Friday, November 23, 2012
The Black Sea Fleet's naval task force, including the missile cruiser Moskva, the destroyer Smetlivy, the large landing ships Novocherkassk andSaratov, the tugboat MB-304 and the large oil tanker Ivan Bubnov, have received an order to remain in a designated area in the eastern Mediterranean ready to evacuate Russian citizens from the Gaza Strip should the Palestinian-Israeli conflict worsen.
This statement was issued Friday, Nov. 23, by a source in the Russian Navy’s Mai Command.
DEBKAfile’s military sources: The Russian statement is in effect a cover story for the naval task force’s real mission, which is to stand by for coming developments in relation to the Syrian conflict.
Moscow used the pretext first offered by Washington last week for the stationing of three US warships led by the USS Iwo Jima amphibious ready group opposite Israeli shores last week, i.e. as a precautionary measure for the evacuation of US citizens in a war emergency.
Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president have clashed in several cities after he assumed sweeping new powers, a clear show of the deepening polarisation plaguing the country.
Buoyed by accolades from around the world for mediating a truce between Hamas and Israel, Mohamed Morsi on Thursday issued a declaration giving himself powers that go beyond those held by toppled president Hosni Mubarak, putting himself above the judiciary.
He also rordered that an Islamist-dominated assembly writing the new constitution could not be dissolved by legal challenges.
Liberal and secular members earlier walked out of the body, charging it would impose strict Islamic practices.
"I am for all Egyptians. I will not be biased against any son of Egypt," Morsi said on a stage outside the presidential palace on Friday, adding that he was working for social and economic stability and the rotation of power.
Thousands of chanting protesters packed Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising, on Friday, demanding Morsi quit and accusing him of launching a "coup".
There were also violent protests in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.
Fifteen people were injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of the president.
The headquarters of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Alexandria was set on fire by protesters on Friday afternoon.
The party's offices have been attacked in five cities in total.
Thousands of protesters began gathering in Tahrir Square Egyptian opposition leaders called for a "million man march" to protest against what they say is a coup by Morsi.
Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Cairo, said that police had started using tear gas on the crowds on the crowds in Tahrir Square.
"It's almost the same scenes that we saw during all those protests against President Mubarak, and yet, this is the elected president of Egypt. But the people here say he's not behaving like an elected president of a country that still doesn't have a constitution," he said.
"They say that he's behaving like a dictator, like a king, like even, they say, a pharaoh."
'We are all together'
Hundreds of Morsi's supporters rallied outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday to express support for the him.
In his speech, Morsi said: "I will never be against any Egyptians because we are all together and we need to give momentum to freedom and democracy and the transfer.
"I like to support what you want - to have stability and safety, the safety of the individual and safety of the nation."
He said he aimed to bring social and economic stability to Egypt. Doing so, he said requires "getting rid of the obstacles of the past".
"My decision is to keep and to maintain and to preserve the nation and the people," Morsi said.
"I don't want to have all the powers...but if I see my nation in danger, I will do and I will act. I must.."
Morsi a "temporary' dictator", was the headline in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Morsi, an Islamist whose roots are in the Muslim Brotherhood, also gave himself sweeping powers that allowed him to sack the unpopular general prosecutor and opened the door for a retrial for Mubarak and his aides.
The president's decree aimed to end the logjam and push Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, more quickly on its democratic path, the presidential spokesman said.
"President Morsi said we must go out of the bottleneck without breaking the bottle," Yasser Ali told Reuters.
'Protecting the revolution'
Morsi's decree raises very serious human rights concerns, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Friday.
"We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt," Rupert Colville said at the United Nations in Geneva.
"We also fear this could lead to a very volatile situation over the next few days, starting today in fact."
Morsi framed his decisions as necessary to protect the revolution that ousted Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation's transition to democratic rule.
The president's decree, which dismissed Abdel Majid Mahmoud, Egypt's prosecutor general, prompted opposition figure Mohamed El Baradei to accuse Morsi of usurping authority and becoming a "new pharaoh", while other opposition figures on Friday called for nationwide protests
"This is a coup against legitimacy... We are calling on all Egyptians to protest in all of Egypt's squares on Friday," said Sameh Ashour, head of the lawyers' syndicate, in a joint news conference with leading dissidents Amr Moussa and ElBaradei.
"The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution," according to a decree read out on television by Yasser Ali, a presidential spokesperson.
Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Cairo on Thursday, said the new declaration meant that Mahmoud was now retroactively dismissed as he had already been in office for six years.
Morsi's statement also indicated that there would be a retrial of all who were acquitted of the murder and attempted murder of protesters, because, according to Morsi's spokesman, they were acquitted based on flawed evidence.
Mahmoud has been replaced by Talaat Ibrahim, who said in a brief statement after being sworn in on Thursday night that he would "work day and night to achieve the goals of the revolution".
"At the same time, there are those who are very concerned that this means that the president is overreaching his authority," Al Jazeera's Greste said.
Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al Jazeera that Morsi "is erecting himself as an absolute monarch" because he did not consult the opposition on the decision.
"The problem is not about the content of the decisions itself, but about the way it was taken," he said.
"This is a dangerous situation for the whole country. It is very confusing, because we don't know if we are in the presence of a constitutional declaration, or of a law, or of just administrative degrees," said Nafaa.
"We have all of this together in the same statement."
Moscow is criticizing Turkey's request to NATO for missiles to defend against Syria's civil war spilling over the border, as Russia's Foreign Ministry accused Turkey of "muscle flexing."
"The militarization of the Syrian-Turkish border is an alarming signal," spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. "We have different advice for our Turkish colleagues -- use their influence with the Syrian opposition to accelerate the start of a political dialogue."
The Russian reaction could further complicate international efforts to deal with the increasingly volatile conflict.
Even if NATO quickly approves Turkey's request for the deployment of Patriot missiles on its border with Syria, winning parliamentary approval, selecting sites for the air defense batteries and transporting them there means they probably wouldn't be operational for weeks.
Syria's civil war has left Turkey the target of artillery and mortar fire. Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles in its arsenal capable of carrying chemical warheads.
Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. have the advanced PAC-3 model Patriots that Turkey wants for intercepting ballistic missiles, but if they come from the two European countries, their parliaments may have to vote on that first.
NATO said Wednesday it will consider Turkey's request "without delay," and next week a NATO team will visit the alliance member for a site survey to consider a deployment. Officials say the Patriots would probably be sent by sea.
With events in Syria changing rapidly, and deaths already having occurred on the Turkish side of the border, the wait may leave NATO-member Turkey anxious about its vulnerability to air raids or even chemical attack from across the border.
President Bashar Assad's embattled regime is believed to have one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world. Fears have risen that a cornered Assad might use them or that they could fall into the hands of extremists, including al-Qaida-inspired militants among the rebels.
Due to the complexity and size of the Patriot batteries, their radars, command-and-control centers, communications and support facilities, they cannot be sent quickly by air to Turkey, officials said.
"These are not drop-and-go systems," said an official who could not be identified in line with standing NATO regulations.
Additional time will be needed to install the systems, realign their radars and link them into Turkey's air defense network before the Patriots can be considered fully operational, the official said.
Speaking to reporters in Pakistan on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that the deployment was for defensive purposes only.
"This is a measure being taken against certain possible attacks from (the Syrian) side," Erdogan said, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency.
During the Iraq wars in 1999 and 2003, when the Netherlands dispatched Patriot batteries to protect Turkey's border with that nation, the systems were transported by ship and then by road. They took between six weeks and two months to become operational.
No missiles were fired during those conflicts and the batteries were withdrawn soon after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.
Unlike Hussein's Iraq, Syria has never used chemical weapons. Analysts say the bigger threat is that the weapons fall into the wrong hands.
Such worries over the fate of advanced weaponry were highlighted last month, when a shadowy militant group known as Jabhat al-Nusra joined Syrian rebels in seizing a government missile defense base.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/11/22/nato-russia-turkey-syria-patriot/#ixzz2D3jo6app
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Roughly 300 Palestinians approached the border fence at several locations in southern Gaza, tried to damage it and cross into Israel on Friday, according to the IDF. Protesters also hurled rocks at Israeli troops.
Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to distance the Palestinians from the fence, but after they attempted to cross into Israel, troops fired at their legs, the military said. It also said a Palestinian infiltrated into Israel in the course of the unrest, but he was returned to Gaza.
A Palestinian health official said Israeli troops shot dead a 20-year-old Palestinian man and wounded 19 people as crowds surged toward the border fence, the first violence since a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers took hold some 36 hours earlier.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hurling rocks and attempting to breach the border fence on Friday (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
According to one version of events, the Palestinians who neared the border fence were agricultural workers. But according to another report, the Palestinians were on their way to prayers, and a family member of the man reportedly killed told Reuters that the 20-year-old had attempted to place a Palestinian flag on the fence.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the IDF shooting of the man was a violation of the ceasefire agreed upon between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza on Wednesday night following eight days of cross-border fighting, the bloodiest between Israel and Hamas in four years.
Speaking at a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, Malki called the incident “a clear violation of the agreement and should not be repeated”.
Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment, but Nafez Azzam, a spokesman for Gaza’s Islamic Jihad, also said the shooting was a violation of the truce and that Egypt had been informed.
Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, meanwhile urged militant factions to respect the ceasefire. It appeared unlikely Hamas would retaliate for Friday’s shooting because that could jeopardize the militant group’s potential gains from the ceasefire deal, such as an easing of restrictions on movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.
On Thursday, two people were reportedly injured by Israeli fire while marching near the same area, east of Khan Younis.
In the past, Israel’s military has barred Palestinians from getting close to the fence, and soldiers have opened fire to enforce a no-go zone meant to prevent infiltrations into Israel.
Since the ceasefire, growing numbers of Gazans have entered the no-go zone.
In one incident captured by Associated Press video, several dozen Palestinians, most of them young men, approached the fence, coming close to a group of Israeli soldiers standing on the other side.
Some Palestinians briefly talked to the soldiers, while others appeared to be taunting them with chants of “God is great” and “Morsi, Morsi,” in praise of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose mediation led to the truce.
The ceasefire agreement allowed both Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step back from the brink of a full-fledged war. Over eight days, Israel’s aircraft carried out some 1,500 strikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Gaza fighters peppered Israel with roughly the same number of rockets.
The fighting killed 166 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis.
In Cairo, Egypt is hosting separate talks with Israeli and Hamas envoys on the next phase of the ceasefire: a new border deal for blockaded Gaza. Hamas demands lifting all border restrictions, while Israel insists that Hamas must halt weapons-smuggling to the territory.
In Israel, a poll showed that about half of Israelis think their government should have continued its military offensive against Hamas.
The independent Maagar Mohot poll released Friday shows 49 percent of respondents feel Israel should have kept going after the squads that fire rockets into Israel. Thirty-one percent supported the government’s decision to stop. Twenty percent had no opinion.
Twenty-nine percent thought Israel should have sent ground troops to invade Gaza. The poll of 503 respondents had an error margin of 4.5 percentage points.
The same survey showed Netanyahu’s Likud Party and electoral partner Yisrael Beytenu losing some support, but his hard-line bloc would still be able to form the next government. Elections are January 22.
The Times of Israel
They wish to hurt the Iranian nation. They are waiting for the chance. They know that Iran does not attack anybody and they know that Iran knows how to defend itself," he told a news conference in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
"We don't accept the hegemony of Israel. They wish to attack Iran but it is like a childish desire."
He was speaking after attending a summit of developing nations.
Six world powers agreed on Wednesday to seek renewed talks with Iran as fast as possible, reflecting a heightened sense of urgency to resolve a long rift over Tehran's disputed nuclear activity and avert the threat of war.
Their call coincided with growing evidence of Iran expanding nuclear capacity in an underground bunker virtually impervious to attack and follows the November 6 re-election of US President Barack Obama, which has cleared the way for new contacts.
Senior diplomats from the six countries - the United States,Russia, China,France, Britain and Germany - met in Brussels on Wednesday to consider new negotiating tactics despite abiding skepticism that a deal with Tehran can be reached.
Analysts warn that a window of opportunity for a negotiated solution is narrowing because of growing alarm over Tehran's nuclear course in Israel, the Middle East's only nuclear power which has threatened to bomb the atomic sites of its arch-enemy.
This occured one day after the country's president, who hails from the movement, mediated a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians to end eight days of fierce fighting.
"The enemy knows nothing but the language of force," said Mohammed Badie. "Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords," he said in a statement carried on the group's website and emailed to reporters.
His statement was a sharp deviation from the role played by President Mohammed Morsi in the last week. Egypt's role in brokering the deal has been hailed by US officials.
The Brotherhood sometimes delivers conflicting messages, depending on its audience. There are also ideological and generational divisions within the movement, with older leaders like Badie often seen as more conservative.
The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't recognize Israel and - at least officially - its members refuse to hold direct talks with Israeli officials. But Morsi has said that he will abide by the terms of Egypt's 1979 treaty with Israel, and many members say they are in little hurry to enter into armed conflict with the Jewish state.
Badie declared that "jihad is obligatory" for Muslims. But he also said that taking up arms would be the "last stage," only after Muslims achieved unity. "The use of force and arms while the group is fragmented and disconnected, unorganized, weak in conviction, with faint faith -this will be destined for death."
In the meantime, he called on Muslims to "back your brothers in Palestine. Supply them with what they need, seek victory for them in all international arenas." Badie's title - General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood - also implies a leadership role in the Islamist group's sister movements across the world.
Under the deal, Gaza's ruling Hamas is to stop rocket fire into Israel while Israel is to cease attacks and allow the opening of the strip's long-blockaded borders.
The Hamas-Israel fighting was the first major international test for Morsi, who was caught between either supporting Hamas, one of the Egyptian Brotherhood's sister movements, and Cairo's regional and international commitments.
Two commanding officers in US Navy’s 6th Fleet based in Italy were stripped of their commands on Monday pending investigations into “allegations of misconduct,” US-based journal Foreign Policy quoted a Navy statement on Tuesday,.
According to the report, 24 American naval officers have so far been relieved of their commands this year on charges of misconduct.
Cmdr. Ray Hartman, commanding officer of amphibious dock-landing ship USS Fort McHenry was relieved of his command on Monday. Also relieved was Navy Capt. Ted Williams, top officer of the USS Mount Whitney, an amphibious command ship.
Williams, according to the report, was previously a transitory replacement No. 2 officer of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier after that ship's executive officer, Capt. Robert Gamberg, was found guilty of an "improper relationship."
A Navy official speaking on condition of anonymity is quoted in the report as saying that both officers were relieved of duty over offense of “personal misconduct… not anything to do with the operation of the ship or the mission of the ship.”
Less than three weeks ago, another ship commander and three naval officers were relieved of duty for drunken conduct during a port call in Russia.