kerry said the US would renew diplomacy with Syria but in return expected Syria to "change its behavior" - particularly on Iraq and Lebanon."But unlike the Bush administration that believed you could simply tell people what to do and walk away and wait for them to do it, we believe we have to engage in a discussion," Kerry said in Beirut."And so we are going to renew diplomacy but without any illusions, without any naivete, without any misplaced belief that just by talking, things will automatically happen," the Massachusetts senator added.Besides Kerry, the other Congress members on separate visits were Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman of California.There are concerns that new American openness toward Damascus may only be cosmetic, because the long-standing differences between the countries have not changed much.Syria's ambassador to Washington described the congressional visits to Damascus as being "of extreme importance and depth." But he stressed he was still waiting to see if the visits change "the manner of dialogue between us and America." "Let us see what are the goals we all want to reach, where we agree, where we disagree," Imad Mustapha told The Associated Press in Damascus.Mustapha is to meet with Jeffrey D. Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, according to State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid, in the belief that direct engagement with Syria will advance US interests."Our concerns include Syria's support to terrorist groups and networks, Syria's pursuit of nuclear and unconventional weaponry, interference in Lebanon and a worsening human rights situation," he said Friday.Already during their trips to the Middle East, Kerry and Cardin repeated the previous American language demanding Damascus change its ways in terms of its ties to Iran and backing of Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas.But Assad has sent signals he wants to work with Washington. In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian published this week, Assad said he was impressed by Obama's friendly gestures and welcomed the US delegations to Syria. But he also said he is still waiting to see results."We are still in the period of gestures and signals. There is nothing real yet," he said.Syrian political analyst Imad Shueibi was optimistic that US-Syria relations would change from a period of "the wrestling of wills to the sharing of wills.""What is happening is not just checking the pulse," he said of the congressional visits. "It is an attempt to define the possible horizons in the relations ahead."

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Pakistan Taliban say will review ceasefire in Swat

MINGORA, Pakistan-Taliban fighters said on Saturday they would review their unilateral 10-day ceasefire in Pakistan's northwestern valley of Swat when it runs out next week, casting doubt over government talk of a permanent truce."We heard that the government announced a permanent ceasefire, but we have announced a 10-day ceasefire and we will consider an extension when it ends," Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah told illegal FM radio.The current ceasefire ends on Wednesday.
Reporting by Junaid Khan; Writing by Kamran Haider; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Jon Boyle
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US, China agenda focus on economy, climate change

BEIJING-Relegating human rights, U.S. and Chinese officials on Saturday emphasized the economy, security and climate change as priorities for cooperation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed Beijing's continued investment in U.S. government securities and hoped the Chinese would avoid the kind of environmental "mistakes" that accompanied development in Western countries.After a day of talks on her first visit to China as America's top diplomat, Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said a regular dialogue between their countries on economic issues would now include troubling security issues. Details will be finalized by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao at an economic summit in London in April.With the export-heavy Chinese economy reeling from the U.S. downturn, Clinton sought in meetings with Hu, Yang and Premier Wen Jiabao to reassure Beijing that its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury notes and other government debt would remain a solid investment."I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think that's a well-grounded confidence," Clinton told reporters at a news conference with Yang. "We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover and together we will help lead the world recovery," she said.Yang said China wants its foreign exchange reserves—the world's largest at $1.95 trillion—invested safely, with good value and liquidity. He said future decisions on using them would be based on those principles, but added that China wanted to continue work with the U.S."I want to emphasize here that the facts speak louder than words. The fact is that China and the United States have conducted good cooperation, and we are ready to continue to talk with the U.S. side," Yang said.Beijing is the last and perhaps most important stop on Clinton's weeklong visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China that she was to conclude Sunday by attending church services and meeting with women who are leaders in civil society.China last year surpassed the United States as the world's leading producer of greenhouse gases. Clinton said she and Chinese officials had agreed to develop clean energy technology that would use renewable sources and safely store the dirty emissions from burning coal.Visiting a new gas-fueled power plant in Beijing, Clinton urged China not to repeat the "same mistakes" that Western countries had made when they developed."When we were industrializing and growing we didn't know any better," she said. "Neither did Europe. Now we are smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth, sustainable growth, clean-energy driven growth. This plant could be a model."Along with cooperating on the financial crisis and climate change, the U.S. wants China to step up efforts to address threats from nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and the tenuous security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.In addition, Clinton said the U.S. would like to see China play a positive role in Myanmar and Sudan, which receive large Chinese investments but whose governments are at odds with Washington.The emphasis on the global economy, climate change and security highlight the growing importance of U.S.-China relations, which have often soured over disagreements on human rights.Authorities in Beijing are facing a difficult year on the rights front as they deal with politically sensitive anniversaries. It has been 20 years since the crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and 50 years since the failed Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.Activists complained Saturday that Chinese police were monitoring dissidents and had confined some to their homes during Clinton's two-day visit. Several of those targeted had signed "Charter 08," an unusually open call for civil rights and political reforms that circulated in December, according to the China Human Rights Defenders.But ahead of her talks, Clinton signaled that China's poor human rights record, while still of deep concern to the United States, would not be at the top of her agenda.She noted that both sides already knew the other's positions on the matter and said that human rights concerns "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises."Her comments drew immediate fire from rights groups, which said they sent the wrong message, undermined efforts to promote basic freedoms in China and squandered Washington's leverage with Beijing.Asked to respond to the criticism, Clinton said "the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of our global foreign policy," noting in particular the issues of Tibet, religious freedom and freedom of expression."Human rights are part of our comprehensive agenda," she said.But she added that the work of civic groups and private advocates that she has highlighted is "at least as important in building respect for and making progress on human rights" as government-to-government contact.Yang appeared pleased by Clinton's reply, saying China was happy to engage on human rights with the United States but only "on the basis of equality and noninterference in each other's internal affairs."

By MATTHEW LEE--Associated Press Writer
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