Palestinians elated about prison breakout from Israeli security jail

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint in West Bank town of Jenin after it was closed following the break out of six Palestinian prisoners. (AFP)
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Updated 07 September 2021

Palestinians elated about prison breakout from Israeli security jail

  • Observers described the escape of prisoners as ‘exactly similar to what is happening in the movies’

GAZA CITY/AMMAN: Happiness reigned in public squares in the Gaza Strip, which saw the distribution of sweets and rejoicing at what people described as “extracting freedom” following the success of six prisoners in escaping a heavily fortified Israeli prison.
While Palestinians in Gaza took to the streets spontaneously, the organization of many gatherings and distribution of sweets came from the Islamic Jihad, to which five of the six prisoners belong. The sixth inmate belongs to Fatah.
A member of Islamic Jihad’s political bureau, Walid Al-Qutati, said the process of escaping from Gilboa was very complicated and required experts to explain how the operation took place.
“The operation will constitute an epic and legend in the history of the Palestinian national struggle,” he added.
There were celebrations in the streets, with some banners that read: “The second great escape from the prisons of the Zionist enemy.” Others bore the names of the prisoners who had succeeded in “extracting their freedom.”
The prisoner issue is considered one of the complexes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and official estimates indicate that more than a million Palestinians have been imprisoned since June 1967.
About 5,000 Palestinians are still languishing behind bars under conditions described by Palestinian organizations as “inhumane.”
Observers described the escape of prisoners as “exactly similar to what is happening in the movies,” given that Gilboa was described in Israel as “the safe prison” because of its tight procedures to prevent any escape attempt.
According to the Addameer Foundation for Prisoner Care and Human Rights, Gilboa is in the Beit She’an area of northern Israel. It was established under the supervision of Irish experts and opened in 2004.
Addameer added: “The prison is of a very high security nature, and is described as the most guarded prison, in which Israel holds Palestinian prisoners, accusing them of being responsible for carrying out offensive operations targeting Israelis.”
Military expert and former major general, Wassef Erekat, told Arab News: “The escape operation represents a victory for the Palestinian will. Rather, it is a miracle added to the achievements of the prisoners in the occupation prisons, who are inventing means to penetrate the security system that Israel boasts about.”
Erekat said the success of the six prisoners would encourage other inmates to think more about taking their freedom into their own hands in light of Israeli intransigence in terms of liberating them, whether through political negotiations or as part of an exchange deal.
Writer Ahmed Abu Zuhri did not rule out that Palestinian factions would “surprise the occupation” with similar operations, whether inside or outside prisons.
“The enemy realizes that there are six free time bombs on the loose, and the six prisoners may resort to surprising the enemy with commando operations instead of disappearing, as they realize that Israel will not stop searching for them and liquidating them,” he told Arab News.
Mahdi Abdulhadi, founder and chairman of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, said that Palestinians met each other as martyrs, prisoners, or escapees.
“The resistance reflects a people who want a life with dignity and these six have shown what national resistance is all about,” he told Arab News. “There is widespread happiness and a feeling of the ability of Palestinians to challenge their jailers. This is the time of defeating the culture of fear and depending on self-reliance while Israel is trying to uphold the status quo policy.”
A retired Jordanian Air Force general, Maamoun Abu Nawwar, said the escape completed the action that had begun with the 11-day battle between Israel and the Gaza Strip. “This is an act of resistance by a people who are opposed to injustice,” he told Arab News.
Former Palestinian Cabinet Minister, Ziad Abu Zayyad said the escape of Palestinian war prisoners should remind everyone that as long as there were wars and armed conflict there would be “prisoner fighters” deprived of their freedom.
“Wars and occupation should come to their end. Palestinian prisoners will never be broken until their people achieve their right for peace, security, and freedom in their independent state of Palestine.”
Hazem Ayyad a columnist for Assabeel newspaper, said the success of the six inmates was a “major victory” for the Palestinian resistance and shattered the “supposedly air-tight” Israeli security model.
Ayyad said the escape came at a time when the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah was losing popularity and Hamas was involved in prisoner exchange negotiations. Israeli daily Haaretz said that the escape was a security and intelligence failure.
Adham Manasra, a broadcaster at Raya FM in Ramallah, said a former Gilboa inmate had told the radio show that restrictions were extremely harsh at the prison. “The caller said that escaping from Gilboa is like a miracle.”
The former prisoner had said inmates were checked three times a day and were not even allowed to take a metal spoon to their room.
Manasra told Arab News that people were happy, but that some worried the escape would lead to greater Israeli repression of prisoners and the collective punishment of Palestinians.


Cricket flourishes among Qatar World Cup migrant laborers

Updated 26 November 2022

Cricket flourishes among Qatar World Cup migrant laborers

  • The sport that spread across the reaches of former British empire remains favorite of South Asian laborers
  • The need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades

DOHA: As dawn broke Friday in Qatar, the laborers who built this energy-rich country’s World Cup soccer stadiums, roads and subway filled empty stretches of asphalt and sandlots to play the sport closest to their hearts — cricket.

The sport that spread across the reaches of the former British empire remains a favorite of the South Asian laborers who power economies across the Arabian Peninsula, including more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar.

It’s a moment of respite for workers, who typically just have Friday off in Qatar and much of the rest of the Gulf Arab nations. And it’s one they look forward to all week, batting and bowling before the heat of the day fully takes hold.

“It’s in our blood,” said laborer Kesavan Pakkirisamy as he coached his team at one sandlot, the skyline of Doha visible in the distance. “We’ve played cricket since a long time. It’s a happy journey for us.”

Laborer rights have been a focus of this World Cup since Qatar won the bid for the tournament back in 2010. Workers can face long hours, extortion and low pay. Qatar has overhauled its labor laws to put in a minimum wage and untie visas from employers, though activists have urged more to be done.

On Fridays, however, laborers control their day. Just down the road from the global headquarters of Qatar’s satellite news network Al Jazeera, workers gathered in a parking lot and another large desert expanse wedged between roads.

Some appeared nervous when Associated Press journalists stopped by their matches, with several asking if they’d be in trouble for playing cricket in vacant lots in this autocratic nation. Others, however, smiled and invited visitors to watch.

Hary R., an Indian from the southern state of Kerala, showed a reporter the mobile phone app he used to keep track of runs and overs. While Friday’s match was a friendly, there are tournaments organized among the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in Qatar to vie for supremacy.

“We are working throughout the week and we need to just get relaxed and meet our friends just for time pass and entertainment,” he said. His teammates on the Strikers, some of whom wore matching uniforms, shouted at him to keep track of the game.

Pakkirisamy, who shouted encouragement near two discarded couches used by players as a bench, praised his company for helping his colleagues take part in wider competitions.

“From my father and my grandfather, they have been playing in cricket since childhood age,” he said, describing a lifelong love of the game.

Pakkirisamy and his teammates, while lovers of cricket, still were excited about the World Cup being in Qatar.

“We are here for work, we are here for earning something for our family,” he said, adding that being in Qatar means, “It’s easy for us to be there, to see the game on ground, not only the TV.”

Cricket, with its lush green grass pitches, may seem like an anomaly in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades.

The United Arab Emirates has a cricket team that qualified for the International Cricket Council’s T20 World Cup in Australia last month.

Dubai in the UAE is even home to the ICC’s headquarters and has hosted major cricket events, including the Indian Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the T20 championships.

But for laborers in the region, any empty patch of ground can be turned into a pitch.

“You can be in any road. You can be in any place,” Pakkirisamy said. “Any small place, you can play cricket.”


Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.


No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

Updated 26 November 2022

No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

Two rockets targeted a US patrol base in northeastern Syria but did not result in any injuries or damage to the base, the US military said on Friday.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces visited the origin site of the rockets and found a third unfired rocket, the US military said in a statement.
The base was located in Al-Shaddadi, Syria.


US official urges ‘de-escalation’ as Turkiye strikes Syria

Updated 25 November 2022

US official urges ‘de-escalation’ as Turkiye strikes Syria

  • Turkiye this week launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq
  • The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned,” said Granger

BEIRUT: A US official in Syria on Friday called for an “immediate de-escalation” following days of deadly airstrikes and shelling along the Syria-Turkiye border, saying the actions destabilize the region and undermine the fight against the Daesh group.
Turkiye this week launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the Kurdish groups.
The groups have denied involvement in the bombing and say the Turkish strikes have killed civilians and threatened the anti-Daesh fight.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said that 67 civilians, gunmen and soldiers, have been killed in Turkish attacks in northern Syria since the airstrikes began.
Nikolas Granger, the US senior representative to northeastern Syria, said Washington “strongly opposes military action that further destabilizes the lives of communities and families in Syria and we want immediate de-escalation.”
The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned,” said Granger, who is currently in Syria, and added that the strikes also endanger US military personnel there.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a new land invasion of northern Syria targeting Kurdish groups. On Friday, he said Turkiye would continue its “struggle against all kinds of terror inside and outside our borders.”
Turkiye and the United States both consider the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a terror group for the decadeslong insurgency and attacks the group has staged within Turkiye’s borders.
But they disagree on the status of the main Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Syrian Kurdish group has been a key US ally in the fight against Daesh.
Turkiye has carried out three major incursions into northern Syria since 2016 and its forces still control part of the country.
Kurdish officials in Syria have been warning that any new Turkish incursion would disrupt the fight against Daesh, which still has sleeper cells and has carried out deadly attacks in recent months against the Syrian Kurdish-led opposition forces as well as Syrian government forces.
“We take these threats seriously and prepare to confront any ground attacks,” Siamand Ali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press.


Iran bolsters border security to prevent ‘infiltration’

Updated 25 November 2022

Iran bolsters border security to prevent ‘infiltration’

  • Deployment aims to prevent infiltration and the smuggling of weapons in the north by Kurdish opposition groups exiled in Iraq
  • Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and forces have been present there on a rotating basis for decades

BAGHDAD: Iran has sent additional units of special forces to fortify its northern border with Iraq and clamp down on what it says is infiltration by Kurdish opposition groups, Iranian state media reported on Friday.
Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, chief of ground forces of the paramilitary Iranian Revolutionary Guard, said “armored and special forces” units had been deployed to west and north-west provinces to bolster existing border security, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The deployment aims to prevent infiltration and the smuggling of weapons in the north by Kurdish opposition groups exiled in Iraq that Tehran claims is orchestrating country-wide anti-government protests. It is a claim the Kurdish groups deny and to date Iran has not provided any evidence to support it.
Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and forces have been present there on a rotating basis for decades.
The troop movement also comes after Iraq issued directives for boosting security along its side of the border to prevent further bombardment by Iran, according to a statement issued by Iraq’s military spokesman Maj. Gen. Yahya Rasool. Kurdish opposition groups have bases in Iraq’s Kurdish-run northern region.
Earlier this week, Iranian officials were quoted in state-run media as saying they did not have plans to conduct a ground military operation to root out opposition groups from the bases, despite having reportedly threatened to do so during the visit by top general Esmail Ghaani to Baghdad last week.
Country-wide protests engulfed Iran in September following the death of a young woman in police custody for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. The protests have become one the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated in police custody, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained.