News roundup — May 18

Hamas deputy foreign minister talks about Israel

ROBERT SIEGEL (NPR host): And I’d like to ask you to begin with what has been a major difference between Fatah and your group, Hamas. Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, spoke the other day of the Palestinians’, and I quote, “great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine.”

About a week earlier, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in Cairo that the goal of your movement is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital. Which is it that Hamas seeks, a two-state solution alongside Israel or an end to the state of Israel altogether?

GHAZI HAMAD (Deputy Foreign Minister, Hamas): I think there is all kind of contradictions because maybe people understand that the occupation is a reflection of the Zionist movement, and I think the declaration of Hamas is very clear. We accept the state and ’67 borders. This state should be independent. It was chosen as the capital for Palestine and the right of return for the refugees.

But I think that Israel will not accept this because Israel reject all the demands of the Palestinian people because they believe that they have to have a Jewish state and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and no right of return. So I think we’ll still have a big struggle and big disputes.

SIEGEL: But just to clarify, if Israel were to accept a two-state solution in which Palestine would be in Gaza and the West Bank and have its capital in Jerusalem, is that an acceptable aim that Hamas is striving for, or is that in and of itself insufficient because there would still be a state of Israel?

Mr. HAMAD: Look, we said frankly we accept this state and ’67 borders, but the question now should be directed to Israel. We need clear answer from Israel because Netanyahu said that we will not go back to the ’67 borders. We will not (unintelligible) settlements. So we still the victims of the occupation. (NPR)

US slaps sanctions on Syria’s Assad for abuses

The United States slapped sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, for the first time personally penalizing the Syrian leader for actions of his security forces.

The White House announced the sanctions Wednesday, a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the uprisings throughout the Arab world. The speech is expected to include prominent mentions of Syria.

The Obama administration had pinned hopes on Assad, seen until recent months as a pragmatist and potential reformer who could buck Iranian influence and help broker an eventual Arab peace deal with Israel. (AP)

Tanks shell Syrian town as West piles on pressure

Tanks shelled a Syrian border town for the fourth day Wednesday in a military campaign to crush demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad, under mounting Western pressure to stop his violent repression of protesters.

Troops went into Tel Kelakh Saturday, a day after a demonstration there demanded “the overthrow of the regime,” the slogan of revolutions that toppled Arab leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and challenged others across the Middle East.

Assad had been partly rehabilitated in the West over the last three years but the United States and European Union condemned his use of force to quell unrest and warned they plan further steps after imposing sanctions on top Syrian officials. (Reuters)

The war in Libya’s western mountains

“While much attention has been focused on rebel efforts in eastern Libya and in the city of Misurata, rebels have held control of most of the Nafusah Mountain region since the unrest began in February,” my colleagues Sergio Peçanha and Joe Burgess explain in the introduction to a fascinating, richly informative graphic on the fighting there.

Last month, after the rebels in these remote mountains made an unexpected show of strength, seizing a border post along the Tunisian frontier, my colleague Scott Sayare reported that “the region’s isolated hamlets were among the first to join the uprising,” fueled by simmering resentment from a Berber community which was neglected by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Arab nationalist regime.

Despite the fact that even rebel fighters in the region estimate their ranks at just a few hundred ill-equipped and untrained young men, they have someone held off attempts by government forces to reimpose Tripoli’s rule. (New York Times)

Libyan rebel government works to boost legitimacy

NATO kept up its bombing campaign against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi over the weekend, hitting missile launchers and other targets around Tripoli. The rebels say they welcome military support, but they would like something more: formal diplomatic recognition for their transitional government.

Some special guests flew in recently for the rebels’ weekly pep rally in Benghazi — delegates from areas of western Libya that are still under Gadhafi’s control. The delegates came to take their seats in the 30-seat National Transitional Council — a kind of proto-parliament.

Eastern Libyans like Mansour Makhlouf are glad to see them.

“Gadhafi’s people are spreading rumors that we are divided. But we’re not divided — we are all brothers,” Makhlouf says. (NPR)

War crimes prosecutor seeks Gaddafi warrant

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has asked a three-judge panel to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his second-eldest son, Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo described the evidence against the three men as “very strong” in a press conference on Monday and said he believed Libyans eventually would turn them over to the court.

The filing against Gaddafi comes just three months into the uprising against his 41-year rule, which evolved from peaceful protests in major cities to an armed rebellion based out of the east. Gaddafi’s regime has brutally attempted to suppress the opposition movement by shelling rebellious cities, and imprisoning and torturing those who speak out. (Al Jazeera)

Radio free Benghazi – the war of words

For hours and hours, I didn’t know what to make of it: Tribute FM is the first ever English language radio station in Libya. And it sounds just like Magic. Diana Ross . . . the Jackson Five . . . the Temptations . . . some German rap . . . Easy Like Sunday Morning . . . just as you’re nodding along, thinking “this is nice, I wonder if they have a phone-in,” you remember: this is probably the most radical statement of a successful revolution coming out of any radio, anywhere in the world. It is a huge moment for a country in which not just English but most European languages have been invisible for decades.

Before Muhammad, Aman and two others launched Tribute in Benghazi last week, “English wasn’t frowned on, it was completely illegal,” Muhammad tells me by phone. “It was taken out of schools, it got to the point where nothing in English was available in the city. You couldn’t advertise in English, you couldn’t read a newspaper in English.”

It is a measure of how isolating this was for young Libyans that setting up a radio station would be such a priority as the fighting continues, the stream of refugees is unabated and Gaddafi has not, as yet, surrendered. (The Guardian)

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One thought on “News roundup — May 18

  1. Hamid

    If Hamas or the Palestinian people reject the zionist state but accept a Palestinian state on the 67 borders they are well within their rights to. The reality is Israel is not going anywhere.

    If Palestinians dream of retaking the whole of historic Palestine then they deserve that dream. And I will dream of it with them. If this statement causes zionists’ blood to boil it would do so because it implies the slaughter/expulsion of every Jew in Israel and the death of zionism. But wait. What’s this? The dream of Eretz Israel. Does this dream not imply the slaughter/expulsion of every Arab in the occupied territories? Why is this zionist dream acceptable and unquestioned by western media but not the Palestinian dream? Because Palestinians are terrorists? Zionists too are terrorists. Palestinians bomb cafes and buses, zionists bomb entire towns. Palestinians kidnap soldiers, zionists kidnap children. Both sides make ridiculous choices and mistakes, but both sides know the reality is they will eventually accept each other. If the dream of an Eretz Israel is acceptable then so too is a dream of Palestine in all of historic Palestine. After all, it’s just a dream.

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