Who/What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz] – cont'd

It was reported this afternoon that the two journalists wounded in Baba Amr quarter of Homs, Syria last week [in the same “Media Center” where Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik died in shelling that their satellite phone use very probably helped target], were “smuggled” out — and that 13 Avaaz activists died in the operation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the effort. Speaking from the southern French city of Montpelier, where he is campaigning for the forthcoming elections, Sarkozy said he was “glad that this nightmare is over”, according to the AP http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_15716/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=ypSDmCoh.

But, a few hours later, Sarkozy retracted his remarks.

It seems that French journalist Edith Bouvier, who pleaded for evacuation from Baba Amr — because her leg was broken in two places, she could not walk, and she badly needed urgent fast surgery — was left behind and had not reached safety in Lebanon, as was previously announced. Only British journalist/cameraman Paul Convoy made it out, overnight, the BBC reported, here.

According to this BBC report, Bouvier’s whereabouts were unknown, though she apparently may have made it out of Homs, all of which is a danger zone under attack.

The BBC also reported that there was no news about the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

Before this surprising turnaround, and before Sarkozy’s retraction,
Zak @TheZako commented, with apparent admiration, on Twitter:
“.@Avaaz spoxman on @BBCRadio4: 23 activists were killed during the evacuation of foreign journalists. Crazy, crazy!”

Was it 23? Or, 13?

[@Avaaz Tweeted today that: “Ricken Patel, from #Avaaz, is live on #NSCNN CNN now. “There were over 50 activists in the opp, 23 died”. But an Avaaz press release, below, says it was 13…]

And, who are these Avaaz activists, really?

    Avaaz itself announced here that “a network of Syrian activists coordinated [though a Tweet by @Avaaz says it provided “support”] by the global campaign organisation Avaaz helped the international journalist Paul Conroy escape into Lebanon. He had been injured and trapped in Baba Amr, Homs for six days under continuous Syrian government shelling. The three other journalists Javier Espinosa, Edith Bouvier and William Daniels remain unaccounted for. Avaaz responded to requests from the journalists, their families and colleagues to attempt to evacuate them and worked with over 35 heroic Syrian activists each night who volunteered to help in the rescue. The activists have offered to support in the evacuation every night since Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed by Syrian government shellfire last Wednesday, during which time they rescued 40 seriously wounded people from the same place and brought in medical supplies. Tragically this operation led to a number of fatalities as the Syrian Army targeted those escaping, during their bombardment of the city on Sunday evening. 13 activists were killed in the operation. Three activists were killed by Syrian targeted shelling as they tried to assist the journalists through Baba Amr. While Paul Conroy successfully escaped the city, ten activists died bringing relief supplies into Baba Amr. On the day of their evacuation, over 7,000 people had been forced to flee their neighbourhoods in south Homs in fear of massacres. This operation was carried by Syrians with the help of Avaaz. No other agency was involved”.

The BBC said that “Campaign group Avaaz said it had co-ordinated an operation to free the wounded journalists and two trapped colleagues, and some of the activists involved had died in the process. Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel said the rescue group had been split in two by shelling after leaving Homs, and only Mr Conroy’s group had been able to move forward. Avaaz described the three other journalists – Ms Bouvier, Javier Espinosa, and William Daniels – as ‘unaccounted for’. Mr Conroy was apparently able to walk across the border into Lebanon during the night, but our correspondent adds that the more seriously wounded Ms Bouvier would have had to be carried on a stretcher”.

Javier Espinosa, Middle East Correspondent for El Mundo [Spain], reportedly survived uninjured the same attack killed Colvin + Ochlik, and wounded Bouvier + Conroy. One of his accounts of the situation in Baba Amr was published by The Guardian, here.

William Daniels, a French photographer who was on assignment for Panos photo agency, may or may not have been wounded.

Mr. Conroy’s wife, who had given hell to British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] officials for their seeming earlier inaction on rescuing her husband, said this evening that she was thrilled. A FCO spokesperson, speaking on “customary condition of anonymity in line with policy” said that “All the necessary work is being done on repatriating Marie Colvin’s body and ensuring Paul Conroy gets to safety. For security reasons we can’t give you any more detail of that at the moment”. This is reported by CBS News here.

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] issued a statement, posted here, from its New York Headquarters that “In all, eight journalists have been killed in Syria in the last four months, CPJ research shows. On Friday, a Syrian videographer Anas al-Tarsha was killed in Homs while filming a bombardment. A week earlier, another Syrian videographer, Rami al-Sayed, was killed in Baba Amr”.

CBS News also reported here that: “The Syrian opposition group Local Coordination Committees [LCC] and global activist group Avaaz said Conroy was the only foreign journalist to escape Syria. Rima Fleihan, an LCC spokeswoman, said the Sunday Times photographer was smuggled out by Syrian army defectors. The global activist group Avaaz, which said it organized the evacuation with local Syrian activists, said 35 Syrians volunteered to help get the journalists out and bring aid in. Of those, 13 were killed. Avaaz said three were killed in government shelling while trying to help Conroy through the neighborhood and 10 others were killed trying to bring in aid while Conroy was on his way out on Sunday evening … The LCC said other Western journalists are negotiating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to be allowed to leave Syria without having their videos and photos confiscated by authorities. All the journalists killed and wounded in Homs were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon illegally”.

Really, who are these Avaaz activists?

    Liz Sly made an attempt to clarify in a report published in the Washington Post here, which recalled that about ten days ago, “New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack during a strenuous trek out of Syria across the mountainous Turkish border”.

    Sly’s Washington Post piece reported that “The botched rescue [n.b. – of injured and stranded journalists from Baba Amr] Tuesday also underscores the dangers facing the underground networks of activists and smugglers set up to evacuate people injured in government attacks to hospitals in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The same networks carry medical supplies such as blood bags and antibiotics into Syria for use in field hospitals and have been used by journalists to enter the country illegally. Similar but separate networks have also been utilized to smuggle weapons to the fledgling armed resistance movement known as the Free Syrian Army. But most of those active in the medical networks are civilian volunteers, seeking to help Syrians who have been injured during protests and who risk detention if they seek treatment at government hospitals, said Wissam Tarif, a Lebanon-based activist with Avaaz. ‘They are just ordinary guys who did not pick up weapons but decided to evacuate injured people’, he said. ‘Some of them have basic medical training, some can do tetanus shots and provide some medical assistance. Some of them are just guys who can carry heavy weights. They’ve been doing this for a year, and hundreds of them have been killed’. Altogether, 23 members of the network engaged in ferrying medical supplies and injured victims between Homs and Lebanon have been killed since last Wednesday’s attack on the journalists, said Tarif, who has close ties with the network. [Wait – is Sly separating this “network” from Avaaz, or are they identical, or at least overlap?] In the process, they have evacuated 40 injured civilians from Homs. Details of the the ambush and the identities of the dead Syrians were not disclosed to protect future evacuation operations, With the deaths of the activists and the evident discovery of the secret route they had been using by Syrian security forces, the network is now in jeopardy, activists said, leaving it unclear whether the remaining journalists can be evacuated. Efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to negotiate safe passage out of Bab Amr for the journalists have failed”…

Meanwhile the UN Human Rights Council convened in a special session in Geneva to discuss the situation in Syria. High-level delegations were expected to attend. The Syrian delegates walked out in protest early in the session after a UN official told the meeting that “atrocities were being committed in Syria”.

The BBC added that “French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has urged the 47 nations in the council to be prepared to submit a complaint against Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague”.

Who/What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz] and why did/do journalists trust them with their lives in Baba Amr

Who or What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz]?

And, why do veteran combat journalsts working for major news organizations trust Avaaz with their lives in getting into, and when inside, the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, Syria, which has been beseiged by the Syrian army on a mission to exterminate “Islamist terrorism”?

Ahvaaz [Avaaz]:
The name of an organization [a “global advocacy group”, The Telegraph coyly calls them] called Avaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr.

Their website is available in 14 or 15 languages at www.avaaz.org, here, they are on Twitter [@avaaz], and also Facebook — and they are interested in global matters — the oceans, the Amazon, the internet, and now Syria — identifying themselves as “a campaigning community” with 13 million members.

Their website says: “Avaaz—meaning ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want … Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern–allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale. Avaaz’s online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need”…

UPDATE: Julian Borger reported here in The Guardian on Tuesday night [28 February] that Avaaz was founded in 2007.

Borger adds that Avaaz “emerged out of activist groups in the US and Australia, including ResPublica, GetUp! and MoveOn.org. Its founding president is Ricken Patel, a Canadian-British veteran of the International Crisis Group, a global thinktank, and MoveOn.org, a progressive American group. He runs a team of campaigners around the world, with offices in New York, Rio, Delhi, Madrid and Sydney”.

And, Borger added. Avaaz “has taken on a prominent and more physically risky role in the Arab spring, providing satellite phones and other communication equipment to pro-democracy groups in Libya, Egypt and Syria … Amid the bloodshed of Syria, the organisation’s commitment is less likely to be queried. The question its critics are raising now is whether a group that started out in the high-tech safety of the internet has found itself out of its depth in a brutal conflict in the real world”.

While the first time I recall hearing the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services, they also seemed to have some kind of association with the MEK — or, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq = a supposedly “leftist’ movement that was part of the resistance to the Shah of Iran prior to the Iranian revolution, but was then persecuted, and took up arms against the Islamic Republic, when they found an ally in Saddam Hussein who offered them shelter and a base came which they are now evacuating for relocation as refugees around the world, under great pressure.

Ahvaaz, if I am not mistaken [will check] is the Persian version of the name of [CORR: the capital city of Khuzestan, the] Arabic-speaking province [Ahwaz] in south-western Iran, bordering Iraq, the Shatt al-Arab, and the north-western shore of Iran along the Persian Gulf.  It was in the Ahvaaz province that the first clashes in the terrible Iran-Iraq war [end 1979 to August 1989] took place, between the freshly-installed Islamic Republic and a Saddam Hussein backed by the U.S., by all Arab states [officially, at least] and by all the “civilized world”.

Ahvaaz came in big, internationally, in social media more recently at a late phase of the Tahrir Square protests — and though nobody knew who they were, exactly, many otherwise savvy people were enthusiastic to support, if not join, their calls for signing petitions, etc., in support of the Tahrir movement.

Like the MEK, Avaaz seems to be very media-savvy, and have expertise in modern technology.

But, Avaaz is functioning differently than the MEK at the height of its influence. Avaaz is concentrating on social media, and video postings on the internet, as well as their new role of helping “smuggle” journalists into battle zones in closed Syria via routes they have access to in neighboring countries [Lebanon, and possibly Turkey — the Israel government is surely aware of this, but keeping a judicious quiet].

The Avaaz website explains this under the heading, Breaking the Middle East Black-out:

    “Funded by donations from almost 30,000 Avaazers, an Avaaz team is working closely with the leadership of democracy movements in Syria, Yemen, Libya and more to get them high-tech phones and satellite internet modems, connect them to the world’s top media outlets, and provide communications advice. We’ve seen the power of this engagement — where our support to activists has created global media cycles with footage and eyewitness accounts that our team helps distribute to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others. The courage of these activists is unbelievable — a skype message read ‘state security searching the house, my laptop battery dying, if not online tomorrow I’m dead or arrested’. He’s ok, and together we’re helping to get his and many other voices out to the world”

But, in Syria, things are not ok.

[Due to the dire situation, presumably, there is no particular information about Syria, at the moment, on the Avaaz website… UPDATE Yet, Avaaz states, here, that it “has been working with activists on the Syrian Spring since it started, setting up a network of over 400 Citizen Journalists across the country, smuggling in medicines and international journalists to report on the unfolding story and campaigning to ensure that sanctions and political pressure are applied on the Assad regime. The organisation is entirely funded by small donations from its members”.

UPDATE: An article published on The Guardian website last July, here, reports that “Since 2009, Avaaz has not taken donations from foundations or corporations, nor has it accepted payments of more than $5,000. Instead, it relies simply on the generosity of individual members, who have now raised over $20m. Much of this money goes towards specific campaigns. This year, $1.5m was raised to supply cameras to citizen journalists throughout the Arab world; as a result, much of the footage currently coming out of Syria was filmed on equipment provided by Avaaz”. The BBC picked up and rewrote this today, reporting rather lazily, here, that “Avaaz says it is independent and accountable because since 2009 it has been wholly member-funded”.]

Why should journalists trust Avaaz with their lives, as Marie Colvin did?

And, why are French photographers and filmmakers working so closely with Avaaz? [Are French photographers just more passionate and curious about the world? Or, do they have some kind of official backing?…]

If Avaaz is behind the recent quantum leap in improvement in the filming and video streaming of protests throughout Syria — particularly the dancing protests highlighted in our previous post — they deserve a lot of credit for their skills.

By comparison, the MEK, before it was labelled by the US as “terrorist organization”, a label which they have been fighting, used to function less as “local fixers” who can boost a foreign correspondent’s impact and reach, and more as an effective pressure group which was in regular contact with members of Congress and other governments, as well as everyone’s editors — and if a journalist didn’t seem enthusiastic about publishing their news, they would threaten to go to one’s editors. They implied that they could promote journalists’ careers — or of having them black-listed, and fired … Like other powerful and effective lobbies, the MEK traded in influence, and was feared.

More to follow later…

Dancing protests organized, coordinated + videocast simultaneously in various Syrian cities

Something new as recently characterized the Syrian protests-turned-uprising/insurrection, as the Syrian Army’s repression continues and worsens, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims (a) that he doesn’t know about the violence afflicting his own civilian population and (b) that the military action he is ordering is against a plot by some kind of “Islamic terrorists”.

Assad, from the start [not long before his father’s death] has been a figurehead put forth by a faceless group of powerful people from the ancien regime — a group even broader than the nomenklatura of the Syrian Baath party, but almost certainly including powerful business interests whose only true ideology is making money. It was all the more shocking that this son was named to succeed his father to head a country ruled by a single party [the Syrian Baathists] whose origin and founding grew from an opposition to monarchies which are based on family succession.

Bachar’s appointment, without any particular political credentials, to succeed his father is the single strongest indication that he was and is just a convenient figurehead for a shadowy group of faceless people with powerful interests that are more financial than political, and who succeeded in enriching themselves in recent years at the expense of the Syrian people.

A mini tragedy within this much larger tragedy is that it will be the relatively clueless Bashar and his attractive wife [subject of a fawning feature in Vogue magazine in recent years] who will now be the one to take the fall for the violent suppression of the Syrian people, while Bashar [credibly, in view of the fact that he is a figurehead] says he believes the actions of the shadow regime he is heading are against “Islamist terrorists” and in the interest of his people. For, he could not be aware of the extent of his people’s suffering, over decades, and continue to remain in office, unless he believes he is somehow standing to save them… which is by now purely delusional.

Here are two videos that show the situation in Baba Amr/Homs — which are remarkable not only for their quality, but also because of this public dancing as part of demonstrations, which I have never seen in Palestine, or in even in Tahrir Square, but which seems to boost remarkably crowd energy and solidarity, and which are fascinating to watch on video. They are remarkably well-organized, and show the willingness of a large number of people to participate and willingly cooperate with instructions, in a very convincing display of popular will. They are remarkably effective.

The name of an organization [“global advocacy group”, says The Telegraph] called Ahvaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr. While the first time I heard the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services… The name turned up again from time to time, and then surprisingly last year, in support of the Tahrir Square protests… Now, Ahvaaz is the group that is coordinating journalists’ entry — apparently in coordination with the Free Syria Army — into a country that severely restricts journalists’ entry + movement, and even into Homs, a city that has been smashed by Syrian Army attacks in recent months, and even into the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, which has been targetted by the Syrian Army for the past three weeks, very intensively since last Sunday… This is interesting, and deserves a closer look

UPDATE: On Friday, Al-Jazeera Arabic began showing in the morning a new day of these exuberant and electrifying dancing protests, first livestreaming on the internet from Baba Amr, Homs and from Deir az-Zor, further to the east [Al-Jazeera went to a split screen to show the two similar protests simultaneously]. Then, Idlib was added, north of Homs. Then, Deraa was added, to the south of Syria. All the dancing protests were remarkably similar, and all were livestreamed in a coordinated manner. The dancing protests show people standing side by side in orderly straight lines with equal spacing between lines, then bowing all together from the waist and standing up, several times. Sometimes [as in the memorial to Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, below], the people also sway side-to-side. It looks like a Sufi ritual — and is almost certainly inspired by Sufi performances, which Syria is known for.

{1} The Horror in Homs, Channel 4 TV [Britain] – “The snipers, who have no fear of God, shot him”, a woman mourning her grandson says in this video – featuring footage shot by a French photographer and cameraman, Mani, “who has been to Homs several times, lived through and filmed the beginning of the assault, the effect s on the population, and the response of the Free Syrian Army to the massacre, on the first day, of over 140 people. While the world has become used to grainy shaky and gruesome footage and images from Homs fed through whatever internet connection is available, Mani’s crystal clear and incredible footage gives perhaps the clearest and most frightening account of what Homs has been like for the past three weeks”. This is posted here:

And, {2} A tribute, last night, to Marie Colvin, to the French photographer Remi Ochlik killed with her, and to a Syrian “citizen journalist” internet activist who was killed the day before, is posted here and also on the NYTimes website here.

Targetted killing of journalists Bab Amr possible [even probable] through their own Satellite phones – UPDATED

Marie Colvin said in November 2010:
“War reporting has changed greatly in just the last few years. Now we go to war with a satellite phone, laptop, video camera and a flak jacket. I point my satellite phone to south southwest in Afghanistan, press a button and I have filed”.

When she made that remark, she was speaking at St. Bride’s Church in London in November 2010, at a memorial service for journalists who have died in the line of duty. She said that, earlier: “I first went to war with a typewriter, and learned to tap out a telex tape. It could take days to get from the front to a telephone or telex machine”. The full text of Marie Colvin’s speech was eepublished the day of her death in The Guardian, here.

What she did not think of, and may not have known, at the time she spoke those words, was that when she used her satellite phone to file her material a year and a half later, from beseiged Baba Arm in the Syrian city of Homs, her coordinates were captured and used for targetting by military artillery.

The use of her satellite phone may have killed her. Electronics experts say [see below] that if journalists must use their satellite phones in battlefield conditions, they should keep a distance from the phone: “If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass”.

In the few minutes after the news broke — in the morning, February 22nd — of the killing by shelling of Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik in Baba Amr, Homs [and the wounding of at least three other journalists working in the same “Media Center”] the horrible possibility dawned that they had been tracked and targetted after using their satellite phones and other equipment to upload their news reports and photos.

Satellite phones and computers are apparently not allowed into Syria.

Neither, for the most part, are journalists.

But Marie Colvin and her colleagues managed to get in from Lebanon with the help of smugglers working with the Free Syria Army [FSA] which is trapped, with some 28,000 Syrian civilians, in the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, where they have been subjected to sharply increased shelling, this week, by the Syrian Army which claims to be fighting “Islamic terrorists”…

Syrian Army snipers are said to be stationed at the perimeter of the Baba Amr area, and shoot all those trying to leave, or enter. [But, the smuggler’s apparently have one route that is being used…]

The Syrian Army might not have the latest technical capability to track Satphone signals and “triangulate” targetteting based on this … But again, they might. Or, they might have friends and allies and mercenaries who are skilled in this, and who would also have the latest technology with which to do it…

The Telegraph [London] reported here that Colvin, Ochlik and their colleagues were “fired on as they tried to flee a makeshift press centre that had suffered a direct hit from a shell. Witnesses said they were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade as they emerged from the ruins of the press centre, which was next door to a hospital. Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, said they had been ‘pursued as they tried to flee the bombardment’ … Reporters working in Homs, which has been under siege since Feb 4, had become concerned in recent days that Syrian forces had ‘locked on’ to their satellite phone signals and attacked the buildings from which they were coming”.

The Globe and Mail of Canada wrote that: “The press centre was apparently the only place in the city with a ‘live feed’ for broadcasters and satellite phones emitting a near-constant signal. Syrian government forces could triangulate the location of the satellite transmission. Intelligence agencies around the world track phone and satellite signals to target enemies. Syrian activists said they took specific measures to avoid being detected when using satellite phones, such as limiting the duration of their calls, and changing locations”. This is published here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote, here that “There are a few different ways by which satellite phones can be tracked. The first—and easiest for a government actor—would be to simply ask or pressure a company to hand over user data … Satellite phones can also be tracked by technical means and there is ample technology already on the market for doing so … Authorities can find the position of a satellite phone using manual triangulation, but in order to track a phone in this manner, the individual would need to be relatively close by. Nowadays, however, most satellite phones utilize GPS, making them even easier to track using products widely available on the market such as those mentioned above. Some of these products allow not only for GPS tracking, but also for interception of voice and text communications and other information … Colvin has put a human face on a problem that has plagued citizens of the Middle East for years now: surveillance equipment being used by despotic governments to track down journalists and activists, like provided to them by Western technology companies. Now it’s possible this equipment directly led the murder of an American journalist”.

David Burgess wrote on his blog, The OpenBTS Chronicles, here, that the danger for a journalist to use a satellite phone in a combat zone is “about the fact that you are transmitting a distinctive radio signal”:
“Regardless of encryption, authentication, etc., the mere existence of one of these radio signals sends a message to an observing military force: There’s someone over there with fancy comms and it’s not us. That can be a very dangerous message”.

The SaferMobiles website subsequently published an article entitled: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid of Satellite phones in Insecure Locations”, posted here which advises that:
“Nothing will prevent location discovery with a satellite phone, other than not using the device”, and “IF you must use one, keep your conversations as short as possible. Keep in mind that keeping a conversation short is only relevant if you change your location immediately following a call”.

Here is an international Twitter exchange between technically-proficient tweeters who say not only is it possible — they also warn, it is probable. “Keep a distance before using a Satphone”, one warns MSFnce-Fra [Medecins Sans Frontiers-France]. He also tweeted that extreme precision in targetting is not needed: “just a 100 meters precision is enough to wipe the place”.

Another person in the exchange warned: “If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass”.

He added: “No matter what – unless you *know* otherwise, your Satellite phone almost certainly discloses your exact GPS location in an insecure manner”.

And, he recommended [without any evident commercial motive] using this product, a GSMK Cryptophone, with the link he provided here.

****************************

Here are some excerpts from this interesting exchange on Twitter [the top ones are the more recent]:

David Burgess ? @dburgess00
@Katrinskaya @safermobile @jilliancyork my $0.02: openbts.blogspot.com/2012/02/some-c…
[ http://openbts.blogspot.com/2012/02/some-comments-on-satellite-phones.html ]

Elasti Girl ? @Katrinskaya
Were journos in #Syria targeted by their sat phones? @safermobile explains how that’s possible: bit.ly/xQumFh cc @jilliancyork
[ https://safermobile.org/be-afraid-be-very-afraid-of-satellite-phones-in-insecure-locations/]

Jillian C. York ? @jilliancyork
Satphones, Syria, and Surveillance by @jilliancyork and @WLLegal for @EFF – goo.gl/oxbT9 (+1 to @ioerror)

Okhin @okhin
@MSF_france dites à vos agents de se mettre à l’écart avant d’utiliser un téléphone sat. Ils sont utilisés pour guider l’artillerie. [= “Tell your people/staff to stay a distance away before using a satellite phone. They are used to guide artillery” ]

Okhin @okhin
@asteris not sure there’s a need for tech help. I think it’s basic military transmission tactics to triangulate a signal.

Okhin @okhin
@asteris @Katrinskaya @csoghoian I think Assad does not need extreme precision, just a 100 meters precision is enough to wipe the place

Asteris Masouras @asteris
@okhin triangulating broadcasts is one thing, locking on to a specific signal & directing precision fire to it another

Okhin @okhin
@asteris arstechnica.com/business/news/… for the eavesdroppping part at least. I guess triangulating a satphone does not require to crack it.
2:27 PM – 23 Feb 12 via web • Details

Asteris Masouras @asteris
We need a serious investigation in the satphone targeting issue, at any rate, along w full registry of companies producing such tech #Homs

David Burgess @dburgess00
@Katrinskaya @ioerror Thuraya absolutely knows your location. Do you trust Thuraya’s employee screening procedures with your life?

Aaron Huslage @huslage
@ioerror they can still be sniffed over the air. How does Tor help with deniability in the case of a point-to-point link?

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for *data* in Syria or elsewhere – use Tor! Your communications are trivial to intercept.

Elasti Girl @Katrinskaya
@ioerror Privacy IS vital security often and in many places. Never understood the weird way in which we separate privacy and security.
Retweeted by Jacob Appelbaum

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
@matt_mcc @huslage Of course not. Different threats. If you have to get the signal out – do so safely and move your ass.

Matt McClellan @matt_mcc
@ioerror @huslage don’t need content for targeting
from Ellicott City, MD

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
No matter what – unless you *know* otherwise, your Satellite phone almost certainly discloses your exact GPS location in an insecure manner.

hi @BannedFromOz
@Voulnet supposedly the user would have to purposely lower the security settings thru a series of steps in order for an attack to happen.

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for voice calls – stop unless you’re using cryptophone: cryptophone.de/en/products/sa… = GSMK Cryptophone [http://www.cryptophone.de/en/products/satellite/cp-t3/]. The information on the product page linked says: “The CryptoPhone T3 Thuraya satellite option is the perfect solution for secure communications in areas without GSM coverage or if you do not wish to depend on local network infrastructure”.

Jacob Appelbaum @ioerror
If you are using a Satellite phone for *data* in Syria or elsewhere – use Tor! Your communications are trivial to intercept.

Christopher Soghoian @csoghoian
I wonder which surveillance vendor sold Syrian gov the gear it used to “lock-in” to sat phones of murdered journalists. telegraph.co.uk/news/9099325/M… Retweeted by Jacob Appelbaum
[ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9099325/Marie-Colvin-Syria-regime-accused-of-murder-in-besieged-Homs.html ]

***************************

This last tweet links to an updated article published here by the British daily paper, The Telegraph, which mentions the possibility that tracking of Satellite/Satphone/Satellite computer signals may indeed have been used to deliberately target the journalists working in the FSA “Media Center” yesterday, which we cited in our previous post, yesterday.

The Telegraph also reported that “Hours before she died, Colvin had given interviews to several broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 and CNN in which she described the bloodshed as ‘absolutely sickening’. She also accused Mr Assad’s forces of ‘murder’ and said it was ‘a complete and utter lie that they are only
targeting terrorists…the Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians’. Sources in Damascus confirmed that Syrians, including Mr Assad, would have been able to watch Colvin’s broadcasts – a fact that could have sealed her fate”…

Marie Colvin: "Our Mission is to Speak the Truth"

Described with rough affection on Twitter this morning as one of “the most badass journalists of all time”, veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin, an American working for the Sunday Times, died in war this morning —
in a shelling on a “Media Center” or “safe house” in the Baba Amr district of Homs, where some 28,000 civilians are reportedly trapped while a sustained Syrian Army offensive against “rebels” has continued “without mercy”, as she said, for days.

Intensive shelling started some two weeks ago.  The Syrian Army is reportedly using large mortars on the civilians trapped with fighters from the Free Syria Army [said to be composed of Syrian military defectors].
Marie reported that Syrian Army snipers are posted all around the perimeter of the area now being shelled, so it is very difficult and dangerous to go in or out. Supplies of all kinds are dwindling in the siege.

Yesterday, Marie said in a Q+A aired on BBC: “I watched a baby die”.

Killed with Marie was 28-year-old French photographer Remi Ochlik, whose work is posted on his website here, and where he wrote about himself: “In 2011, Remi photographed the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions and the uprising and war in Libya”. Ochlik stayed behind in Homs when a staff photographer for a French publication was pulled out because of the dangerous conditions.

Yesterday, Syrian blogger/journalist Rami al-Sayed [“Syria Pioneer”] was killed in Baba Amr while working to report the fighting on the internet. “He was one of the first activists who risked their lives and braved sniper bullets to film the protests in Homs. Rami also set up a channel to live stream the anti-regime demonstrations and the army’s assaults on the city. Rami never admitted he was the one behind the channel but whenever his colleagues told me he was ‘out’ or ‘busy’, I was sure to find a live feed on his channel”, according to a post published here, which was picked up by the NYTimes blog, TheLede.

In all, as of today, some 13 journalists have lost their lives in the fighting in Syria.
Marie and Remi were killed today, and at least three other journalists were wounded in the same attack this morning, just after they had uploaded video and photos, and filed stories — leading to the growing suspicion that sophisticated electronic methods had been used to track and target the journalists.

The Telegraph reported in an updated article bylined by Gordon Rayner, Nabila Ramdani and Richard Spencer
that a group of journalists “were fired on as they tried to flee a makeshift press centre that had suffered a direct hit from a shell. Witnesses said they were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade as they emerged from the ruins of the press centre, which was next door to a hospital. Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, said they had been ‘pursued as they tried to flee the bombardment’ … Before the building was attacked, Syrian army officers were allegedly intercepted by intelligence staff in neighbouring Lebanon discussing how they would claim journalists had been killed in crossfire with ‘terrorist groups’ … Hours before she died, Colvin had given interviews to several broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 and CNN in which she described the bloodshed as ‘absolutely sickening’. She also accused Mr Assad’s forces of ‘murder’ and said it was ‘a complete and utter lie that they are only targeting terrorists…the Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians’. Sources in Damascus confirmed that Syrians, including Mr Assad, would have been able to watch Colvin’s broadcasts – a fact that could have sealed her fate. Jean-Pierre Perrin, a journalist for the Paris-based Liberation newspaper who was with Colvin in Homs last week, said they had been told the Syrian Army was deliberately going to shell their media centre, which had a limited electricity supply and internet access thanks to a generator. Mr Perrin said: ‘A few days ago we were advised to leave the city urgently and we were told “if they [the Syrian army] find you they will kill you”. I then left the city with [Colvin] but she wanted to go back when she saw that the major offensive had not yet taken place’.” This account is published here.

Earlier, makeshift clinics and medical personnel were reportedly targetted in Baba Amr.

Continue reading “Marie Colvin: "Our Mission is to Speak the Truth"”

Khader Adnan ends hunger strike after 66 days in deal with State of Israel

Relief. Khader Adnan agreed to end his hunger strike after 66th days, in a deal with the State of Israel that was finalized just an hour before a hearing in Israel’s Supreme Court.

Confusion surrounded the moment, when the Supreme Court hearing was cancelled. Rumors that Khader Adnan would be immediately freed, and counter rumors that he was staying in Administrative Detention…Rumors that Khader Adnan had agreed to end his hunger strike, and counter rumors that there was no confirmation at all, and that no one was being allowed to see him [he is still in Ziv Hosptal in Safed].

Then, the Israeli Ministry of Justice issued a statement:

    Following is a translation of a request submitted by the State Attorney and the attorney of the appellant (Khader Adnan) to the Supreme Court:

    “1. This petition regards the appellant’s request for an order to revoke the administrative detention order that was issued against him, and is in force until 8.5.12.

    2. The State would like to announce – after the issue had been brought before the Attorney General – that it agrees to offset the days in which the appellant was detained for the purpose of a criminal investigation prior to his administrative detention from the period of the current administrative detention order, and also announces that as long as no new significant and substantive material is added regarding the appellant, there is no intention to extend the administrative detention.

    Therefore, as long as no new significant and substantive material is added regarding the appellant, his administrative detention will end on 17.4.12.

    3. In light of State’s foregoing announcement, the appellant states – via his attorney – that he is halting his hunger strike effective immediately.

    4. In light of the foregoing, the State and the appellant ask that the honorable Court order that the petition be dismissed without an order regarding costs, and that the discussion scheduled for today (Tuesday), 21.2.12, be cancelled.”

He was arrested in his home in ‘Arraba village near Jenin before dawn on 17 December. On 8 February, an Israeli military court issued a decision ordering him to serve four months’ in Administrative Detention, and this term was due to end on 8 May — but it is, of course, renewable.

And, it is this fact that caused the most caution in the immediate reaction. Addameer [the “prisoner support + human rights organization” in Ramallah] cautioned that the Israeli formulation of the deal contained a loophole:

    “if new ‘secret material’, upon which administrative detention is based, presents itself during the next two months, there would still be grounds for the renewal of his administrative detention order. This caveat is consistent with similar deals made in the past, in which Israeli officials leave the door open for re-arrests”.

With the deductions calculated according to the terms of the deal explained in the statement by Israel’s Ministry of Justice, above, Khader Adnan is now scheduled for release on 17 April [instead of 8 May].

He will probably spend most of the time in the hospital, recuperating from his 66-day hunger strike. His life is, actually, still at risk from the strain on his entire system. He will almost certainly not be reintroduced to solid foods for quite a while, as that could cause a catastrophic overload on his body, and will be on liquid “shakes” with all kinds of nutritional supplements, starting off very simply.

Continue reading “Khader Adnan ends hunger strike after 66 days in deal with State of Israel”

Supreme Court hearing on Day 66 of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention

Today is Day 66 of Khader Adnan’s continuous hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention, and Israel’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear his petition against it.

According to a report by Isabelle Kersh for the New York Times, published here, Adnan’s lawyer Attorney Jawad Bulous says “We are asking for him to be released on grounds that they have nothing against him”.

Administrative Detention orders are handed down by the Israeli military justice system in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, against Palestinians who are then transferred to Israeli jails inside Israel proper for terms which are handed down for periods of up to six months, renewable.

Transferring Palestinians out of the occupied territory into Israel is considered a violation of international law, but Israel feels justified in doing this because it does not consider the West Bank occupied. [However, neither has Israel ever annexed most of the West Bank either. Israel did, however, extend it’s administration to East Jerusalem and about 65 square kilometers around it, after it’s military conquest in late June 1967, and unilaterally created a new area which Israel calls the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality”.]

The Israeli Supreme Court has authorized the transfer of Palestinian prisoners out of the West Bank into Israel proper.

This afternoon, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear Khader Adnan’s appeal against Administrative Detention — in which no evidence is presented to the accused or his/her lawyers, so no defense is possible.

Only the generic charge of “being a threat to the peace and security of the region” is made public.

Whatever evidence there may be, and such as it is, often obtained through interrogation measures that amount to torture, is communicated privately in a closed meeting between the Israeli Secret Services, known as GSS or Shabak, and the Israeli military court judge.

There are now some 310 Palestinian Administrative Detainees sitting in Israeli jails — up from about 200 a year ago. Many of these are somehow linked or affiliated with Islamist Palestinian organizations that are opposed to the current Palestinian leadership and even to the Palestinian Authority that was created by agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] under the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s.

The NYTimes article on the case quotes Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as saying that some 11,000 Palestinians were under administrative detention during the First Intifada in the late 1980s.

According to the NYTimes, “Mr. Jabarin himself has spent a total of seven years in administrative detention, including a two-year stint in the late 1990s. ‘In Arabic, we have a term for it’, said Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. ‘It is like reburying a corpse again and again’.”

Administrative Detention is, in a way, a kind of death — or a kind of miserable suspended life.

Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, which has now entered its most critical phase, dramatizes this situation on the world stage now.

Day 65 of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention

Day 65… and there is no alarming news on Twitter. Khader Adnan is alive, on the 65th day of his hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention.

Israel’s Supreme Court has scheduled an open public hearing on Thursday, three days from now, to consider Khader Adnan’s petition against a military court’s sentence of Administrative Detention, in which no evidence is presented to the accused or to his/her lawyers, so no defense is possible.

UPDATE: The Israeli Supreme Court moved up the hearing, this afternoon — it will now be held tomorrow, Tuesday.

The only charge ever made public against all those [they are, of course, Palestinian] who are sentenced in Israeli military courts in the West Bank to terms [renewable, of course] of Administrative Detention is the vague and generic boilerplate: “being a threat to peace + security in the region”.

And, as Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz wrote today, here. in the +972 internet magazine: the hearing will be on Thursday, and “there is no guarantee that the justices will bother to make their decision then”, before the Israeli weekend which is Friday + Saturday.

However, with all the media attention the critical situation is now getting, there is a chance a decision will come late Thursday night or even early Friday..

The question [beside Khader Adnan’s survival] is: what will the Supreme Court’s decision be?

Gurvitz wrote bitterly in his +972 piece that “Adnan’s detention serves no practical purpose. He is not interrogated as he lies chained in a hospital. Even were the security apparatus to discharge him now, he would not be a danger to anyone anytime soon. He has already suffered severe damage. There is no reason to keep him detained, but one: his release will embarrass the apparatus. It will testify that there was no cogent reason to hold him in the first place. It will put the entire system of administrative detention in question. So what we basically see is a pissing contest between a dark apparatus, the strongest in Israel and quite likely in the entire Middle East, and a sick, dying man, under guard, chained to his bed, with nothing but his faith to drive him on. The HCJ was supposed to be a bulwark of this man, to stand between him and the apparatus, and defend him. That, after all, is the legend they keep telling us about the HCJ: that it is comprised of wise, all-knowing judges, standing undaunted in defense of human rights against the government. The court made excellent use of this legend, and used it in the political struggles of the 1990s and 2000s. Some Israelis actually received aid from him. But it never defended the Palestinian. Every Palestinian had the right to appeal to the HCJ against the demolition of his house; the court has never prevented any. Not a single one. The court approved one administrative detention after another, even though this basically took us to pre-Magna Carta law. Even when the apparatus decided to exile 400 people suspected of being Hamas members to Lebanon, the HCJ approved the decision…”

Khader Adnan’s wife, Randa, told a small group of Palestinian journalists: “I know the difficult time is yet to come … His medical situation will deteriorate. It is hard to recover after this point. The doctors have told me that he could have a heart attack at any moment”. These words are reported by Omar Rahman on the Al-Jazeera website, here.

The same article also reports that “Khader Adnan had been arrested five times before he was married to Randa and three times since, largely for his political affiliation with the militant faction, Islamic Jihad [n.b. though he was not apparently charged with this, and his lawyer denies it ] … Before they married in 2005, Khader Adnan sat Randa down and explained to her the perilous future that would lie ahead if she married him. ‘He told me that his life was not normal, that he might be around for 15 days and then be gone again for a long time. But I always dreamt of marrying someone strong, someone who struggles in defence of his country … When I married him I knew I should expect anything. I am proud of him whether he is under the ground or above it’. Since his hunger strike began [n.b. – really, only since Khader Adnan’s situation became critical about ten days ago or so] Randa has become the reluctant spokesperson of his cause, fielding telephone calls and interviews all day long. ‘It is twenty-four hours … I have a duty to respond to the media because this is how we can support him. In the past he was in the media and I was always standing behind him. Now I am the spokesperson, which is very difficult for me. I don’t have these kinds of skills’.”

Randa told Nida Tuma, for an article published in the Jerusalem Post here: “He is fading away and his eyes are sunken,” she said with a smile of her husband’s eyes. “They are beautiful, bluish-green in color and should be seen.”

Tuma also reported that “Adnan was an on and off student at Bir Zeit University [n.b. – reportedly as a graduate student in economics] where he gave free Hebrew lessons to other students”.

Tuma’s JPost also cited the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoners Affairs as saying that the longest previous hunger strike in Israel was in the 1970s, and also involved Palestinian security prisoners [almost all Palestinian prisoners in Israel are classified as security prisoners], but it was not in one continuous stretch of time: “The strikers fasted for 45 days, stopped for a couple of weeks, and then continued again for 20 days”.

Gideon Levy earlier wrote in Haaretz that Khader Adnan was on his way to “set a new Israeli record for the country’s longest hunger strike, longer than that of peace activist Abie Nathan (45 days ), and of a group of security prisoners who went 65 days without eating in 1970. a group of security prisoners who went 65 days without eating in 1970”.
.
Today, Khader Adnan matches the record — and betters it, by doing the longest continuous hunger strike in Israeli or Palestinian history.

Tomorrow, he breaks the record…

Day 64 of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention

Today is Day 64…And it is Sunday, so Israel’s Supreme Court is back at work and may be able to schedule a hearing on the appeal they accepted from Khader Adnan against his Administrative Detention.

UPDATE:  The Israeli Supreme Court has reportedly just scheduled its hearing of Khader Adnan’s appeal on Thursday 23 February — four days from now, which would be Day 68 of his hunger strike.

    The big question now is: Will Khader Adnan stop, or modify, his hunger strike, now that this hearing in open court is scheduled?

UPDATE TWO: Three Palestinian human rights organizations — the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR] in Gaza, Addameer, and Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights — have issued an urgent call for action on behalf of Khader Adnan, and expressed concern for his life, which, they wrote, “is in immediate danger as he has been on a hunger strike for the past 64 days”.  Their call urges people “to make direct contact with the responsible Israeli officials and authorities, demanding the immediate release of Khader Adnan, in a critical attempt to save his life”.

    Frankly, it is hard to follow the logic: the Palestinian position seems to be that Adnan should be released because he is in a critical condition and on the verge of death.  Why, exactly? I’m not sure that this is what Adnan himself wants, or is asking for.

    If I understand correctly, Adnan objects to the abuse of his person and of his rights.  He is not without experience in these things, unfortunately.

    He was not living underground, in hiding, and he has not been accused of making bombs or buying weapons or of shooting anyone or of planning an act of violence.

    He has, clearly, led a politically active life — a life that he might not have chosen had he lived in other places, at other times, and not under an oppressive military occupation.

    He has been described as a political organizer — and of functioning in one way or another that could be considered, and could be argued, as an exercise in freedom of opinion and association and other basic democratic values.

    And, from everything Khader Adnan has said, what he wants is to have the right to know why he has been detained, and he wants to know the full charges against him and what evidence they may be based upon, and he wants to be able to defend himself.

    In a letter he gave to his lawyer for distribution a few weeks ago, Khader Adnan wrote: “I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on. It is time the international community and the UN support prisoners and force the State of Israel to respect international human rights and stop treating prisoners as if they were not humans”.

He himself has never been reported as having indicated he is on hunger strike in order to gain his release out of pity for the poor condition of his health as a result of his extended fast…

He was on hunger strike not to die, or to scare or intimidate anyone that he might die, but instead to assert that he — and others in his position — do have rights, and human rights, and to show clearly the seriousness of his stand.

The statement sent out by PCHR says that Khader Adnan has “the law” [which law is unspecified] on his side.

He would probably agree.

And I am guessing from everything written about him, Khader Adnan would probably want to be cleared on that basis, and not simply because his body has been critically weakened.

But, tell me that Khader Adnan should be free, and freed, because he’s a political prisoner who never committed a crime [other than holding an unpopular political view] and I would agree.

As the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights wrote, in a second email sent around today, “administrative detention is illegal and falls under the category of political arrests, constituting a violation of the detainee’s right to a fair trial, including his right to receive an adequate defense and to be informed of the charges against him”.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, published here, Randa, the wife of Khader Adnan, reportedly “said her husband is keeping silent on what would make him end his strike, ‘and I read it in his eyes, it will be an honorable deal’…”

Continue reading “Day 64 of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention”

Day 63 of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against Israeli Administrative Detention

Day 63… of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against another sentence of Administrative Detention handed down by the Israeli military system in the West Bank.

The Ofer military court in the West Bank has rejected his appeal heard at his hospital bedside [and said that Adnan was solely responsible for the damage to his health], but Israeli Supreme Court has now agreed to hear his petition — though no date has been set, yet, for a hearing. Today, there is the silence of the Jewish Shabbat.

Khader Adnan is still shackled to a bed in Ziv Hospital in Safed, in the Galilee, which became part of Israel during its War of Independence in 1948, wearing the same underclothes he was wearing when seized.

He was arrested in his home in a village outside Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, before dawn on 17 December, in front of his terrified parents and two small daughters, and his then-three months’ [now five months’] pregnant wife, Randa.

The family has tried to persuade Adnan to break his long fast in order to save his life, but he has gently rebuked them for not supporting him.

Ad-Dameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, based in Ramallah, says here that Adnan “previously spent a total of six years in Israeli prison, mainly under administrative detention. In 2005, he launched a hunger strike that lasted for 12 days in protest of being held in isolation in Kfar Yuna”.

It seems that enough was finally enough, for Adnan.

There are now over 300 Palestinians being held in Administrative Detention — in which evidence is kept secret from both the accused and his lawyers, making a defense and a fair trial impossible. This is 100 more than a year ago — an increase of 1/3.

UPDATE: The spokesperson for the European Union [EU]’s High Representative Cathrine Ashton issued a second statement in a week about Adnan’s hunger strike, elevating her feelings from “concern” to “great concern”:

    “The High Representative is following with great concern reports about the deteriorating health condition of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian held in administrative detention in Israel and who has been on hunger strike since mid-December. The High Representative requests the Government of Israel to do all it can to preserve the health of Mr. Adnan in its continuing handling of this case. The High Representative reiterates the EU’s longstanding concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention without formal charge. Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention and be subject to a fair trial”.  [Thanks to @jondonnison of the BBC and @OguzArikboga, policy adviser at the European Parliament, for the tip, email, and link to EU statement on website, here.]

New elections have been postponed by executive decrees issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who currently continues to function as President of the Palestinian Authority, a post to which he was elected in January 2005 for a four-year term, in special elections held just two months after the death of Yasser Arafat. Abbas is also the head of Fatah, the largest Palestinian political movement, by acclamation [at the sixth Fatah General Conference held after an 18-year delay in Bethlehem in August 2009]. And, Abbas is the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and as such nominal President of the State of Palestine declared in November 1988. In that capacity, Abbas made the “UN Bid” at UNHQ/NY on 23 September 2011, asking for full membership in the UN of the State of Palestine. Israel has strongly objected to this move for being “unilateral” and thus a violation of the Oslo Accords, and the U.S. has said they would use the veto power to block any Security Council approval of full Palestinian membership, which Israel says must be dealt with through bilateral negotiations.

It is striking that Mahmoud Abbas has not said much about Administrative Detainees [there was a passing phrase during comments to the media after the visit of UNSG BAN Ki-Moon at the beginning of the month].

But, Abbas made one call last week on the world to help free Khader Adnan, this one Administrative Detainee who has persisted in what is now the longest Palestinian hunger strike in history. Abbas simply asked that Khader Adnan be freed in order to save his live — but failed to call for the complete end to the practice of Administrative Detention which is a recognized human rights violation and an instrument of oppression under the continuing Israeli occupation.

Gideon Levy wrote, in one of his Twilight Zone columns, published in Haaretz yesterday here that Adnan was arrested for the seventh time 17 December: “The first time was in 1999, when he was held for half a year without trial. After that, he spent eight months in detention in 2000; he was arrested again in 2002-2003; detained in 2004; detained for 18 months in 2005-2006 and six months in 2008. In 2010, the Palestinian Authority arrested him for 12 days. Then, too, he went on a hunger strike, for the first time in his life”. [n.b. – This is contradicted by the Ad-Dameer report, above, which notes a 12-day hunger strike in 2005 against being held in isolation…]

Levy also wrote that Randa Adnan told him, after visiting her husband in the hospital in Safed this week, that “Before she said good-bye she heard him whisper: ‘These are my last days. I will never forgive those who did not stand by me’. He was referring to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli people, she says”.

Levy noted that “Next week Adnan, an Islamic Jihad activist from Arabeh, will set a new Israeli record for the country’s longest hunger strike, longer than that of peace activist Abie Nathan (45 days), and of a group of security prisoners who went 65 days without eating in 1970”.

A senior medical officer at Ziv hospital said on Thursday that Adnan’s condition was stable.

But, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has warned that the damage to Adnan’s body may be permanent at this stage, even if he survives the coming days…

Here is a photo of Adnan’s father, wife + daughters emerging from their second visit to Adnan in Ziv Hospital on Wednesday, taken by ActiveStills, and posted on Electronic Intifada’s website, here
Father + family of Khader Adnan in Safed on 15 Feb - ActiveStills on EI