March 13th, 2013. – Saudi Arabia beheads 7 men after appeals rejected. The AP.
“Seven Saudi men convicted of theft, looting and armed robbery were beheaded on Wednesday, according to the country’s official news agency, more than a week after their families and rights group appealed to the king for clemency.
Human Rights Watch had called for the sentences to be canceled because the men were juveniles when they were arrested.
One of the men told The Associated Press earlier this month that he was only 15 when he was arrested as part of a ring that stole jewelry in 2004 and 2005. Nasser al-Qahtani said he was tortured to confess and had no access to lawyers.
Al-Qahtani said that during the years-long trial, he only faced the judge three times and when the men tried to complain to the judge about the torture or show torture marks on their bodies, they were ignored. He also said the judge never assigned him a lawyer. They were convicted in 2009.
The Saudi Press Agency said the executions took place in Abha, a city in the southern region of Asir. The south has been marginalized and suffered discrimination by the powerful central Saudi region where the capital, Riyadh, and holy shrines of Mecca and Medina are located.
The original sentences called for death by firing squad and crucifixion. However, SPA said on Wednesday that the seven were beheaded. A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said three men with swords carried out the executions.
The oil-rich kingdom follows a strict implementation of Islamic law, or Shariah, under which people convicted of murder, rape or armed robbery can be executed, usually by sword.
Saudi Arabia has executed 23 people so far this year, including the seven men on Wednesday. Last year it executed 76 and in 2011, 79 people.
Also, several people were reported crucified in Saudi Arabia last year. Human rights groups have condemned crucifixions, including cases in which people were beheaded and then crucified. In 2009, Amnesty International condemned such executions as “the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
On March 4, Human Rights Watch appealed to King Abdullah to halt the executions and said there was “strong evidence” that the trials of all seven men violated basic principles of rights to a fair trial.
“It will be outrageous if the Saudi authorities go ahead with these executions,” the statement quoted Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “It is high time for the Saudis to stop executing child offenders and start observing their obligations under international human rights law.”
The following day, the king ordered a one-week suspension until the case is reviewed.
On Sunday, a Saudi paper reported that the government is looking into formally dropping public beheadings as a method of execution and is instead considering death by a firing squad as an alternative. There have also been calls in the kingdom to replace public beheadings with lethal injections carried out in prisons.
Abha, where Wednesday’s executions took place, is located deep in the southwestern province of Asir. Southerners complain of systematic discrimination, and people there say they are perceived as second class citizens.
The Washington-based Institute of Gulf Affairs, which campaigned for the suspension of the executions of the seven men, recently said in a note to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that one of the reasons the seven were sentenced to death was that “they hail from the south, a region that is heavily marginalized by the Saudi monarchy, which views them as lower class citizens.”
March 11, 2013. Syrian Rebels Vow to Conquer Golan, Refugees Refuse Israeli Aid. Chana Ya’ar, http://www.israelnationalnews.com
“Syrian refugees might be desperate, injured and even starving – but they won’t accept Israeli aid, as rebels vow to reconquer the Golan Heights.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says Israel has offered to send humanitarian aid into Syria via the International Committee of the Red Cross, as the desperation of civilians fleeing the violence grows. Nevertheless, Palmor told the Turkish Hurriyet daily newspaper, the refugees are still unwilling to accept assistance from Israel, which had coordinated with the Red Cross to send humanitarian aid into the country.
But at the private level, aid organizations are coordinating between Israel and Jordan to provide assistance to the refugees who have crossed the border into the Hashemite Kingdom, Palmor noted. “This shows that the Israeli public wants to help Syrians no matter what politics dictates,” he pointed out. Jordan cannot possibly provide on its own all the assistance the refugees need, its own officials have repeatedly pointed out.
But while Israelis are trying to help those who have been mistreated the most by the Syrian government, and hurt the worst by the savage civil war raging across the border, Syrian rebel fighters are vowing to wage war against Israel once their battle against President Bashar al-Assad is over.
In a video posted on the Internet a couple of weeks ago, a small group of jihadist rebel fighters was filmed against the backdrop of the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights – the buffer zone that for some 40 years has served to keep the border quiet between Syria and Israel.
“We are in the occupied Golan Heights, which the traitor [former President] Hafez Assad (the present president’s father) sold to Israel 40 years ago,” a rebel spokesman tells the viewer, waving around his assault weapon. These lands are blessed and the despicable Assad family promised to liberate them, but for 40 years the Syrian army did not fire a single bullet.
“We will open a military campaign against Israel,” the bearded rebel spokesman vows, as his fellow fighters fire their weapons, some of them yelling “
Allahu Akbar!” ( Allah is Great). We will fire the bullets that Assad did not, and we will liberate the Golan.”
On Monday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned that terrorist groups fighting Assad’s regime alongside other rebels are “becoming stronger” and voiced concern they could turn on Israel in the future. “The situation in Syria has become exceptionally dangerous. The terrorist organizations are becoming stronger on the ground,” he told AFP. “Now they are fighting against Assad but in the future they could turn against us.”
Israel’s military establishment has been preparing for some time for the day that Bashar al-Assad may fall, with IDF units carrying out military exercises throughout the country.
In the northern Negev, the sounds of artillery fire could be heard echoing through the hills of the wadis in the early hours of the morning on Monday, as troops prepared for the possibility of battle in the Golan Heights.
As early as July 2012, IDF military intelligence director Maj.-Gen. Avi Kochavi warned that Al Qaeda operatives had moved into the buffer zone and was transforming it into a staging area for future attacks on Israel. Kochavi likened the situation to that taking place in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, noting that just as the Cairo government was finding it difficult to extend its authority to the lawless Sinai, so too Damascus seems no longer able to control rebel forces in the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights.
Another sign of the chaos is last week’s kidnapping of 21 United Nations peacekeepers, held by rebels for three days in southern Syria. The Filipino peacekeepers – part of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that has been monitoring the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights since 1974 – were seized by the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade on Wednesday. They crossed into Jordan on Saturday, having been freed after extensive negotiations.
A flood of foreign jihadists – most linked to Al Qaeda — has flowed into Syria to join the rebels in the battle against Assad loyalists, just as Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist guerrilla fighters and elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards have joined forces with the Syrian Army soldiers.
Kochavi has estimated that should Assad fall, both local and foreign rebels would aim straight at Israel with the huge caches of ordnance that have been stockpiled along the border.
Meanwhile, the United States, Britain and France have begun training and equipping Syrian rebel fighters in Jordan at special military camps, albeit opposition fighters affiliated with “moderate, mainstream” groups and not those linked to the radical Islamist camps. At least 200 members of the Free Syrian Army have already received training so far, with plans for a total of 1,200 FSA members to be trained by the project’s end.”
March 11, 2013. Al-Qaeda says it killed 48 Syrian soldiers in Iraq. The AP.
“Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq claimed responsibility on Monday for the killing last week of 48 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqi guards in western Anbar province.
The brazen assault suggests possible coordination between the terror network’s Iraq affiliate and its ideological allies in Syria who are fighting on the side of the rebels against President Bashar Assad‘s regime.
The Syrian troops had sought refuge in northern Iraq during recent clashes that ended with the rebels taking over a border crossing along Iraq’s northern province of Ninevah. The troops were being escorted back to Syria through another border crossing, further south, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, when they were ambushed.
In a statement posted on terrorist websites Monday, the Islamic State of Iraq said its fighters were monitoring the movements of the soldiers as Iraqi authorities worked to transfer them secretly back across the border.
“The lions of the desert and the men of the impossible missions set up traps along the road that leads to the border exits,” said the statement.
The attack started with militants detonating explosive charges on military escort vehicles assigned to protect trucks carrying the Syrian soldiers, the group said.
After that, “the fighters launched an attack from two directions using light and medium range weapons as well as rocket propelled grenades,” said al-Qaeda in Iraq. “Within less than half an hour the whole convoy … was annihilated.”
March 12th, 2013. Hamas Gives ‘Zionist Collaborators’ Month to Repent. Arutz Sheva staff, http://www.israelnationalnews.com
“Hamas rulers in Gaza launched a month-long campaign on Tuesday urging alleged Arab “collaborators” with Israel to turn themselves in as a means of being granted leniency.
“We announce the opening of the door to repentance for remaining collaborators and for all those who have fallen into the traps set by the enemy’s intelligence services,” interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan told reporters, according to the AFP news agency.
“We urge them to return to the bosom of their people and their families,” he said, noting that the offer of clemency was open until April 11.
Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel is punishable by death.
All execution orders must be approved by the Palestinian Authority before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognizes the legitimacy of incumbent PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas, whose four-year term ended in 2009.
Following the recent November conflict, Hamas announced the creation of a committee to examine the “unlawful executions” of Arabs accused of spying for Israel.
Seven people were gunned down after being accused of being collaborators.
The bodies of six of them were dragged behind vehicles through the streets of Gaza City.
The killings were claimed by Hamas terrorists from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades and notes were pinned to the bodies reading: “Al-Qassam Brigades announces the execution of the traitors,” according to AFP.