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French boat "Dignity" eludes Greek crackdown by settling sail to Gaza, Pakistani tribal leaders demand an end to US drone attacks, Bahrain begins "national dialogue" as crackdown on activists continues, and more.
Al Jazeera English | Feb 28
Syrian government forces have been blamed by residents for attacking and killing thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, during the...
French boat "Dignity" eludes Greek crackdown by settling sail to Gaza [Al-Alam, Iran]
Presenter, Male #1
Organizers of the French ship to break the siege on Gaza told us that their ship, named "al-Karama" or "Dignity", managed to leave Greek regional waters and is heading toward the Gaza Strip. Speaking to Agence France-Presse, they said the ship carrying fuel and food is expected to arrive to the Strip's coast in one or two days. Greek coastguards intercepted a Canadian ship trying to sail to Gaza. Activists said the ship tried to defy the ban imposed by the Greek government, affirming their insistence on sailing to break the Israeli siege on Gaza.
Reporter, Female #1
It does not seem that the second Freedom Flotilla will stop trying to sail as Greek authorities appear to be determined on preventing the convoy from leaving its ports, even by force. Greek coastguards intercepted a Canadian ship merely ten minutes after it attempted to sail towards Gaza. The ship is carrying supplies and activists who are trying to challenge the ban imposed by the Greek government.
Guest, Female #2
On this ship, we have medicine that we want to deliver to Gaza.
Reporter, Female #1
The ship named "Tahrir," or Liberation, left the port of Crete Island with over 40 people onboard. Most of them are Canadian, in addition to people from Belgium, France, Italy and Turkey. According to activists onboard the ship, members of the Greek coastguard took control of the ship without arresting anyone. This was the second attempt to sail after a ship was intercepted on Saturday, prevented from sailing and had its captain arrested. Two days ago, Greek authorities proposed to deliver the humanitarian aid from the second Freedom Flotilla to the Palestinian Authority. The proposal was rejected by the activists who considered the move an indication of complicity with the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.
Guest, Female #2
The only decision used against us is a political decision and that is illegal. We should sail in order to break the illegal siege imposed on Gaza. It is a collective punishment that violates the Geneva Agreement and international law.
Guest, Male #1 (Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative Secretary-General)
We see Greece today as a victim of Israel's extortion. I believe that Israel is using Greece's economic setbacks to blackmail it in order to prevent this flotilla from sailing. We hope they will change their mind.
Reporter, Female #1
The international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is facing a series of difficulties and sabotage operations. Politically, the occupation entity has been and is still exerting pressure on the Greek authorities to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from heading to the Strip, which has been besieged for three years.
Pakistani tribal leaders demand an end to US drone attacks [Al Jazeera, Qatar]
Presenter, Male # 1
Seven Pakistani soldiers were killed and eight were injured in two separate attacks, one targeted a tribal area and the other the province of Balochistan. This comes as a hundreds of tribal and political figures attended a conference demanding an end to US raids on tribal areas. Popular demonstrations called for by political parties were also held to pressure the government to stop the raids and cut off NATO's supply lines to Afghanistan through Pakistan. Our correspondent Ahmad Zidan has the details on the escalating protest against foreign interference and the demand to sever the supply lines.
Reporter, Male # 2
A Loya Jirga, or tribal assembly, was held. However, it discussed political issues. Here at the central hall in Peshawar, Pakistani political parties put their differences aside. All parties, including the Pakistan People's Party, assembled to demand an end to American raids on tribal areas. The participants formed a unified council to demand the government to pressure Washington to stop the raids.
Guest, Male # 3 (Qismat Khan Wazir, Secretary General of United Tribal party)
We, and all the parties here, are against these attacks. We condemn them and we will continue to fight against them.
Guest, Male # 4 (Prominent tribal leader)
This is great injustice, especially since the attacks they call drones are killing civilians. This is great injustice.
Reporter, Male # 2
In tribal regions, American shelling continues and most of the victims are civilians, according to Pakistani estimates. So far, demonstrations have been limited to tribal areas. The largest turnout is of hundreds or thousands of protestors in Pakistani cities. In parliament, there was unanimous consent to stop the raids but to no avail. Their hearts are with tribal areas but their swords are pointed at them.
Guest, Male #5 (Raheem Allah Yusuf Zi, Islamic movements expert)
I think that the government and the army will make the difference. The drone attacks won't stop unless the army or the government decide to stop or object to them. In all cases, I don't believe this will happen. The parliament's commitment is just a verbal one.
Reporter, Male # 2
The supplies that pass through Pakistan to NATO in Afghanistan constitute 80 percent of all the coalition's supplies. This is a bargaining tool for Pakistan. Pakistani opposition political parties are calling on the Pakistani government to keep the supply lines open to NATO forces in Afghanistan in exchange for an end to US raids on tribal areas. The question today in Peshawar is, will the Pakistani government adopt this position? Ahmad Zidan, al-Jazeera, Peshawar.
Bahrain begins "national dialogue" as crackdown on activists continues [Press TV, Iran]
Our first story this hour takes us to Bahrain, where a fresh round of talks has begun between the government and the opposition. Political issues are at the top of the agenda. The first round of talks was held on Saturday amid popular protests against discussions. Leaders from only two opposition blocs, al-Wefaq and al-Wad participated. This, because other opposition leaders are in jail. Al-Wefaq has warned that it will withdraw from negotiations if people's demands are not headed. The talks go on amid a continued crackdown by the Saudi-backed regime on pro-reform protests that started back in February.
Four Yemenis killed in military air strikes [Press TV, Iran]
A series of airstrikes by the Yemeni military has killed at least four civilians in the southern part of the country. The air raids hit the outskirts of Zinjibar city. A local official says one of the raids targeted the home of the deputy head of parliament, Mohamed Ali al-Shadadi. Three family members were killed and seven wounded. The official says it is unknown why al-Shadadi's home was targeted. He sided with protestors demanding the Yemeni regime's downfall. One more civilian has been killed and three other injured in another air raid.
Heated debates expected in Lebanese Parliament over UN-backed tribunal [Press TV, Iran]
Now to Lebanon where parliament has begun discussing the policy statement of the newly formed government. The session was opened by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who read out the statement which was harshly criticized by the March 14 Alliance. Heated debates are expected over a controversial article dealing with the UN-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of ex-Premier Rafiq Hariri. Hezbollah and its allies, which received the majority of seats in the government, view the tribunal as a US-Israeli plot.
Second day of clashes in Syria's Hama claims six lives [BBC Arabic, UK]
Presenter, Male #1
According to reports, Syrian security forces killed at least six protestors in the city of Hama on the second day of clashes witnessed in the city. Activists said tanks continue to besiege Hama without entering the city. Security forces arrested more than 20 people yesterday in an attempt to retake control of the city.
Reporter, Male #1
Amid protests and gunfire, the military and security operation continues in Hama.Protestors continue their demonstrations as well. Reports indicate that tanks are encircling Hama, while residents fear a major attack on the city that witnessed the largest protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Relevant information said that hundreds of young men blocked the roads leading to the main residential neighborhoods with trash cans, wood and metal sheets in an attempt to prevent the forces from advancing. Syrian forces used live bullets against protestors in Hama, which led to casualties. Meanwhile, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory said the Syrian security agencies arrested over 500 activists and protestors in the past six days, and nearly 10,000 have been arrested since protests began. Popular demonstrations continue and the crackdown proceeds while the Syrian government's call for a dialogue is ongoing. The dialogue comes as an attempt to deliver a previous promise made by the Syrian president, who stated that dialogue is the main focus at the moment. The supervisory body of the national dialogue sent invitations to about 150 Syrians, including opposition figures inside and outside of Syria such as Haitham al-Maleh, Haitham Manna and Burhan Ghalyoun. They will attend a consultative meeting scheduled to take place on July 10 to discuss what is referred to as the "basis for a comprehensive national dialogue conference." Meanwhile, Syrian sources indicate that a committee was formed to review the constitution in order to begin the transition towards democracy. However, in parallel to the dialogue called for by the Syrian authorities, the government continues to rely on security forces as a solution to the unrest. Dissidents say this may lead to more contempt by the people and an escalation of the popular movement. Wael Hajar, BBC.
Russia urges diplomacy to end Libya crisis [Dubai TV, UAE]
Presenter, Male #1
Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi is personally supervising contact with the armed Libyan opposition represented by the Libyan Transitional National Council. This was announced again by the Tripoli regime's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Kaim. Al-Kaim said there has been continuous contact between Tripoli and Benghazi for two months in a number of European capitals including the Italian capital Rome, in order to end the bloodbath and civil war in Libya.
Guest, Male #2 (Khaled al-Kaim, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister)
It is true that there have been direct talks for the last two months. There have also been phone calls with some members of the Transitional National Council and some rebels. As I said, they are from various factions; therefore, they do not talk as one entity. This did not only occur in two or three locations, contact has been continuing for the last two months and is still ongoing. I am certain that some of them may come to Tripoli to conduct direct negotiations with the Libyan authorities.
Presenter, Male #1
Russian newspaper Kommersant said that Gaddafi is prepared to step down in exchange for safety guarantees. However, a spokesman for the Libyan government denied the claim. The newspaper quoted a Russian official saying that Gaddafi is sending signals that he is ready to relinquish power in exchange for safety guarantees for his family. The Russian newspaper also mentioned that Gaddafi wants his son Saif al-Islam to be allowed to run in elections if he steps down. The opposition may reject this condition. Russia is still disputing NATO's military campaign in Libya, as confirmed by leaders from both sides after they met in Russia's Sochi Resort by the Black Sea. NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the coalition's operation in Libya after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Rasmussen said that NATO will execute these operations in strict compliance with the Security Council's resolutions. For his part, Medvedev described the Libyan crisis as a "critical test" for a new strategic notion that NATO has adopted. The Russian president also met with the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, who submitted the African Union's plan for Libya during a tripartite meeting with Rasmussen. In Janzour, 30 kilometers west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Mummar al-Gaddafi's regime said it intercepted two boats carrying weapons for the Libyan opposition. Libyan authorities took journalists to a location adjacent to the Tripoli port and showed them a shipment of weapons, including AK machine guns and explosive devices, placed in containers with the Qatari army's markings. Meanwhile, leaders of the Libyan regime said the weapons were loaded onto two boats from a ship with the Tunisian flag. The journalists did not examine the two boats or interview their crew comprised of 11 people including two officers, according to the Libyan authorities. France no longer sees a necessity in transferring weapons to the Libyan opposition by parachute. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet made the statement today, saying the Libyan revolutionaries have now become more organized and able to manage the weapons issue on their own. Longuet said the opposition founded a political system that is independent from Tripoli, which enables it to manage its defense affairs and establish relations with its foreign partners.
Israeli artillery targets central Gaza [Nile TV, Egypt]
Presenter, Female #1
Two Palestinians were martyred and a third was wounded in Israeli artillery shelling that targeted central Gaza. Palestinian sources said Israeli artillery shelling targeted an agricultural area, east of the Maghazi refugee camp, in the middle of the Strip. This is the first Israeli raid to kill two Palestinians in Gaza since mid-May.
PA says Gilo settlement plans destroy chances for peace [Nile TV, Egypt]
Presenter, Male #1
The Palestinian Authority condemned Israel's decision to approve the construction of 900 settlement units in East Jerusalem's Gilo settlement. The PA asserted that this decision destroys any attempt to establish a solid foundation for negotiations that could lead to genuine peace. The planning committee of the Israeli occupation's municipality in Jerusalem approved the plan to build new units in the Gilo settlement, where nearly 40,000 settlers live. In addition, the occupation authorities plan on proposing the construction of 400 new settlement units in a number of the major Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Ehud Barak suspends transfer of Palestinian bodies [Nile TV, Egypt]
Presenter, Female # 1
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suspended the planned transfer of the bodies of 84 Palestinians martyrs to the Palestinian Authority. This is seen as an attempt to use the transfer as a bargaining chip in negotiations for captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Israeli security sources said the procedure was coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians were expecting to receive the bodies of their martyrs in the few coming days, after the plan was approved by Netanyahu months ago. For its part, the Palestinian Authority said it was not notified by Israel of its plan to suspend the deal.
Israel, Turkey seeking ways to resolve Mavi Marmara crisis [IBA, Israel]
As the current flotilla efforts continue, the minister of strategic affairs is set to meet with Turkish and American representatives in New York this week to discuss the UN report on the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. The document is due out on Thursday and parties will try to reach an agreement whereby Israel will not be required to apologize to Turkey in exchange for keeping mum on aspects of the report connecting Ankara to the IHH activists aboard the 2010 flotilla. Israel is reportedly also considering financing a fund for the Turkish victims of the raid. Officials said that as part of an agreement Israel will help Turkey render the UN report irrelevant.
IDF military chief: Iran deepening regional influence [IBA, Israel]
Iran is actively taking advantage of the turmoil in the Middle East to intensify its influence in the region. This, according to the head of the military intelligence, Major-General Aviv Kochavi. At a briefing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs Defense Committee today, Kochavi said that Tehran was directly involved in organizing the Nakba and Naska Day protests in Lebanon last month and is taking steps to ensure that these events will continue in the future. He also said that Iran and Hezbollah are playing a key role in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's attempt to suppress anti-government protests.
A look at one of the men indicted in Hariri's assassination [New TV, Lebanon]
Presenter, Female #1
Residents of the town of Shihur are withholding information regarding their "son" who is being accused of assassinating Hariri. My colleague Ogharid Dandash reports.
Reporter, Female #2
Until 10:30 AM of June 30, 2011, Hussein Anaissi, was a financial auditor, hailing from a religious family, whose roots can be traced to the southern town of Shihur. And this was the complete introduction to the man's life. After the announcement of the indictment, Hussein, whose official name is Hussein Hassan Issa, became one of four suspects accused of carrying out the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The period during which he held a "low profile" ended, and with it Hussein is no longer a man living in the shadows. Hussein became an internationally wanted man for his role in Hariri's assassination, and particularly for recruiting Ahmad Abu Ades and later hiding him. The town of Imam Musa al-Sadr is once again in the spotlight. While the residents are declining to answer inquisitive questions, they have unanimously confirmed that Hussein was neither an activist nor a security threat, saying he rarely visited the town. One of them recounts that he only came to attend the funeral of his brother, a martyr of the July war. Ahmad was martyred along with his son Ali. As for the little information available on Hussein, it indicates that his family left for Iraq at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war. The family returned in the 1980s and Hussein spends most of his time in the capital Beirut. He is married and his older brother is named Ali. His relatives are close to Hezbollah. As for Hussein, the town's residents have no proof that he belongs to the party. He is a believer, a financial auditor and his life's patterns do not point to any unusual activities. In the first indictment, Hussein Anaissi is one of the four accused but unknown to the general public. However, Arabs remember the indictment in the Darfur case, which included accusation of local figures in its first draft. An indictment that later accused the Sudanese president in its third draft; an accusation that could be played out sometime soon.