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Istanbul bomb kills four as Kurdish violence flares

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

ISTANBUL (AFP) – A roadside bomb blew up a bus carrying military families in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing three soldiers and a girl, as Kurdish rebels stepped up their separatist attacks.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the blast on the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which had threatened attacks in Turkish cities after targeting the military in the southeast.

Policemen and officials inspect the wreckage of a military bus that following a roadside bomb blast in Istanbul. AFP

“The terrorist organisation knows very well that it will reach nowhere with such attacks… This is a deadend,” Erdogan said in parliament in Ankara.


There was no formal claim of responsibility after the Istanbul bomb and noone was immediately detained, officials said.


The bus, carrying soldiers and their families, was passing through the Halkali district, a suburb on Istanbul’s European side which is home to military lodgings, when the bomb went off early Tuesday.


“This is a terrorist attack,” Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters. “According to initial information, it was a remote-control bomb planted at the roadside.”


Three soldiers, on their way to work at the headquarters of Istanbul’s paramilitary police, and a 17-year-old girl, the daughter of an officer, were killed.


Twelve other people were injured and two were in serious condition, Mutlu said.


Police cordoned off the vehicle, whose windows were shattered and had a large hole in its trunk, an AFP photographer said.


The Turkish army said seven PKK militants were killed overnight in two separate clashes.


Five rebels were shot dead after they attacked a gendarme station in southeast Turkey, killing one soldier. Two others were killed in a security operation in the northwest.


The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, threatened attacks in Turkish cities as it killed 12 soldiers over the weekend.


Most of the troops were killed when dozens of rebels assaulted a border unit at the Iraqi frontier, prompting a Turkish air raid on PKK hideouts in northern Iraq, where the rebels have long taken refuge.


The PKK has stepped up its violence since its leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is held in a Turkish prison, said through his lawyers last month that he was abandoning efforts to end the 26-year Kurdish conflict through peace talks with the government.


Ankara has rejected dialogue with the PKK though it has sought to boost Kurdish freedoms and economic development in the southeast in a bid to discourage separatism and cajole the rebels into laying down arms.


The faltering initiative, announced last year, has met with public hostility amid persisting PKK violence, but Erdogan insisted Tuesday he remained committed to reform.


“We will not step back… We will not disappoint our (Kurdish) people once again,” he said. “The terrorist organisation can never be the representative or the spokesman of our Kurdish citizens.”


The PKK targets mainly the security forces but it has carried out bomb attacks on civilians in the past.


In 2008, the group was blamed for two explosions at a crowded street in Istanbul’s Gungoren district, killing 17 people and wounding more than 150.


In 2005, five people, among them Irish and British tourists, were killed when a PKK militant detonated a bomb on a minibus in the Aegean resort of Kusadasi.


The PKK took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

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Source: SGGP

Fresh violence in Kyrgyzstan as humanitarian crisis grows

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:31 am

OSH, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) – Fresh violence including artillery fire flared in Kyrgyzstan Tuesday as thousands desperate to flee ethnic clashes pleaded in vain to pass through the sealed border into Uzbekistan.


Despite earlier claims from the country’s government that clashes were “on the wane,” an AFP reporter witnessed more than a dozen rounds of artillery fire lobbed over the centre of the southern city of Osh and heard numerous explosions.

An ethnic Uzbek mother holds her son as they wait at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border outside a village of Suratash some 15 km to the south of Osh. AFP photo

It was not immediately clear from where the rounds were fired or where they hit. The artillery fire continued for about 45 minutes and was followed by the sounds of sporadic gunfire and armoured vehicles rolling through the city.


The continued violence came as Kyrgyzstan’s authorities withdrew a request for foreign peacekeepers, saying unrest between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the cities of Jalalabad and Osh was abating after clashes that claimed at least 178 lives.


The humanitarian crisis engulfing the country meanwhile continued to grow as refugees started to reveal the full horror of atrocities — including rape and torture — committed in the five days of fighting.


Several thousand ethnic Uzbeks were waiting in desperate conditions to cross the border into Uzbekistan, following the Uzbek authorities’ decision to close the frontier after accepting tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbek refugees.


Babies wailed under the beating sun, their mothers unable to evacuate them out of the country to the relative safety of Uzbekistan, an AFP correspondent at the barbed wire border post reported.


One woman in the crowd pleaded: “What do we have to do to get out of here?”


The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic said 200,000 people had been displaced within the country in addition to the 75,000 who sought safety in Uzbekistan.


“The humanitarian situation in the conflict zone is worsening. There are many refugees in need of help and attention,” said Kazakh diplomat Zhanibek Karibzhanov, the special envoy of the transatlantic OSCE security group.


Among those who made it across the border into Uzbekistan were three sisters, aged between 16 and 23, who had been raped in front of each other by a mob of ethnic Kyrgyz men and were rendered speechless, said Mukaddas Majidova, a doctor in the Uzbek town of Khoja-Obod.


“These girls were raped recently and by a lot of men and for several hours, according to their injuries,” she told AFP. Another man was tortured with scalding water and knife wounds to the neck.


The fighting turned much of the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad into smoking wrecks and raised fears over the future viability of the country of 5.3 million where Uzbeks make up 14 percent of the population.


Osh has now essentially been split along ethnic lines, with ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz hunkering down in their own districts and not venturing outside.


But the leader of the interim government that came to power when president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April appeared to drop a demand for foreign peacekeepers to calm the situation.


“There is not a need to send peacekeeping forces,” interim leader Roza Otunbayeva told a news conference.


“We hope to deal with this situation with our own forces,” she added, saying the clashes were now “on the wane”.


According to the latest toll from the Kyrgyz health ministry, 178 people have been killed in the violence in Osh and Jalalabad and 1,866 wounded.


However the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that the toll was likely considerably higher and that “several hundred people have been killed in the fighting.”


Both the United States and Russia maintain vital military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic of pivotal strategic importance in the volatile Central Asia region, notably to NATO operations in Afghanistan.

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Source: SGGP

Uzbeks allege rapes, say troops let violence occur

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:25 am

An estimated 400,000 people — nearly one-twelfth the population — have fled their homes to escape Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic violence, the U.N. said Thursday as throngs of refugees huddled in grim camps along the Uzbekistan border without adequate food or water.


That figure represents half the roughly 800,000 ethnic Uzbeks who lived in Kyrgyzstan’s south before Central Asia’s worst ethnic violence in decades erupted there last week. More than 200 people — possibly many more — have been killed, and Uzbeks have been all but purged from some parts of the south.


Ethnic Uzbeks on Thursday accused security forces of standing by or even helping ethnic-majority Kyrgyz mobs as they slaughtered people and burned down neighborhoods. Col. Iskander Ikramov, the chief of the Kyrgyz military in the south, rejected allegations of troop involvement in the riots but said the army didn’t interfere in the conflict because it was not supposed to play the role of a police force.

Uzbek men overturn a burned car as they build a barricade in the Uzbek district of the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, Thursday, June 17, 2010

The military and police set up roadblocks and began patrols this week after the worst violence was over.


Uzbeks interviewed by Associated Press journalists in Osh, the country’s second-largest city, said that on one street alone, ethnic Kyrgyz men sexually assaulted and beat more than 10 Uzbek women and girls, including some pregnant women and children as young as 12.


Matlyuba Akramova showed journalists a 16-year-old relative who appeared to be in a state of shock, and said she had been hiding in the attic as Kyrgyz mobs beat her father in their home in the Cheryomushki neighborhood.


Akramova said that when the girl came downstairs to bandage her father’s head, another group of attackers sexually assaulted her in front of him.


“What they did to her — even animals wouldn’t do that,” Akramova said. “She lost consciousness when they started beating her on the back with feet.”


Human Rights Watch researcher Anna Neistat, who is investigating the violence in Osh, said it was difficult to say how many rapes occurred.


“I just documented at least one case where I spoke to the woman who was raped,” she said. “There are several other women in the very same location, so by now I can say with confidence that cases like this did happen. The question is the scale.”


Members of the Kyrgyz community have denied accusations of brutality and have accused Uzbeks of raping Kyrgyz women. Eyewitnesses and experts say many Kyrgyz were killed in the unrest, but most victims appear to have been Uzbeks, traditional farmers and traders who speak a different Turkic language and have been more prosperous than the Kyrgyz, who come from a nomadic tradition.


Odinama Matkadyrovna, an Uzbek doctor in Osh, said there were probably more rapes than have been reported, but many victims were reluctant to speak out about their experience.


“Our mentality is such that they conceal (cases of rape),” she told the Associated Press Television News.


U.N. Humanitarian Office spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said an estimated 400,000 people have been driven from their homes. About 100,000 refugees are in neighboring Uzbekistan, while some 300,000 displaced people remain inside Kyrgyzstan, a nation of 5.3 million.


The last official estimate of refugees who fled the country was 75,000. No number of internally displaced was previously available.


The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that at least 40,000 of the internally displaced need shelter, but many have been taken in by family or other people.


Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has accused the deposed president of igniting long-standing ethnic tensions by sending gunmen in ski masks to shoot both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. The government, which overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, accuses the former leader of deep corruption and says that he and his supporters were attempting to shake official control of the south and reassert their grip on the main hub for Afghan heroin trade in the area. Bakiyev, speaking from his self-proclaimed exile in Belarus, has denied involvement.


Ole Solvang, a Human Rights Watch researcher investigating the violence in Osh, said he saw soldiers fail to protect residents, and that many witnesses said the military went a step further and helped the rioters.

Solvang said Kyrgyz troops were standing just about 200 yards (some 200 meters) from the Cheryomushki neighborhood when the looting and killings started but didn’t interfere.

“This is an extreme failure on the part of the government to intervene and protect these people”, he told APTN.

Khasan Rakhimov, a resident of Cheryomushki, said soldiers drove an armored personnel carrier into the area and cleared the way for Kyrgyz attackers.

“They shot at all who put up resistance,” he said of the troops.

An uneasy calm enforced by checkpoints and military patrols slowly returned to the center of Osh on Thursday. In Uzbek areas that were not totally cleared out, residents who stayed behind, mostly men, had barricaded themselves into their neighborhoods, felling trees and piling up old cars on the streets.

Many Uzbek men said they have lost all faith in the interim government and don’t want their relatives to return soon.

“Until we have a 100 percent guarantee of safety, nobody will come back,” said Ilkhom Rakhimov, a resident of Osh’s Sharq district. “I don’t think that will happen any earlier than three months from now.”

Small groups of ethnic Uzbeks, including an elderly invalid in a wheelchair, carefully made their way into Uzbekistan through a small hole in a barbed wire fence marking the border Thursday under the gaze of Uzbek soldiers. Many more were assembled on the Kyrgyz side hoping vainly to follow them.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Uzbek authorities set up dozens of camps for refugees in three border provinces and made some 70 schools available for sheltering them. The vast majority of the refugees are women, children and elderly people and over 350 pregnant women have been registered so far.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday sent two flights to Uzbekistan to deliver relief supplies to the Andijan area where most of the refugees are located, and other U.N. organizations also have provided assistance.

Many of the thousands of refugees to have crossed into Uzbekistan said they are afraid to return to Osh, a city with a population of more than 1.1 million together with nearby areas. Many would have nowhere to live if they returned.

“My house is not there anymore, it is burnt down,” said Khafiza Eiganberdiyeva, 87, who is among 20,000 refugees in a camp set up near Yor Kishlok, three miles (five kilometers) from the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.

Melis Kamilov, a baker who had fled to the border with his wife and five children, said his family lost hope after supplies on the border ran out, and returned out of desperation only to see their home turned to rubble.

“Is there any difference where to die? There is no food, no water, no humanitarian aid,” the 36-year-old said. “I am an Uzbek. Is that a crime?”

More than 1 million Uzbeks who lived in Kyrgyzstan before the crisis had few representatives in power and pushed for broader political and cultural rights. About 800,000 of them resided in the south, rivaling Kyrgyz in numbers in Osh and the nearby town of Jalal-Abad. Both ethnic groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim.

The deputy head of the provisional government, Azimbek Beknazarov, put the official death toll on both sides at 223, but others said the figure could be significantly higher.

Violence has been limited to the south, but Beknazarov said Thursday that the interim authorities fear that Bakiyev’s clan also could try to foment unrest in the northern part of the country, including the capital, Bishkek. The government strengthened roadblocks on all entrances into Bishkek and tightened security in prisons to prevent turmoil.

Source: SGGP

Bangkok violence hits as government pushes peace plan

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2010 at 8:40 am

Two Thai policemen have been killed in attacks near anti-government protests, raising tensions Saturday as the government struggles to negotiate a peace “roadmap” to end a crippling political crisis.


Grenade blasts and a drive-by shooting targeted security forces facing off against “Red Shirts” protesters at their massive rally encampment in Bangkok’s main shopping district.


It was the latest outbreak of violence in a two-month confrontation that has also triggered deadly clashes and other explosions, which have left another 27 dead and nearly 1,000 injured.


“Two policemen have been killed in these incidents, I think that someone doesn’t want the protests to end,” said police operations centre spokesman Major General Prawut Thavornsiri.

Thai soldiers stand guard outside Lumpini park where a grenade attack near to the ‘Red Shirt’ anti-government protesters’ fortified camp took place, in Bangkok, on May 8

The grenades hit in the early hours of the morning at a security checkpoint in front of a city park that forms the edge of the heavy fortified protest camp, which is surrounded by makeshift barricades.


“Three M-79 grenades were fired at a security checkpoint manned by police and soldiers,” said Prawut.


A hospital official said a 35-year-old policeman died during surgery. The Bangkok Emergency Medical Service said five police and three soldiers were wounded in the blasts.


Earlier, one policeman was killed and four others — two police and two civilians — were injured when a man opened fire in the nearby Silom financial district, which is under heavy guard to prevent the protests spilling over.


“A man on a motorbike fired at police who were on patrol,” said police spokesman Lieutenant General Pongsapat Pongcharoen.


The latest attacks were near the site of a grenade blast on April 22 that killed a 26-year-old Thai woman and injured scores of other people, including foreigners.


Reds leaders on Saturday denied any involvement in the attacks and called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to withdraw the security forces, stationed in the Silom financial district, under a proposed reconciliation plan.


Red Shirts protesters still adhere to a policy of non-violence, we have nothing to do with the incidents last night,” Weng Tojirakarn, one of the movement’s leaders, told supporters from their rally stage.


“It shows that it does not benefit anyone to maintain the troops on Silom,” he said. “So if Abhisit wants to prove his sincerity he must lift the state of emergency and withdraw all the troops.”


The protest area has been guarded by riot police and troops since the Red Shirts occupied the area eight weeks ago, demanding elections to replace Abhisit’s government, which they say is the puppet of the nation’s elites.


Abhisit is now fighting to keep alive his reconciliation process, which envisages parliament being dissolved in September ahead of national polls the following month.


The plan has met growing opposition among rival protest movements, and the government and the Reds are struggling to bridge their differences over setting a specific date for the dissolution of the lower house.


“We have to seek cooperation from everybody to return Thailand to peace,” one of Abhisit’s deputies, Suthep Thaugsuban, told reporters Friday. “Everybody must avoid violence and help solve the problem.”


However, the Reds are insisting on a specific date for the dissolution before leaving their encampment, which they have fortified with barricades made from fuel-soaked tyres, bamboo stakes and razor wire.

The rival pro-establishment “Yellow Shirts” — who blockaded Bangkok‘s airports in 2008 in their own protests — have rejected Abhisit’s roadmap and election plan and called on the prime minister to resign.

And in another setback, a moderate pro-government group known as the “Multicoloureds”, whose rallies in the capital have also drawn thousands of supporters, called for the election date to be pushed back.

In a colour-coded crisis, Thailand is largely split between the mainly rural poor and urban working class Reds — who broadly support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — and the elite-backed Yellows.

Source: SGGP

Ministry issues dispatch on preventing school violence

In Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

The Ministry of Education on Tuesday issued an official dispatch to Education and Training departments throughout the country on preventing violence among students.

Students play in the schoolyard of Luong The Vinh High School, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: Mai Hai)

Accordingly, the ministry proposes that school managerial boards strengthen the teaching of ethical behavior and organize regular events to educate students about the law, moral conduct, and national cultural traditions.


Critics, however, say that the ministry’s recommendations are good on paper, but not actually feasible in the current context of the country’s education system.


School staff say it is virtually impossible to teach students about good moral conduct as current academic curriculums are extremely intense. Teachers complain that course content is so heavy, it is a race against time just to cover all material outlined in State-regulated syllabi.


Some experts say that the intense coursework may in fact be a contributing factor to school violence. Students are under great stress to learn enormous amounts of material in a short period. They may then be more likely to act out aggressively as they don’t know how else to deal with their feelings of frustration.


Many students have never learned how to practice self control and teachers, meanwhile, don’t have the time needed to address such problems.


With a focus on academic learning above all else, most schools offer little in the way of extra-curricular activities, which would give students an outlet to express themselves and communicate with other students and teachers in a meaningful way.


Thus, some say that if the education ministry wants schools to strengthen their teaching of moral conduct to students, priorities need to be shifted. 


Rather than focusing on teaching vast amounts of factual knowledge, schools may want to consider introducing more extracurricular programs so that teachers and students have the chance to learn more about each other. This would also give teachers more time to listen to the needs of their students and address their concerns to stop violence at its roots.

Source: SGGP

New ways discussed to handle domestic violence

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm




New ways discussed to handle domestic violence


QĐND – Saturday, April 03, 2010, 21:27 (GMT+7)

A training workshop on preventing domestic violence opened in Hanoi on April 2 for staff of the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender – Families – Women and Adolescents (CSAGA), who will disseminate the knowledge across the country.


The five-day workshop is part of a Swedish-sponsored project on encouraging men to participate in the prevention of domestic violence in Vietnam.


Addressing the first working day, Elsa Hastad, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation and Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights of the Swedish Embassy, praised Vietnam’s legal mechanism in the area, which was marked by the adoption of the Law on Domestic Violence in 2007.


“The Vietnamese legislation is quite far developed,” Hastad said. “Although it is quite new, about two years now, it actually criminalises physical abuse and psychological abuse, which was not in place before and that is quite a good piece of legislation.”


However, she said legislation is not enough to root out domestic violence. To do so, she emphasised, there must be a concerted effort among agencies from multiple branches of government, from the legislative to the executive.


More needs to be done to improve public awareness, especially among children, through, for example, incorporating the teaching of gender equality into school curricula at the kindergarten or primary levels, she added.


During the next four days, trainees will learn methods used in Sweden and other countries to engage boys and men in advocating gender equality and preventing domestic violence, as well as learning consulting skills for dealing with men who have committed domestic violence.


Instead of taking a conventional approach, which often looks at women as victims and the men who are perpetrators as criminals, the workshop considers men who resort to violence as those in need of help.


According to lecturer Vidar Vetterfalk, a psychologist working for “Men for Equality” – a Swedish non-government organisation–when faced with family conflict, men tend to react with anger and fear that everything is spinning out of their control. This situation is compounded by the fact that men grow up with “deep-rooted values and attitudes” towards women that were passed from generation to generation.


Therefore, he added, they need help and communication so they don’t take recourse to violence as a solution.


Through exchanges of practical experience and knowledge from other countries, trainees are expected to develop their own solutions that fit into the Vietnamese context and provide the best strategies to put a stop to domestic violence in Vietnam.


Source: VOV


Source: QDND

Teachers, students discuss growing problem of school violence

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

After five separate video clips of Vietnamese schoolgirls fighting were posted online in recent months, a meeting was held March 25 between education officials, teachers and high school communist league secretaries in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss the issue.

Teachers and parents should take more actions against violence among students


Violence among students, low awareness of environmental hygiene, and an overload of schoolwork were discussed at the meeting. Education officials said they worried students no longer had a sense of sympathy and compassion because the students seen in the latest video appeared apathetic and desensitized to fighting.


High school students at the meeting complained that schools and families have ignored the issue of violence for too long. Some ill-behaved pupils come from dysfunctional families who paid little to attention to them, they said. Moreover, schools also ignore such students and treat them as “un-teachable” due to their behavioral problems, which only worsens the problem.


Well-regarded students at the meeting proposed holding conferences to listen to students’ opinions and ideas, and said they should be taught about violence prevention at such meetings. Ethics teaching should focus on simple moral lessons rather than dry, theoretical content, they added.


Students also said they are under much pressure to achieve high grades to meet their families’ expectations while the intense curriculum exhausted them. Educators, meanwhile, struggle to improve their teaching styles because they too are overloaded in trying to cover the full curriculum.


Le Hong Son, deputy director of the city’s Department of Education and Training, said HCMC will cut some irrelevant lessons in the curriculum to reduce pressure on teachers and students.

Source: SGGP

Exhibition sheds light on domestic violence

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm




Exhibition sheds light on domestic violence


QĐND – Thursday, March 25, 2010, 21:12 (GMT+7)

A three-day exhibition opened in Hanoi on March 24 to feature the photos, masks and stories of 24 women who have experienced domestic violence.


The 49 photos taken by Jamie Maxtone-Graham portray the women who are all members of clubs set up by the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA).


Over three days in January, a group of 24 women from the clubs told stories, sang songs, played theatre games and made masks assigned by a group of young artists.


When the masks were complete, photographer Jamie Maxtone Graham then took portrait photos including the masks so that the women made up one chain of experience, solidarity and togetherness.


“Like their stories, these women are all unique but they have this thing they share and are united in it – both in their experience of domestic violence and in their admission of it. That admission, that is the really difficult work,” said the photographer.


Source: VOVNews/VNA


Source: QDND

Public awareness of domestic violence rising

In Social life on March 15, 2010 at 6:24 pm




Public awareness of domestic violence rising


QĐND – Monday, March 15, 2010, 20:55 (GMT+7)

The Vietnam Women’s Union Central Committee has coordinated with the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development in a project to combat domestic violence.


The project was announced in Hanoi on March 15, with the aim of increasing financial capacity to reduce domestic violence. It will also help increase public awareness.


The project gives a new approach to prevent domestic violence in Vietnam, said Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa, head of the Vietnam Women’s Union. “Most victims of domestic violence are women, so the Vietnam Women’s Union considers protecting women as its major task,” she said. “The Union has organised many activities to fight domestic violence and cooperate with local police to deal with violations.”


The two-year project is divided into two phases, with the first to be carried out at the central level and in four provinces and cities namely Bac Ninh, Da Nang, Kon Tum and Can Tho. Under the project, officers of local women’s unions will be provided with various ways to mobilise financial sources and get better knowledge of the law on domestic violence.


Benito Alvarez Fernadez, chief representative of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development in Vietnam, stressed the need to apply a new comprehensive approach to ensure gender equality in Vietnam.


Source: VOV


 


Source: QDND

Israel kills 6 Palestinians in surge of violence

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Israeli troops blasted their way into the homes of three wanted Palestinians on Saturday, killing each in a hail of bullets and straining an uneasy security arrangement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


Israel’s military said the three, affiliated with a violent offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah movement, were targeted for killing an Israeli settler in a roadside ambush earlier in the week and had turned down a chance to surrender.


In the Gaza Strip, three young men approaching Israel’s southern border were killed by shots from an Israeli helicopter gunship. Saturday’s deaths made it one of the deadliest days in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Israel waged war on Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers a year ago.


The violent Nablus raids, after months of relative quiet, embarrassed Western-backed Abbas, whose security forces have been coordinating some of their moves with their Israeli counterparts and share a common foe, Hamas.








Israeli soldiers are seen during an army operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009.

At the funeral for the slain men, Abbas’ security policy was denounced by thousands of mourners, who chanted: “Why the coordination while we are under the bullets of the army?”


Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad, rushed to Nablus in an apparent attempt at damage control, paying his respects at a large communal wake and condeming Israel. “This attack was a clear assassination, and I believe it is targeting our security and stability,” Fayyad told The Associated Press.


Israel did not let Abbas know of the raid in advance, said Maj. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman.


Saturday’s killings put to the test an often strained relationship between Israel’s military and Abbas’ security.


Since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, Abbas has gradually strengthened his control in West Bank towns to keep the Islamists there in check.


Palestinian leaders frequently complain that Israel is undermining these efforts by carrying out arrest raids in areas under Palestinian control. Israel counters that while the performance of the Palestinian security forces is improving, its military will step in when necessary.


The target of Saturday’s predawn raids were three longtime members of Fatah’s violent offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The army said the three — Anan Subeh, 36; Ghassan Abu Sharah, 40; and Raed Suragji, 40 — were involved in Thursday’s deadly roadside shooting of an Israeli settler, and that Israeli forces entered Nablus to try to arrest them.


Dozens of Israeli soldiers, some of wearing black masks, poured into Nablus’ casbah, or old city, at about 2 a.m. They were backed by sniffer dogs and dozens of jeeps, bulldozers and other military vehicles


The forces surrounded the homes of the three. Lerner, the army major, said all three turned down a chance to surrender. However, relatives of Abu Sharah and Suragji said they were killed without warning. Lerner confirmed that none of the wanted men returned fire, including Subeh, who had two pistols and two assault rifles on him.


Soldiers used explosives to blow open the door of the Abu Sharah’s three-story apartment building, said Ghassan Abu Sharah’s brother, Jihad. The brother said that when Ghassan came downstairs, one of the soldiers opened fire and killed him.


Troops also used explosives at the home of Raed Suragji, said his wife, Tehani.


She said her husband opened the bedroom door. “Suddenly, shots were fired at us,” she said. “He fell down. I started shouting. I held his head in my lap and sat on the ground.”


In the third raid, troops ordered everyone to come out of the Subeh home, said Subeh’s brother, Jamal. The family evacuated, but Anan Subeh stayed behind.


Lerner said Subeh was hiding in a small crawl space in his home when he was killed. He said soldiers heard him shout “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for God is great.

Asked why soldiers opened fire, Lerner said troops “had to operate under the assumption that they (the suspects) are dangerous.”

Subeh had recently been accepted in Israel’s amnesty program for Fatah gunmen, according to Nablus’ deputy governor, Anan Attireh. Subeh’s family said he had also joined the Preventive Security Service, a branch of the Palestinian security forces.

Suragji was released from an Israeli prison in January, after a seven-year term for involvement in shooting attacks. Abu Sharah was also held by Israel in the past, the military said.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades carried out scores of shooting attacks and suicide bombings during the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000. Since then, the militia has been largely dismantled.

In Israel, right-wing critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his policy of easing travel restrictions in the West Bank was to blame for the shooting attack. Lerner said Israel did not plan to set up new roadblocks.

Also Saturday, an Israeli helicopter gunship killed three Gazans, ages 19 and 20, as they approached the border barrier with Israel. The army said the three were hit after they ignored warning shots.

Relatives of the three had tried to sneak into Israel for work and were not affiliated with political groups.

Israel does not allow Palestinians to approach its border area with Gaza, fearing militants will stage attacks there.


 


Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share