Posts Tagged ‘egypt’
On the Egyptian side:
On the Gaza side:
(and Palestine) from Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
[..] What is happening in Egypt, like what happened in Tunisia, tightens the noose that will—unless Israel and Washington radically change their policies toward the Palestinians and the Muslim world—threaten to strangle the Jewish state as well as dramatically curtail American influence in the Middle East.
The failure of the United States to halt the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel has consequences. The failure to acknowledge the collective humiliation and anger felt by most Arabs because of the presence of U.S. troops on Muslim soil, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but in the staging bases set up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has consequences. The failure to denounce the repression, including the widespread use of torture, censorship and rigged elections, wielded by our allies against their citizens in the Middle East has consequences. We are soaked with the stench of these regimes. Mubarak, who reportedly is suffering from cancer, is seen as our puppet, a man who betrayed his own people and the Palestinians for money and power.
The Muslim world does not see us as we see ourselves. Muslims are aware, while we are not, that we have murdered tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have terrorized families, villages and nations. We enable and defend the Israeli war crimes carried out against Palestinians and the Lebanese—indeed we give the Israelis the weapons and military aid to carry out the slaughter. We dismiss the thousands of dead as “collateral damage.” And when those who are fighting against occupation kill us or Israelis we condemn them, regardless of context, as terrorists. Our hypocrisy is recognized on the Arab street. Most Arabs see bloody and disturbing images every day from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, images that are censored on our television screens. They have grown sick of us. They have grown sick of the Arab regimes that pay lip service to the suffering of Palestinians but do nothing to intervene. They have grown sick of being ruled by tyrants who are funded and supported by Washington. Arabs understand that we, like the Israelis, primarily speak to the Muslim world in the crude language of power and violence. And because of our entrancement with our own power and ability to project force, we are woefully out of touch.
AJE reports on a Moldovan registered ship being sent by the Libyans:
Organisers of a Libya-sponsored aid ship have said they will continue their attempt to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, despite Israeli claims that the vessel would instead sail to Egypt.
Yousseuf Sawani, a director of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, told Al Jazeera that there were no plans for the Al-Amal to dock at the port El-Arish.
“This is definitely a part of the campaign against the ship, a campaign of distortion, but we are definitely heading towards Gaza, because that is where aid should be heading to,” he told Al Jazeera.
“This is a purely humane mission, it is neither provocative nor hostile,” he said.
The ship set sail from Greece on Saturday, carrying 2,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip, but the Israeli foreign ministry said that it had reached an agreement with Greece and Moldova to have the ship diverted to Egypt.
Israeli authorities also reportedly contacted Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, to request that the ship be allowed to dock in El-Arish, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
by Sarah A. Topol – csmonitor.com
Cairo – Reports that Egypt is building a steel underground wall along its border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have fueled speculation about what exactly Cairo intends to accomplish with the project, which British newspapers claim is being carried out with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The immediate objective is obvious: to severely disrupt the flourishing smuggling trade carried out in an extensive subterranean network of tunnels under the border. The smugglers provide everything from food to weapons for Gazans, who are largely cut off from the outside world due to an Israeli blockade.
Analysts disagree, however, about Egypt’s broader goals, which appear contradictory and are obscured by the fact that Cairo has yet to acknowledge the existence of the project. But it appears that Egypt is trying to strike a balance between remaining a key ally of the US while at the same time shoring up its position as an influential player in a neighborhood that often views Washington unfavorably.
“Egypt is walking a tightrope between its commitments to Arabs and directly to the Palestinian cause and at the same time its commitment to enhancing international security,” says Gamal Soltan, political analyst at the Al-Ahram Center in Cairo, a government-funded think tank.
But constructing a wall is a significant departure from the mere rhetoric Egypt has used to exert pressure in the past. This time, Egypt’s balancing act might backfire, especially given that fact that the Arab world was highly critical of Egypt for closing the Rafah border during the Israeli incursion on Gaza last year and cooperating with Israel on the economic blockade.
“You have operation Cast Lead basically flattening Gaza and Operation ‘Metal Wall’ on the Egyptian side strangling the Gazan population even further. These are impressions and perceptions that the Egyptian government does not need,” says Adel Iskandar, professor of media and communications at Georgetown University in Washington.
A response to US pressure?Residents on both sides of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza have reported seeing giant drills and construction crews along the Egyptian side of the boundary, spurring a flurry of reports last week. On Dec 9. the BBC published a map of the project and reported that the completed wall would be six to seven miles long and plunge 60 feet below the ground, while others said it could go as deep as 100 feet. The wall is reportedly impenetrable, composed of bombproof steel that will be impossible to sever or burn. Though it would not completely destroy the tunneling networks, it is believed that it would stem the majority of smuggling, which has become a key source of revenue for Hamas.
Some analysts see the wall as a response to pressure from the US and Israel, which consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization, to stem smuggling along the border.
The US has in the past threatened to withhold $200 million in military aid to Egypt over concern about arms smuggling in the tunnels, angering Cairo. A compromise was reached in early 2008 under which Congress allocated $23 million of that aid toward stemming smuggling, the US Army Corps of Engineers have been involved in training Egyptian troops on advanced technology that can detect and destroy the tunnels.
Catering to American interests renders Egypt a continued player in peace negotiations and an essential ally in negotiations. Egypt, once the region’s powerbroker, also stands to show its neighbors it will not be subservient to the whims of Hamas, a small militant group and an offshoot of Egypt’s banned political opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It could be a political ploy with the desire of maintaining or reasserting Egypt’s legitimacy in the region at a time when perhaps the Americans are starting to assume that Egypt has a declining role,” says Prof. Iskandar. Message to Hamas: Consequences for not cooperatingOthers see the wall as primarily directed at Hamas after months of Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks with the rival Palestinian faction Fatah have failed to produce a solution.
“It’s quite a drastic measure,” says Nadim Shehadi, associate fellow for the Middle East and North Africa Program at the London-based Chatham House. He sees it as a pessimistic sign that Egypt is giving up on the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks that have failed to produce a deal under Egypt’s mediation efforts.“It’s an indication that there’s no outlook for a resolution that would allow free passage soon,” says Mr. Shehadi.
But some say it’s not a final move, but rather a political maneuver to strengthen Egypt’s position as a mediator between the estranged Palestinian factions – a maneuver that may prove crucial to restarting negotiations.
“It’s a way … to send a message to Hamas that they cannot enjoy the same kind of lenient Egyptian policy while at the same time refusing to cooperate with Egypt towards Palestinian reconciliation,” says Gamal Soltan, political analyst at Egypt’s government-funded Al-Ahram Center. “Egypt wants to show Hamas there are consequences for not cooperating.”
Egypt has begun constructing a huge metal wall along its border with the Gaza Strip as it attempts to cut smuggling tunnels, the BBC has learned.
When it is finished the wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long and will extend 18 metres below the surface.
The Egyptians are being helped by American army engineers, who the BBC understands have designed the wall.
The plan has been shrouded in secrecy, with no comment or confirmation from the Egyptian government.
The wall will take 18 months to complete.
For weeks local farmers have noticed more activity at the border where trees were being cut down, but very few of them were aware that a barrier was being built.
UPDATE – ex-US diplomat comments on the new ‘wall’: “Making an American ‘Impenetrable Underground Wall’ the Laughing Stock of the World—Leave It to the People of Gaza“
UPDATE #2 – AJE on the wall