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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Paying the price in Baghdad

James Bays in Baghdad

Despite talk of progress in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the top US commander in the country, residents say innocent civilians are still being killed by US troops. Amar Kadim weeps as he recalls the day he lost his family.

His father, his mother and his sister - herself a mother of four young children - were killed, he says, by US marines.

When they came to this street, the Americans may have been looking for those they call "insurgents" and "terrorists".

Frequent raids

But by the time they had left, an elderly couple and a 30-year-old woman were dead.

"When I turned to my mother, she asked me: 'Where is your father?' I told her he is dead," Amar told Al Jazeera.

"She screamed and ran to the front gate [because] his body was just one metre in front of the gate. When my mother got there the American soldiers opened fire again [and] she was shot dead."

The family live in Sadr City, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Baghdad.

For the last four years, the Americans have mounted frequent raids here looking for armed fighters - supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr.

'Enemy forces'

It is easy to see on the streets of the neighbourhood what is left behind after one of those raids - lines of cars mown down by American armour.

"Seeking compensation is useless," one man tells Al Jazeera.

"The US troops are enemy forces [and] there's no way they will offer compensation when they come to hurt people.

"They have no respect for humanity, the civilian population, Islam or Muslims."

Al Jazeera has spoken to other people who, like the Khadim family, have claimed that innocent relatives have been killed by Americans raids.

However, they were too scared to appear on camera.

But more than two months after their relatives were killed and despite approaching the US military, the Kadim family have still received no apology and no compensation for their loss.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

UN warns Israel [ After getting US support ...]

The UN has urged Israel to reconsider its decision to declare the Gaza Strip as an "enemy entity", warning that cutting vital services would violate international law.

The Israeli move to cut off the power, water and fuel supplies on which Gaza is almost entirely dependent was backed by the United States on Wednesday.

The Israeli prime minister's office said Ehud Olmert's security cabinet had approved the "enemy entity" classification and there would be "limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity".

The move is seen as retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said Wednesday's declaration intended to interrupt essential services could exacerbate the Palestinians' difficult conditions.

"Such a step would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law," he said on Wednesday.

Ban said 1.4 million people in Gaza, including the old, the very young and the sick were already suffering and "should not be punished for the unacceptable actions of militants and extremists".

At the same time he said continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was unacceptable, calling "for it to stop immediately".

"I understand Israel's security concerns over this matter,'' he added.

US backing

Rice assured "innocent Palestinians in Gaza"
the US would not abandon them [AFP]

Israel's move on Gaza was backed by the US on Wednesday, with Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, saying the Hamas was "a hostile entity to the US as well".

Speaking in a joint press conference with Livni in occupied Jerusalem, she said the US, however, would not "abandon the innocent Palestinians".

"We will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in Gaza and indeed will make every effort to deal with their humanitarian needs," she said.

Rice is on a visit to the Middle East in preparation for a US-led peace conference between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Israelis and Palestinians, however, have very different expectations of the talks.

Israeli leaders are seeking a softer joint declaration rather than a binding deal while the Palestinians are pushing for a firmer "framework agreement" on core issues of borders, the status of Jerusalem and refugees.

'Declaration of war'

Tensions have been on the rise in the area since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June. Hamas responded to the Israeli government's announcement saying the move amounted to a "declaration of war".

Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, said the Israeli cabinet "made this decision according to our legal advisers, so it is according to international law".

But Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator and spokesman for the West Bank-based government, told Al Jazeera the Israeli move was "illegal and null and void".

"I believe Gaza and West Bank are still under Israeli occupation. Under no circumstances can Israel view it as an 'enemy entity'. Gaza is not an independent state, Gaza is under occupation," he said.

Erekat said Israel was in "total violation of international law" and described the move as "a collective punishment and a preparation for further military escalation against the 1.5 million people of Gaza".

"At the end of the day, it will not end the cycle of violence but complicate matters and breed more violence," he added.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dozens die in tourist jet crash

Death toll rises to 88.

The aircraft crashed just off the runway
at Phuket airport [EPA]

A passenger jet that crashed on landing at the airport in Phuket, Thailand, has killed 88 people and left 42 others wounded.

Vorapot Rajsima, the deputy governor of Phuket, said that 130 passengers and crew had been on Sunday's flight from Bangkok, and not 128 as originally reported.

A hospital official said at least five of the survivors were seriously hurt.
Aljazeera's Owen Fay said those wounded in the crash are now being treated at a number of the island's hospitals.

At the crash site, efforts are now under way to identify everyone onboard. The cause of the crash has not yet been identified, Fay reported.

The aircraft was an MD-82, operated by budget airline One-Two-Go, and was carrying foreign holidaymakers, many of them Europeans, to the island.
The aircraft attempted to land during heavy rain, but broke into two and burst into flames on the runway.
Thai television broadcast images of its crumpled fuselage.

Foreign casualties
Hospital officials said eight Britons, eight Thais, five Germans and two Australians were among the survivors.
The MD-82 aircraft was flying to
Phuket from the capital, Bangkok
Chiasak Angkauwan, a civil aviation official, told Thai television: "The first part of the plane is dug into the ground. The tail section is stuck on the runway.
"The airplane asked to land, but due to the weather in Phuket - strong wind and heavy rain - maybe the pilot did not see the runway clearly."
Lieutenant-Major Sokchai Limcharoen, a police chief in the Phuket area, said the aircraft crashed at 3:35pm (0835 GMT).
"The plane was landing and slid off the runway. We are rescuing people and carrying injured people to hospitals," he said.


Relatives gathered at the airport waiting for news.

Nong Khaonual, a Thai who survived the crash with his wife, said he believed the aircraft had descended too quickly.

"The airplane was landing in heavy rain. It landed too fast. I have never seen anything like this. It descended very fast," he told Nation Television in hospital.

"Just before we touched the runway we felt the plane try to lift up, and it skidded off the runway.

"My wife was half conscious and I dragged her out of the emergency exit. There was a man behind us and he was on fire."

Another survivor, an Irishman named John, described the attempts to land in atrocious conditions.

"You could tell there was a problem. The plane was flying around trying to land. It was making some noises and it was bad rain," John, who was travelling with a friend who also survived, told Thailand's ITV television channel.

"The plane was on fire, but I managed to get through."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

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