Friday, 23 August 2013

Archaeologists race against time and turmoil to save Gaza's ancient ruins

ST. HILARION, Gaza Strip — The ruins of this ancient complex sit on dunes by the sea, a world away from Gaza City's noise and bustle. Up in the sky, birds compete for space with children's kites flying from a nearby farm.

St. Hilarion's Monastery, a reminder of the time in late antiquity when Christianity was the dominant faith in what is now the Gaza Strip, is one of many archaeological treasures scattered across this coastal territory.

But Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth, and the rapid spread of its urban sprawl is endangering sites spanning 4,500 years, from Bronze Age ramparts to colorful Byzantine mosaics, experts say.

Archaeologists, short of funds and unable to find sufficient trained local staff, say they are scrambling to find and protect the monuments. Some are left open to the weather. Others are engulfed by new development projects.

"Archaeology in Gaza is everywhere," says French archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Humbert, who excavated in the territory from 1995 to 2005. He says it was once a "very rich oasis, with gardens, cities and you have settlements, dwellings, fortresses, cities everywhere, everywhere." more

Hamas: Egypt trained 'Tamarod' members in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian intelligence and security services trained members of a group calling itself "Tamarod Gaza," a senior Hamas official charged Friday.

In a video released Sunday, masked activists read a statement by "Tamarod Gaza" calling for protests across the enclave on Nov. 11 to overthrow Hamas.

On Nov. 11, all "tyrannies and oppression practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza" will come to an end, according to the statement.

The Egyptian Tamarod movement is a protest group that organized opposition to the rule of president Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was deposed on July 3.

Hamas' Yahya Mousa told the Lebanese newspaper El-Nashra that Tamarod had centers in the West Bank and Gaza and that its members were trained by Egyptian intelligence and security services.

Hamas security services have detained members of the group in Gaza and they are being interrogated, Mousa added. more

Israeli forces attack Lebanon with airstrikes near Beirut

An Israeli army spokesperson stated that the Israeli Air Force bombarded, on Friday [August 23, 2013] a target in Lebanon “in retaliation to a missile attack close to the border on Thursday”, and added that the Israeli bombardment targeted a location between Beirut and Saida (Sindon). In its press release, the army said that it bombarded what it described as a “terrorist location”, and that the Israeli fighter jets managed to achieve their mission. It added that the shelling comes in retaliation to four missiles fired from Lebanon.

The official Lebanese National News Agency has reported that the attack targeted a center for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General command (PFLP-GC).

“The Israeli enemy bombarded a PFLP-GC center in Wadi An-Na’ma, south of Beirut”, the agency said, The PFLP-GC is known for its support to Syria’s President, Bashar Assad.

In related news, the Israeli Army said that the four missile that were fired into the country hit residential area causing damage but no injuries. more

Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing to Gaza: Hamas

Egypt is set to reopen the Rafah crossing, a Hamas official said on Thursday, a week after Cairo closed down the Gaza Strip's only land passage that bypasses Israel.

"The Rafah crossing will reopen this Saturday for four hours daily, for humanitarian cases and Palestinians with foreign nationalities," Maher Abu Sabha, director general of border crossing for the Islamist Hamas government, said in a statement.

Egypt had "indefinitely" closed the Rafah crossing from the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave on August 15, citing security reasons behind the move a day after deadly violence nationwide.

The closure had left hundreds of Palestinians stranded on both sides. more

War games and settlement excursions: inside a pro-Israel propaganda tour for student activists

“‘TERRORIST! GO! BODY!’ I’m sprinting across the rocky terrain to reach safety...Heart racing, out of breath, I’m trying to remember the instructor’s commands. Muscle memory, no time to aim, hurry, hurry...”

So begins one California college student’s first-hand account of a June 2013 “commando tourism” paintball session at Caliber 3, a privately-owned counter-terrorism training facility in the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion. The student, identified only as “JJL”, was on a ten-day BlueStar Fellows summer tour of Israel, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights with twenty-three peers from five California universities. The trip was part of a year-long program launched by San Francisco-based Israel advocacy group BlueStar PR with the goal of molding students into “powerful pro-Israel advocates, spokespeople and opinion leaders” on their college campuses.

In over fifty entries on the BlueStar Fellows program blog (penned with the assistance of a writing coach) participants from UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and Pitzer College reflect on a trip itinerary that often glorifies Israeli state violence while promoting a dehumanized image of Palestinians. The accounts provide insight into the sensational approach to the conflict pushed by some hardline Israel advocacy groups, and raise questions about the impact of their tactics in the battle for the hearts and minds of US college students.more