Meditation Focus #119
Reaffirming the Sacredness of Human Life
What follows is the 119th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, November 7, 2004.
REAFFIRMING THE SACREDNESS OF HUMAN LIFE
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
PART I - The imminent assault against Falluja
PART II - Possible renewed impetus for peace with the decline of President Yasser Arafat
PART III - Renewed fighting and violence in Ivory Coast
PART IV - Some of the other armed conflicts around the world
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN PASSING THIS ON TO OTHERS
As the world is about to face another major military offensive against Iraqi insurgents in Falluja surrounded by over 10,000 US marines and following two weeks of nightly bombardments that have terrorized the remaining civilian population in this large city and inevitably killed and maimed an untold number of people, further adding to the estimated 100,000 civilian deaths since US and British troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, another lesser conflict in Ivory Coast has flared again a couple days ago, and much uncertainty prevail as to the future of the long anticipated creation of a Palestinian state following the recent health crisis of President Yasser Arafat whose life appears to be hanging by a thread, thus prompting a flurry of preparations for the funeral ceremonies and burial of this revered leader of the emerging Palestinian nation amidst continuing violence since the second Intifada began over 4 years ago. Those three instances of ongoing armed conflicts are just some of the most notorious examples of violence used as a means to resolve often seemingly intractable conflicts opposing human beings, a situation that has been going on for centuries on Earth, basically for as long as organized human societies have emerged from the long evolution of a species named, perhaps erroneously, Homo Sapiens - meaning "wise human"...
Every minute, two people are killed in conflicts around the world. In 2003 the number of armed conflicts totalled 36 in 28 countries. These numbers are a slight decline from 2002 which saw 37 armed conflicts in 29 countries. The drop continues a general downward trend since a peak of 44 conflicts in 1995. Yet, overall, there were 57 major armed conflicts in various parts of the world between 1990 and 2001. An estimated 3.6 million people died in these conflicts. Most were civilians and the overwhelming majority were in Africa. Millions were wounded. Over the years, violent conflicts have uprooted millions from their homes. Millions more had to flee their homes. The need for action to prevent such conflicts and the suffering they cause has rarely been as strong as it now is.
It seems there is a deeply rooted flaw in the human psyche that allows for the continuous violence that has plagued humanity for far too long. One of the root causes of this violent bent of man certainly has to do with a lack of consciousness of the indissociable nature of all Life and therefore the ultimately self-destructive consequences of any act of violence against any other form of life, a fortiori against any human life. This blindness to the innate sacredness of all life has been nurtured by cultural prejudices designed to serve the needs of dominating economic and political organizations whose sole purpose is to accrue ever more money and power for the sake of personal and national gains and glory. To counter this now deeply ingrained social legitimacy to killing other human beings for politically motived purposes, a profound spiritual awakening to the greater all-encompassing unifying reality we are all part of seems to be the only true antidote available.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday, to contribute in reaffirming throughout the entire collective consciousness of humanity and within the heart and soul of every single human being the absolute sacredness of human life. May this growing awareness becomes so overwhelmingly acute for everyone that it will render utterly unacceptable the killing and maiming of another human being, no matter the motive invoked or the perceived need for retribution. May loving compassion guide the efforts to resolve all existing local and global conflicts so as to foster a profound and permanent healing of every living soul on Earth, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus119.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation to the healing of the Earth as a whole. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
Honolulu 6:00 AM
Anchorage 7:00 AM
Los Angeles 8:00 AM
Denver 9:00 AM
San Salvador, Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 10:00 AM
New York, Toronto & Montreal 11:00 AM
Halifax 12:00 PM
Montevideo, Asuncion & Santiago 1:00 PM
Rio de Janeiro 2:00 PM
London, Dublin, Lisbon, Reykjavik & Casablanca 4:00 PM
Lagos, Algiers, Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris & Madrid 5:00 PM
Ankara, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Athens, Helsinki & Istanbul 6:00 PM
Baghdad, Moscow & Nairobi 7:00 PM
Tehran 7:30 PM
Islamabad 9:00 PM
Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM
Dhaka 10:00 PM
Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM
Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur 12:00 AM on Wednesday
Seoul & Tokyo 1:00 AM on Wednesday
Brisbane, 2:00 AM on Wednesday
Sydney, Canberra & Melbourne 3:00 AM on Wednesday
Wellington +5:00 AM on Wednesday
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?day=7&month=11&year=2004&hour=16&min=0&sec=0&p1=0 to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS MEDITATION FOCUS
This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.
PART I - The imminent assault against Falluja
1. US ready for Falluja assault Battle Near
2. Iraqi Sunnis Make Offer
3. Prayers and Tears in Falluja
US ready for Falluja assault
Ewen MacAskill, and Michael Howard in Sulaymaniya
November 6, 2004
US forces were last night awaiting final orders to storm Falluja, the resistance stronghold, in what is expected to be the bloodiest assault since the invasion of Iraq last year.
As the US stepped up air raids, blocked roads into the city, and issued loudspeaker warnings to the population to leave, the interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, indicated that time had almost run out.
Speaking in Brussels after a European Union meeting, he said: "We intend to liberate the people and to bring the rule of law to Falluja. The window really is closing for a peaceful settlement."
But concern is growing that a bombardment of Falluja from the air and ground will result in a high civilian death toll. Although most of the population has already fled, there are estimated to be still tens of thousands of civilians left.
The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, expressed reservations in a leaked letter dated Sunday, saying that the assault could create a Sunni Muslim backlash that will delay Iraqi elections now scheduled for January 27.
The expected Falluja onslaught also threatened to put transatlantic ties under further strain at a time when European leaders are taking stock of President Bush's re-election. Tony Blair has urged Europe to open up to Mr Bush, but the French president, Jacques Chirac, called instead for a broad front to counter US domination.
Mr Chirac also pointedly snubbed the visiting Iraqi prime minister at a Brussels EU summit, further polarising positions around the central issue of Iraq.
The looming battle for Falluja promises to be a decisive moment for post-Saddam Iraq, a litmus test for whether US troops and the new Iraq forces can overwhelm insurgents in time for the January polls without the kind of civilian casualties that will alienate broad swathes of the population.
The Americans, whose marines withdrew from Falluja earlier this year after international protests about a heavy civilian death toll, are determined this time round to pacify the city and about 20 other centres of unrest ahead of the election.
Warplanes attacked the city last night in what residents said was some of the heaviest bombardment for months. At least one US soldier died in a rocket attack. As many as 10,000 are massed at the edge of the city, together with Iraqi forces braced for the operation against an estimated 5,000 insurgents.
Evidence that the US is readying itself for a heavy fight came with the disclosure that it has doubled the size of its medical team with the force outside Falluja. Fifty extra beds have been brought in, along with more blood supplies and a mortuary services unit.
The US military source said marines were braced for all kinds of defensive tricks such as booby traps and mines. The source said: "It will not be easy, but there is a job to do and we'll see it to the end if that's what the Iraqi government want."
There are few, if any, independent journalists in Falluja to bear witness to the assault. Loyalists of the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other foreign militants thought to be holed up in the city have said they will fight until US and other foreign forces leave Iraq.
Religious and community leaders in the brooding cities north and west of Baghdad have warned that an all-out attack could backfire, provoking a general uprising among Iraq's once all-powerful Sunni Arab minority and threatening the elections.
Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, of the Association of Muslim Clerics, one of the most prominent Sunni Arab organisations to have emerged since the war, said: "If the US invades the city of Falluja or any other city in Iraq, all the [Sunni Arab] clerics in Iraq will call for a boycott of the election."
It is such a scenario that Mr Annan fears. In his letter, the UN chief told American, British and Iraqi leaders that he wanted the UN to help prepare for the elections in January, but feared that a rise in violence could disrupt the process.
Mr Annan said: "I have in mind not only the risk of increased insurgent violence, but also reports of major military offensives being planned by the multinational force in key localities such as Falluja."
Europe also betrayed signs of queasiness at the Falluja onslaught. Mr Chirac chose to avoid an EU summit lunch with Mr Allawi, and brusquely rejected Mr Blair's calls for greater rapprochement with the re-elected US president.
"It is clear that Europe, now more than ever, has the need, the necessity, to strengthen its dynamism and unity when faced with this great world power," he said.
Other European leaders, such as Gerhard Schröder of Germany and José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, were more conciliatory, both offering congratulations to the victorious Republican and offers to start afresh. But they were less happy at comments by the Iraqi prime minister, who had referred to those who opposed the Iraq war as "spectator states".
Mr Allawi was contrite yesterday at his meeting with EU leaders. "Today my government is trying to build a new Iraq and we need your help," he said. He said the two sides, including opponents of the war, had turned the page. Mr Allawi thanked the EU for ¤330m (£230.4m) in aid over the past two years and urged it to use its influence in Iran and Syria to stop fuelling violence in his country.
Battle Near, Iraqi Sunnis Make Offer
By Karl Vick
The Washington Post
06 November 2004
Major shift includes new interest in vote.
Baghdad - As Marines step up preparations for military offensives on two major Iraqi cities, a number of Sunni Muslim leaders are forwarding a plan to establish the rule of law in those areas through peaceful means, with the promise of reducing the insurgency across a large swath of the country.
Some of the groups leading the bid have encouraged violent resistance in central, western and northern Iraq. The groups say they will withdraw their support for violence if Iraq's interim government can reassure Sunni leaders wary of national elections, which are scheduled for the end of January.
The Sunnis have proposed six measures, including a demand that U.S. forces remain confined to bases in the month before balloting. Such an ambitious demand, which some advocates acknowledge is not likely to be met and may be open to negotiation, represents a dramatic shift by Sunni groups opposed to the U.S. operation in Iraq.
Until now, groups such as the Association of Muslim Scholars, which supports the new proposal, had insisted that no election could be considered legitimate until Western troops left Iraq. The association has repeatedly threatened to call for an election boycott through the loudspeakers of Iraq's Sunni mosques, which the association represents.
"We took an initiative regarding the elections. It is being welcomed by the people on the boycott side," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a Baghdad University political science professor who is spokesman for the initiative. "They said that if such agreements could be met by the Americans, they could change to participation."
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad offered no reaction to the proposal, which it received this week. A Western diplomat emphasized that any decision lay with Iraq's interim government.
In separate interviews, senior U.S. and Iraqi officials were privately skeptical of the overture and indicated it was unlikely to avert a military offensive on Fallujah and Ramadi, which commanders say could begin at any time.
"They don't seem to get it. The monopoly of power is over," said a senior Iraqi government official, referring to former President Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government. "One wonders how representative these elements are of the mainstream Sunni population. They may represent nostalgia for the past, but for sure no realistic vision for the future."
Some former officials with experience in Iraq called the Sunni proposal a potential breakthrough that could avert not only an assault on Fallujah but also a violent aftermath, when insurgents might take the fight elsewhere.
"Most of what we've learned about insurgencies is that you don't defeat one through purely military means," said Larry Diamond, who served in the U.S.-led occupation authority. "When you try to do that, you may win the battle but lose the war. The insurgency in the Sunni heartland is now quite broad-based, and I don't think we're going to defeat the insurgency in this part of the country through purely military means. I think we're looking at a protracted insurgency which will get worse if we go through with elections" that many Sunnis boycott.
"These groups," Diamond said, "have to be given evidence that it's in their interests to participate in the electoral process."
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a letter to President Bush disclosed Friday, warned that an assault on Fallujah "would be very disruptive of Iraq's political transition."
"Persuading elements who are currently alienated from, or skeptical about, the transition process to compete politically is key to creating a political and security context that will inspire confidence among all Iraqis," Annan wrote.
Iraqi and American officials also cite the impending election as a reason to take military action. Fallujah has been controlled by insurgents since April. They also move freely in Ramadi, the provincial capital, 30 miles to the west. In most of the rest of the country, voter registration began this week, and officials say the legitimacy of an ostensibly nationwide ballot will be undermined if residents of the Sunni Triangle area cannot take part.
Iraq's Sunni Arab minority, geographically concentrated in the country's midsection, was favored under Hussein. But Sunnis were markedly under-represented on the Governing Council put in place by the U.S.-led occupation and in the interim government that took power from the council in late June.
Elections could correct the imbalance, but many observers note that the country's majority Shiite Muslim population - long disenfranchised and eager to claim elected office - is better organized, larger, and pressing every advantage. On Thursday, the electoral commission announced that Iraqis who live overseas will be allowed to vote. The controversial decision is seen as benefiting Shiites who fled into exile under Hussein.
Nadhmi, the professor, emphasized that the groups behind the overture, who gathered under the umbrella of the Iraqi National Founding Conference, include Shiites and Christians. But the bulk of the conference represents Sunni interests. They include the Iraqi Nationalist Party, which has pan-Arab roots; the Democratic Reform Party, dominated by members of Hussein's Baath Party exiled to Syria; and the Association of Muslim Scholars, which claims to represent every Sunni mosque in Iraq and has frequently endorsed calls for resistance.
"This initiative is very significant," said an official involved in establishing the transitional government, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. "They're no longer saying, 'We're not participating because the country is occupied.' They're saying, 'The government is not right. The only way we can make it right is by elections.'
"If you look at their demands, they're not impossible. They are things that can be discussed."
Several of the demands are grounded in skepticism about Iraq's newly minted election commission, a low-profile agency established by U.S. and U.N. officials. The Sunni group says it wants the panel reconstituted with prominent Iraqi judges "known for their honesty," and it wants the panel's work supervised by election monitors from other Arab and Islamic countries.
The group also wants the repeal of election regulations barring senior Baathists from standing for office, saying international norms call for bans only on people convicted of crimes. Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister, has reversed some elements of the "de-Baathification" program put in place by L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of the U.S.-led occupation authority, but the bar on candidacy remains.
"There's a possibility of a Baathist slate," conceded Diamond, the former occupation official. "Now, these are nasty people. But I'd rather have them running peacefully in the election and winning a few seats in parliament than paying people to plant [roadside bombs] for our troops."
Most difficult for Iraqi and U.S. officials is the demand that American and other foreign forces remain outside major cities for the month of January. Insecurity is a profound problem across Iraq, and Iraqi police and other forces have not proven themselves capable of bringing certain areas under control.
The picture is further complicated by the presence of foreign fighters intent on carrying out violent strikes. Despite strains with Iraqi insurgents motivated by nationalism, Fallujah residents have said the foreign fighters continue to blend among the indigenous resistance. Negotiations between Allawi's government and Fallujah leaders broke down over the city's inability or refusal to eject the fighters.
One advocate of the new initiative said Iraqi Sunnis would persuade the foreigners to leave, though it may take time. He said attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces would dissipate sooner if significant numbers of former Baathists feel they have a stake in the "new Iraq."
"Everyone agrees they are the spinal cord of the insurgency, and these groups have moral authority over them," said the official, who was formerly involved in Iraq.
Diamond acknowledged the proposal carried risks and may arrive too late to dissuade U.S. and Iraqi officials "who think it's time to go in and kick some butt."
But he added, "If there's a chance that this could be the beginning of political transformation that could change the situation on the ground, I think we've got to take it. Especially since many of the foreign fighters are said to have left Fallujah."
Prayers and Tears in Falluja
06 November 2004
The Iraqi city of Falluja is braced for an assault by US forces massed on its outskirts. The BBC News website spoke by phone to a reporter in Falluja, who described how people left in the city live on through siege and bombardment. He is not named for security reasons.
"When I hear bombs falling around my neighbourhood, I keep thinking - any moment now, I could be killed. It is worst during the night, when the bombardment is most intense. If a big bomb lands somewhere nearby, you often hear crying and wailing afterwards.
It is a very strange feeling because in between the screaming, there is the sound of more missiles flying. That is when I think - I could be next. Another sound you hear during the bombing is that of prayers. People pray loudly because they are so scared. Sometimes, you hear people say quite unusual things - they improvise, making up their own prayers.
We followed the US elections very closely from Falluja. It was a matter of life and death. Many people were hoping John Kerry would win because they felt he would not have allowed our city to be attacked like this. Of course, we also know that the US policy in Iraq at large is not going to change. We do not forget that George Bush and John Kerry are two sides of the same coin. Still, as far as our city is concerned right now, a Kerry victory would have brought some hope.
I left my old house in the north of the city a month ago, when the Americans began bombing that area all the time. Now I live with a small group of friends near the centre of Falluja. We are just men here. All our wives and children have left the city - some we sent to Baghdad, others to quieter areas closer by.
We cook and eat together and spend most of our time in the house. If you want to leave the house, the safest time to do so is between seven in the morning and one in the afternoon, when the Americans take a break from the bombing. The souk [market] in the centre of Falluja is open from morning to midday and, fortunately, it has not run out of food so far.
But I can't see how long the supplies will last - two days ago, the government said it was cutting off the roads from Falluja to Baghdad and Ramadi. I don't know what we will eat then. I guess we might still be able to grab hold of some meat - I've seen a lot of goats in the city. There is only one road out of the city that is still open now - but it runs through a checkpoint manned by US soldiers. We think they're going to cut this route off quite soon as well.
A lot of people have left Falluja. Mostly only men remain. This used to be a city of 500,000 people. Now, my guess is there are about 100,000 still here. Some people who tried to leave earlier on found they had to come back because there was no way of surviving away from their homes. Iraq is a difficult place to live at the moment. There are not many opportunities. The hospitals I have seen are full of people but empty of supplies and medicine. The erratic electricity also makes operating difficult. Ten to 18 new cases are brought in every day. The injured know they won't get much treatment. They come just to be near the doctor, to hear the doctor talk to them."
Civilian death toll in Iraq exceeds 100,000 (29 October 04) http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996596
The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by coalition forces has lead to the death of at least 100,000 civilians, reveals the first scientific study to examine the issue. The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, finds the study, released early by The Lancet on Thursday. The most common cause of death is as a direct result of violence, mostly caused by coalition air strikes, reveals the study of almost 1000 households scattered across Iraq. And the risk of violent death just after the invasion was 58 times greater than before the war. The overall risk of death was 1.5 times more after the invasion than before. The figure of 100,000 estimated by extrapolating the surveyed households death toll to the whole population - is based on "conservative assumptions", notes Les Roberts at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, who led the study. That estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the study points to about 200,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of war. CLIP
Military Hospital Preparing for Fallujah Battle (5 November 2004)
Marines say the toll is expected to rival those seen in Vietnam War. With U.S. Forces near Fallujah - The number of dead and wounded from the expected battle to retake insurgent-controlled Fallujah probably will reach levels not seen since Vietnam, a senior surgeon at the Marine camp outside Fallujah said Thursday.Navy Cmdr. Lach Noyes said the camp's hospital is preparing to handle 25 severely injured soldiers a day, not counting walking wounded and the dead.The hospital has added two operating rooms, doubled its supplies, added a mortuary and stocked up on blood reserves. Doctors have set up a system of ambulance vehicles that will rush to the camp's gate to receive the dead and wounded so units can return to battle quickly.The plans underscore the ferocity of the fight the U.S. military expects in Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city about 35 miles west of Baghdad, which has been under insurgent control since April.On Thursday, U.S. troops pounded Fallujah with airstrikes and artillery fire, softening up militants ahead of the expected assault.Loudspeakers at Fallujah mosques blared out Quranic verses and shouts of "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," during the assault, residents said.American aircraft blasted militant positions in northeastern and southeastern parts of the city, the military said. U.S. batteries later fired two to three dozen heavy artillery shells at insurgent positions, the military said.U.S. forces have been building up outside Fallujah for weeks in preparation for taking the city back.Military officials say they expect U.S. troops to encounter not just fighters wielding AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but also heavy concentrations of mines, roadside bombs and possibly car bombs."We'll probably just see those in a lot better concentration in the city," said Maj. Jim West, an intelligence officer with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.West said he thinks there are some 4,000 to 5,000 fighters between Fallujah and nearby Ramadi, and they may try to draw troops into cramped urban areas in Fallujah that have been booby-trapped.
US strikes raze Falluja hospital (Nov 6)
The hospital was run by an Islamic charity - A hospital has been razed to the ground in one of the heaviest US air raids in the Iraqi city of Falluja. Witnesses said only the facade remained of the small Nazzal Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city. There are no reports on casualties. A nearby medical supplies storeroom and dozens of houses were damaged as US forces continued preparing the ground for an expected major assault. UN chief Kofi Annan has warned against an attack on the restive Sunni city. (...) US troops using 155mm howitzers pounded a number of pre-planned targets in Falluja on Saturday. Along with air strikes - one of the heaviest in recent days - this is all part of what appears to be a steadily increasing pressure on the insurgents, says the BBC's Paul Wood, who is with US marines outside Falluja. Overnight, a column of armoured vehicles and humvee jeeps carried out attacks in the outskirts of Falluja designed to draw out the rebels and provide fresh targets for the air power and artillery. These are the kind of preliminary operations which would be carried out before a full-scale assault on Falluja, our correspondent says. CLIP
Iraq's Falluja Finds Devastation After U.S. Raids (Nov 6)
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - The fiercest U.S. air and artillery bombardment of Falluja in months destroyed a hospital, a medical warehouse and dozens of homes overnight, residents said on Saturday. Witnesses said U.S. air strikes and shelling lit up the night sky and shook the east and north of the rebel-held city. A small hospital funded by a Saudi Arabian Islamic charity in the central Nazzal district was reduced to rubble. Only its facade, with a sign reading Nazzal Emergency Hospital, remained intact. Reuters pictures showed blue surgical cloths and empty medicine boxes amid earth and brick ruins. A nearby compound used by the main Falluja Hospital to store medical supplies was also destroyed, witnesses said. Hospital officials confirmed all its contents were ruined. More than half of the city's 300,000 people are believed to have fled already. After Friday night's barrage, many of those who had stayed packed their cars with clothes and furniture and streamed out of the Sunni Muslim city's only remaining exit to the northwest. (...) The overnight bombardment was so intense that ambulances were unable to venture out, said Ahmad Khalil, a doctor at Falluja Hospital. Teams of volunteers had begun searching the rubble for dead and wounded. Hospital officials said two corpses were brought in on Saturday. Seven people, among them women and children, also arrived with serious wounds.
U.S. Warplanes and Artillery Pound Iraq's Falluja (Novermber 7)
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes and artillery pounded targets in Falluja on Sunday but there was no sign U.S. forces had begun an offensive to storm the Iraqi rebel stronghold. Residents said air strikes interspersed with artillery shelling had set off huge explosions in the city from about 3 a.m. (0000 GMT) onwards. There was no word on casualties. The bombardment of Falluja kept up pressure on Iraqi insurgents and what the U.S. military says are foreign militants led by Jordanian al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi based in the Sunni Muslim city. Falluja has a normal population of about 300,000 but many families have fled to escape the expected U.S. assault, part of the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government's drive to crush insurgents before elections scheduled for January. The U.S. military said it had launched seven air strikes on weapons caches in Falluja, some 30 miles west of Baghdad, between dawn and midnight on Saturday.
MSF aid agency ends work in Iraq (Nov 4)
MSF has been present in some of Iraq's most dangerous hotspots - The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says it is pulling out of Iraq because of "escalating violence". MSF said it had become impossible "to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi". Several aid workers have been kidnapped in Iraq - including Margaret Hassan of Care International, who is still being held by her captors. Care has stopped its operations in Iraq and appealed for Mrs Hassan's release. MSF has 90 Iraqi staff. Its foreign workers left Iraq a month ago for Jordan. (...) The agency has been involved in some of Iraq's most dangerous areas, including the cities of Falluja, Najaf and Karbala. Aid workers under fire MSF said it had also carried out 100,000 consultations this year in the Sadr City district of Baghdad alone. The Nobel prize-winning agency also pulled out of Afghanistan in July, after 24 years of continuous service. It complained then that because of humanitarian works by the US, it was becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between armed forces and aid agencies. Five of its staff had been killed in Afghanistan. The Taleban said it carried out the attack because MSF staff were working for American interests. Mr Joolen said the decision to leave Iraq had been taken for similar reasons. "It's becoming increasingly difficult to operate as an international NGO - non-governmental organisation - in a situation ruled by the 'war on terror'," he said. CLIP
All eyes are on Fallujah (Nov 6)
On the day that President Bush told reporters he planned to stay the course in Iraq, the U.S. Marine Corps was setting up a makeshift mortuary and doubling the size of its military hospital outside of Fallujah, anticipating an increase in casualties that would accompany an assault on the insurgent stronghold. U.S. elections are over. The Iraqi war is heating up. Even as Americans at home breathed with relief that the long political campaign is over, our soldiers overseas prepared for one of the biggest military operations of the Iraqi war. Over the past several months, Americans have grown accustomed to a steady boost in casualties. For example, on Friday - about a year and a half after Bush declared that major combat operations were over - two more Marines were killed and four others wounded near Baghdad. The death toll among coalition forces stands at 1,200, including 1,100 Americans. But with the military situation at Fallujah about to intensify, Americans should brace themselves, as the toll could worsen, for Americans and Iraqis alike. The president was right Thursday when he said at his post-election news conference that quelling the insurgency is necessary to ensure that Iraqi elections can take place as scheduled in January. He didn't offer any details as to how this would be done, but the sense of impending engagement is palpable in Iraq. Recent casualties include three members of the storied British Black Watch regiment, but the people who have suffered the most, and have the most at stake, are the Iraqis. Not only have thousands died or been wounded, but the continued fighting is crippling Iraq's rebirth, leaving a trail of burning pipelines and unsafe streets.The violence has grown so bad that even Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Prize-winning group that has bravely served in some of the world's most dangerous zones, has decided its people must withdraw from Iraq. CLIP
Rebel attacks in Samarra kill 33 (Nov 6)
Three car bombs were reported in quick succession - At least 33 people have been killed in car bombs and other attacks in Samarra, north of Baghdad, police say. Two blasts went off outside the mayor's office. A US convoy thought to be trying to reach the scene was also hit. There are also reports that militants attacked three police stations, killing and wounding a number of policemen. Samarra has been cited by the Iraqi government as an example of how they have been able to restore order to areas formerly controlled by rebels. US and Iraqi forces seized control of the Sunni Muslim city in early October. The BBC's Claire Marshall in Baghdad says that on the eve of an attack on Falluja, events in Samarra seem to demonstrate that it takes more than a large scale military assault to bring a town fully under control. CLIP
Insurgents in Iraq Launch Deadly Attacks (6 November 2004)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Facing a major assault in Fallujah, insurgents struck back Saturday with suicide car bombs, mortars and rockets across a wide swath of central Iraq, killing over 30 people and wounding more than 60 others, including two dozen Americans. The attacks could have been aimed at relieving pressure on Fallujah, where about 10,000 American troops are massing for a major assault. U.S. jets pounded Fallujah early Saturday in the heaviest airstrikes in six months including five 500-pound bombs dropped on insurgent targets. The deadliest attacks Saturday occurred in Samarra, a city 60 miles north of Baghdad that U.S. and Iraqi commanders have touted as model for pacifying restive Sunni Muslim areas of the country. CLIP
Soldiers' parents join 70,000 at rally (October 18, 2004)
Up to 70,000 people from more than 70 countries rallied yesterday in Trafalgar Square against the Iraq war, calling for troops to be pulled out and Tony Blair to be tried in the international courts. The rally brought to a close the third meeting of the European Social Forum, one of the largest political gatherings held in London. ESF organisers yesterday estimated that 20,000 people had attended more than 500 meetings in three days. CLIP
J'Accuse! War Crimes and Iraq (Nov 5)
(...) In a recent commentary in the Financial Times, Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, wrote: "The struggle against terrorism cannot be legitimate if it undermines basic values shared by humanity. The right to life and protection against murder, torture and degrading treatment must be at the heart of the actions of those engaged in this struggle. The struggle will lose credibility if it is used to justify acts otherwise considered unacceptable, such as the killing of people not participating in hostilities." CLIP
In pictures: Preparing for Falluja
Full Coverage on Iraq
PART II - Possible renewed impetus for peace with the decline of President Yasser Arafat
1. A time of outrage and loss - Arafat is the cement that has held Palestinians together
2. A chance for conciliation
3. Israel will lose a great enemy, who could have become a great partner
4. Sharon's strategy frustrated by demise of enemy
5. Open Letter from American Jews to the Next President of the United States to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority
A time of outrage and loss
Arafat is the cement that has held Palestinians together
Ahmad Samih Khalidi
November 6, 2004
As Yasser Arafat lies gravely ill in a Paris hospital, the sense of anger and imminent loss felt by Palestinians and their supporters - Arabs, Muslims and hundreds of millions of others around the world - is profound.
Arafat's shameful treatment at the hands of Ariel Sharon and his friends in the west, which must surely have contributed to his condition, will not be forgotten. The unjustified incarceration for the past three years of the democratically elected leader of an oppressed and occupied people is an indelible stain on the record of those who proclaim their faith in democracy while happily propping up assorted despots around the world. Sharon's refusal to grant Arafat dignity in death by denying him burial in Jerusalem symbolises Israel's rejection of both the man and his cause. The west's callousness and indifference towards Arafat has only encouraged Sharon's excesses and nourished his belief that he can act without sanction or restraint.
It is vital at such a critical juncture that those who want to see a just Middle East peace grasp the reasons for Arafat's centrality as leader of the Palestinian national movement over four decades, whatever criticisms Palestinians and others might have over this or that issue. The cliches used to describe him - father of the Palestinian people, symbol of their resistance, supreme decision-maker on their behalf - are well-founded.
But Arafat's most important role has been twofold: first, to lead the Palestinian people out of the state of political concussion that befell them after the loss of their homeland in 1948; and then to lay the foundations for a resolution of the conflict with Israel, based on a Palestinian state living alongside Israel.
Arafat, along with other founder members of the mainstream Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah, played a decisive role in recreating the Palestinians' sense of national identity and reconstructing the shattered remnants of Palestinian political society, pulverised and dispersed as a result of the destruction of their homeland.
The emergence of Fatah marked the transition of the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian issue of destitute refugees into one of a people who had taken their destiny into their own hands. Fatah soon transformed itself - as it took over the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the late 1960s - into the overarching umbrella encompassing all shades of Palestinian opinion, creed and ideology. Indeed, it became synonymous with the Palestinians themselves. Arafat's importance emerges from this sense that he embodies the national spirit not only within Palestine itself, but - crucially - outside Palestine, too, in the larger diaspora where the majority of Palestinians still live.
His decision to opt for a peaceful settlement and two-state solution in 1988 was the second vital transition for the Palestinian national movement. From the absolutist aims of "liberating all of Palestine", Arafat pushed through a pragmatic programme for statehood that was both realisable and internationally acceptable. This difficult decision paved the way for a settlement of the conflict with Israel; it was the sine qua non for the peace process launched at Madrid in 1991 - which culminated in the Oslo peace accords of 1993 and the return of the PLO to its national soil.
Without Arafat's readiness for a historic compromise - in which the Palestinians agreed to forgo the 77% of their homeland occupied in 1948 in return for a free and independent state in the remaining 23% occupied in 1967 (encompassing the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) - there would never have been a peace process or any prospect for a settlement between Arabs and Jews. This has been ignored by those in the west who have come very late - possibly too late - to endorse the two-state solution, and Arafat's readiness to stake everything in pursuit of this goal is rarely acknowledged.
By formally accepting Israel within the 1948 borders, Arafat demonstrated not only his political courage but his ability to carry the majority of his people with him. Arafat's election by a large majority in 1996 still represents the most important experiment in democracy in the Arab world. Indeed, he remains the only Arab leader to have been so elected. His success has been in capturing the national spirit and a certain instinct for what Palestinians will or will not accept. This served him well when faced with the confused and incomplete offers floated at Camp David in 2000.
But his significance goes beyond that of standing at the point of intersection between the various Palestinian national trends and geographic constituencies. Arafat represents the national cement that has helped the Palestinians maintain a sense of identity and common purpose, despite 37 years of military occupation and the devastation of their homeland, across geographic and social and political boundaries.
Ariel Sharon, who tried to crush Arafat and the PLO on the streets of Beirut 22 years ago, has long known this. By attempting to make Arafat irrelevant he has sought not only to bypass him politically, but to destroy him as the underpinning of the Palestinian national movement. While Arafat has always represented both the Palestinian diaspora as well as those living under occupation - and therefore has had the authority to reach a compromise settlement with genuine national credibility - no local leaders in the West Bank or Gaza command anything like that kind of constituency. With Arafat out of the way, Sharon knows that the Palestinian movement risks coming apart at the seams and falling into itsdisparate and possibly conflicting parts. With Arafat off the scene, not only will there be no effective Palestinian interlocutor, but the chances of reaching a lasting settlement based on partition along the 1967 borders are likely to disappear.
Despite Sharon's talk of a Palestinian state, it is evident that he is determined to avoid any such thing or any significant withdrawal from the vast bulk of the occupied territories, as was made clear by his senior adviser Dov Weisglass last month. With his uncontested legitimacy and mandate, Arafat has been the only credible partner for a sustainable two-state solution. It may be worth recalling that Sharon has threatened to eliminate him on more than one occasion, having told President Bush last April that he could no longer guarantee Arafat's safety. Under any circumstances, Arafat's elimination is going to bring Sharon closer to his goal of destroying the very basis for a lasting peace in the Middle East.
For the Palestinians, the only way to prevent the imposition of the kind of minimalist deals with local leaders in the territories that Israel has always sought is to rebuild political organisation among the Palestinian majority in the diaspora, notably in the refugee camps. The Palestinian movement first emerged, after all, not because of occupation, but out of dispossession. It is vital for the west to understand that only leaders who can legitimately speak on behalf of all sections of the Palestinian people will be able to deliver any kind of viable settlement in the long term.
· Ahmad Samih Khalidi is a former Palestinian negotiator and a senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford - firstname.lastname@example.org
November 7, 2004
A chance for conciliation
According to the information coming from the hospital in Paris, Yasser Arafat's days are numbered. The announcement of his death is expected at any moment. The emerging Palestinian leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Ahmad Qureia (Abu Ala) has taken over Arafat's powers and begun preparations for the leader's funeral.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hastened to announce at last Sunday's cabinet session that he does not intend to consent to the pleas of Arafat's family and of leading Palestinian officials to grant his wish to be buried on the Temple Mount.
Sharon also rejected the suggestion to allow Arafat's burial in Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Burying Arafat in the West Bank is also not practical, it is said, because of the absence of local security to safeguard the dozens of dignitaries expected to arrive from all over the world. Israel suggests Arafat be buried in the Gaza Strip, in the family plot in the Khan Yunis cemetery, where his father and sister are interred.
Senior Palestinian officials present the issue of Arafat's burial as a touchstone to Israel's intentions toward the leadership who will succeed him. This is not about a "technical" disagreement, of course, but about the honor of the man who symbolized more than anything else the Palestinian struggle to be freed from Israeli occupation and to achieve self-determination. Arafat is directly and indirectly responsible for the death of many Israelis, and for missing a series of opportunities to end the conflict. However, the death of a revered leader of a neighboring nation is not the time for revenge and payback. The ceremonies of farewell for Arafat will provide Israel with an opportunity to be generous in making a humane gesture to its neighbors. Leaning toward the Palestinians on the issue of where Arafat is buried will signal to the Arab nations and the whole world, which will be watching the funeral, that a new era has begun (with Arafat's demise) in the relations between Israel and Ramallah.
The Palestinians must understand that the Temple Mount is out of the question. This is a sacred site in the eyes of millions of worshipers of both religions, and therefore it is not appropriate to bury a controversial political leader there at such a sensitive stage of the conflict. Israel and the Palestinian leadership could reach an agreement that Arafat would be buried in a plot on the slopes of Temple Mount, but outside the walls of the Old City. Both sides must make every effort to ensure the funeral takes place quietly and is not turned into political demonstrations by extremists and law-breakers.
In Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement speech" two weeks ago, he made an unexpected emotional appeal to Palestinians: "We did not wish to build our lives in this homeland on your ruin. The war is not a decree from heaven." Even moderate Palestinians consider Jerusalem the capital of the state they wish to establish beside Israel. Rejecting the request to bury Arafat in Jerusalem will play into the hands of fanatic Muslims seeking incitement. An agreement about Arafat's burial arrangements in Jerusalem will strengthen the moderate Palestinian camp and give Israelis hope of replacing the atmosphere of violent confrontation with one of negotiation and conciliation.
From: "Gush Shalom " email@example.com>
Date: 7 Nov 2004
Subject: Israel will lose a great enemy, who could have become a great partner
Uri Avnery 6.11.04
A Man and his People
Wherever he may be buried when he passes away, the day will come when his remains will be reinterred by a free Palestinian government in the holy shrines in Jerusalem.
Yasser Arafat is one of the generation of great leaders who arose after World War II.
The stature of a leader is not simply determined by the size of his achievements, but also by the size of the obstacles he had to overcome. In this respect, Arafat has no competitor in the world: no leader of our generation has been called upon to face such cruel tests and to cope with such adversities as he.
When he appeared on the stage of history, at the end of the 1950s, his people was close to oblivion. The name Palestine had been eradicated from the map. Israel, Jordan and Egypt had divided the country between them. The world had decided that there was no Palestinian national entity, that the Palestinian people had ceased to exist, like the American Indian nations - if, indeed, it had ever existed at all.
Within the Arab world the "Palestinian Cause" was still mentioned, but it served only as a ball to be kicked around between the Arab regimes. Each of them tried to appropriate it for its own selfish interests, while brutally putting down any independent Palestinian initiative. Almost all Palestinians lived under dictatorships, most of them in humiliating circumstances.
When Yasser Arafat, then a young engineer in Kuwait, founded the "Palestinian Liberation Movement" (whose initials in reverse spell Fatah), he meant first of all liberation from the various Arab leaders, so as to enable the Palestinian people to speak and act for itself. That was the first revolution of the man who made at least three great revolutions during his life.
It was a dangerous one. Fatah had no independent base. It had to function in the Arab countries, often under merciless persecutions. One day, for example, the whole leadership of the movement, Arafat included, was thrown into prison by the Syrian dictator of the day, after disobeying his orders. Only Umm Nidal, the wife of Abu Nidal, remained free and so she assumed the command of the fighters.
Those years were a formative influence on Arafat's characteristic style. He had to manoeuver between the Arab leaders, play them off against each other, use tricks, half-truths and double-talk, evade traps and circumvent obstacles. He became a world-champion of manipulation. This way he saved the liberation movement from many dangers in the days of its weakness, until it could become a potent force.
Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, the Egyptian ruler who was the hero of the entire Arab world at the time, got worried about the emerging independent Palestinian force. To choke it off in time, he created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and put at its head a Palestinian political mercenary, Ahmed Shukeiri. But after the shameful rout of the Arab armies in 1967 and the electrifying victory of the Fatah fighters against the Israeli army in the battle of Karameh (March 1968), Fatah took over the PLO and Arafat became the undisputed leader of the entire Palestinian struggle.
In the mid-1960s, Yasser Arafat started his second revolution: the armed struggle against Israel. The pretension was almost ludicrous: a handful of poorly-armed guerillas, not very efficient at that, against the might of the Israeli army. And not in a country of impassable jungles and mountain ranges, but in a small, flat, densely populated stretch of land. But this struggle put the Palestinian cause on the world agenda. It must be stated frankly: without the murderous attacks, the world would have paid no attention to the Palestinian call for freedom.
As a result, the PLO was recognized as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people", and thirty years ago Yasser Arafat was invited to make his historic speech to the UN General Assembly: "In one hand I carry a gun, in the other an olive branch."
For Arafat, the armed struggle was simply a means, nothing more. Not an ideology, not an end in itself. It was clear to him that this instrument would invigorate the Palestinian people and gain the recognition of the world, but that it would not vanquish Israel.
The October 1973 Yom Kippur war caused another turn in his outlook. He saw how the armies of Egypt and Syria, after a brilliant initial victory achieved by surprise, were stopped and, in the end, defeated by the Israeli army. That finally convinced him that Israel could not be overcome by force arms.
Therefore, immediately after that war, Arafat started his third revolution: he decided that the PLO must reach an agreement with Israel and be content with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
That confronted him with a historic challenge: to convince the Palestinian people to give up its historic position denying the legitimacy of the State of Israel, and to be satisfied with a mere 22% of the territory of pre-1948 Palestine. Without being stated explicitly, it was clear that this also entails the giving up of the unlimited return of the refugees to the territory of Israel.
He started to work to this end in his own characteristic way, with persistence, patience and ploys, two steps forwards, one step back. How immense this revolution was can be seen from a book published by the PLO in 1970 in Beirut, viciously attacking the two-state solution (which it called "the Avnery plan", because I was its most out-spoken proponent at the time.)
Historic justice demands that it be clearly stated that it was Arafat who envisioned the Oslo agreement at a time when both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres still stuck to the hopeless "Jordanian Option", the belief that one could ignore the Palestinian people and give the West Bank back to Jordan. Of the three recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, Arafat deserved it most.
From 1974 on, I was an eye-witness to the immense effort invested by Arafat in order to get his people to accept his new approach. Step by step it was adopted by the Palestinian National Council, the parliament in exile, first by a resolution to set up a Palestinian authority "in every part of Palestine liberated from Israel", and, in 1988, to set up a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Arafat's (and our) tragedy was that whenever he came closer to a peaceful solution, the Israeli governments withdrew from it. His minimum terms were clear and remained unchanged from 1974 on: a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount but excluding the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter); restoration of the pre-1967 border with the possibility of limited and equal exchanges of territory; evacuation of all the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory and the solution of the refugee problem in agreement with Israel. For the Palestinians, that is the very minimum, they cannot give up more than that.
Perhaps Yithak Rabin came close to this solution towards the end of his life, when he declared on TV that "Arafat is my partner". All his successors rejected it. They were not prepared to give up the settlements, but, on the contrary, enlarged them incessantly. They resisted every effort to fix a final border, since their kind of Zionism demands perpetual expansion. Therefore they saw in Arafat a dangerous enemy and tried to destroy him by all means, including an unprecedented campaign of demonization. So Golda Meir ("there is no such thing as a Palestinian people"). So Menachem Begin ("Two-footed animal - the man with hair on his face - the Palestinian Hitler"), so Binyamin Netanyahu, so Ehud Barak ("I have torn the mask from his face"), so Ariel Sharon, who tried to kill him in Beirut and has continued trying ever since.
No liberation fighter in the last half-century has faced such immense obstacles as he. He was not confronted with a hated colonial power or a despised racist minority, but by a state that arose after the Holocaust and was sustained by the sympathy and guilt-feelings of the world. In all military, economic and technological respects, the Israeli society is vastly stronger than the Palestinian. When he was called upon to set up the Palestinian Authority, he did not take over an existing, functioning state, like Nelson Mandela or Fidel Castro, but disconnected, impoverished pieces of land, whose infrastructure had been destroyed by decades of occupation. He did not take over a population living on its land, but a people half of which consists of refugees dispersed in many countries and the other half of a society fractured along political, economic and religious lines. All this while the battle for liberation is going on.
To hold this packet together and to lead it towards its destination under these conditions, step by step, is the historic achievement of Yasser Arafat.
Great men have great faults. One of Arafat's is his inclination to make all decisions himself, especially since all his close associates were killed. As one of his sharpest critics said: "It is not his fault. It is we who are to blame. For decades it was our habit to run away from all the hard decision that demanded courage and boldness. We always said: Let Arafat decide!" And decide he did. As a real leader, he went out ahead and drew his people after him. Thus he confronted the Arab leaders, thus he started the armed struggle, thus he extended his hand to Israel. Because of this courage, he has earned the trust, admiration and love of his people, whatever the criticism.
If Arafat passes away, Israel will lose a great enemy, who could have become a great partner and ally.
As the years pass, his stature will grow more and more in historical memory.
As for me: I respected him as a Palestinian patriot, I admired him for his courage, I understood the constraints he was working under, I saw in him the partner for building a new future for our two peoples. I was his friend.
As Hamlet said about his father: "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."
English web-version soon at: http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/article329
Sharon's strategy frustrated by demise of enemy
PM loses key justification
November 6, 2004
Ariel Sharon has ordered his ministers not to speak publicly about the imminent demise of the man he has more than once regretted not killing.
But Israel's prime minister has already told cabinet colleagues that the era of Yasser Arafat is at an end. And with it has gone Mr Sharon's best asset in his strategy to impose on the Palestinians what they would never agree to through negotiation.
Mr Arafat's prevarications over the tactics that allowed Israel to paint the Palestinian cause as driven by terror - the suicide bombings and indiscriminate attacks on civilians - provided Mr Sharon with the pretext for his unilateral plan to give up the Gaza Strip while entrenching control over large parts of the West Bank.
Mr Sharon called the Palestinian leader an obstacle to peace who had to be removed, and pondered whether to exile or even kill him. Now the obstacle lies in a coma in a French military hospital and almost no one in the Israeli government believes he will be back on top.
"Arafat was the most important excuse for the Israeli refusal to negotiate," said Yaron Ezrahi, a political analyst with the Israel Democracy Institute. "Israeli unilateralism is now under a political sword."
At the core of Mr Sharon's plan to unilaterally pull Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and a small part of the West Bank is his claim that there is no one to negotiate with on the Palestinian side. Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the Palestinian leader's demise did not change that.
"It is not certain who will be the [new Palestinian] leader and how long it will take to build and establish the leadership," he said. "It could take a long time, so I see no implication for the disengagement plan. If conditions change and a leadership is ripe for cooperation, then perhaps it will be necessary to reconsider matters."
But others in the security establishment and foreign ministry believe that Mr Arafat's passing will force the Israel government to negotiate at least the practicalities of the Gaza withdrawal.
"On the day after, we will be in a completely different situation," said Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, after Mr Arafat fell seriously ill last week. "The unilateral measure stemmed from the fact that there was no one to talk to, but without the shadow of Arafat, who prevented the possibility of dialogue, I believe that the Palestinian leadership will have the opportunity to carry out its commitments in the war on terrorism."
After Mr Arafat was flown to the Paris military hospital, a former prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, asserted control over the main Palestinian political organs, Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Mr Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, is a favourite of the Americans.
During his brief tenure as prime minister last year he made efforts to curb Palestinian attacks on Israelis by drawing militant groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades into a ceasefire. He also pressed for political reform and greater accountability within the Palestinian Authority.
But Mr Abbas was blocked by Mr Arafat - who did not wish to surrender control over the bulk of the Palestinian security forces - and undermined by Mr Sharon.
The Israeli prime minister effectively killed off the ceasefire by arguing that Israel was not a party to it and so was under no obligation to stop killing Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists, prompting a resumption of the suicide bombings. Mr Sharon was widely criticised afterwards for not doing enough to help the then Palestinian prime minister, besides releasing a few hundred prisoners.
If Mr Abbas emerges, even temporarily, as the principal Palestinian leader, there is likely to be growing pressure on Mr Sharon to deal with him.
Israel's foreign ministry has concluded that with the US election out of the way, George Bush will seek to ease his problems in Iraq and improve US standing in the Arab world by increasing pressure on Israel to re-engage with the Palestinians over the pullout from Gaza, laying the ground for broader talks in line with the US-led road map that Mr Sharon has sought to sideline. Mr Arafat's death could provide the mechanism for the Americans to assert that the Israeli prime minister needs to re-engage with the Palestinians.
Perhaps the deepest problem Mr Arafat's death presents for Israel is that he was probably the only man who could persuade the Palestinian people to accept the inevitable compromises that will have to be made in any peace agreement, particularly dropping the right of return for millions of Arab refugees to what is now Israel.
But Mr Sharon may see that as another opportunity to justify his unilateral strategy.
"The revolutionary leader who signed the Oslo agreement, who could legitimate that shift, died when the job is unfinished," Mr Ezrahi said.
"Sharon may now say it's true there was nobody to talk to but whoever we could talk to now is too weak is to make a huge difference. He can say that the leadership is not there and whoever appears to be there is not sufficiently powerful to take unpopular historic decisions on the Palestinian side."
Open Letter from American Jews to the Next President of the United States to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority.
Dear Mr. President,
As the newly elected President of the United States, you assume the leadership of our nation at a critical time in our history. As American Jews who strongly support Israel, we call on you to commit our nation to vigorous and persistent engagement in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We ask that within the first hundred days of your administration you appoint an internationally respected envoy at the highest level to signal your intentions to pursue full implementation of the disengagement plan and a renewal of negotiations leading to a final status accord.
After four years of unrelenting violence and bloodletting, the current stalemate is unspeakably tragic for both peoples and serves as a lightning rod for international terrorism and threats to our nation's security. Moreover, the demographic reality in Israel makes clear the urgency of a two-state solution, the key to preserving Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state.
In the past, American presidents have succeeded in bringing about lasting peace agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors. They did so by maintaining a steadfast commitment in the face of numerous obstacles.
We believe that Israeli and Palestinian leaders can be brought back to the negotiating table through your committed and persistent leadership in support of a negotiated two-state solution. Meeting this challenge would be an unparalleled achievement for your presidency. We strongly urge you to take all steps necessary to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and thus advance America's historic contribution to regional stability, global security, and international peace.
Signed, The Host Committee
Israel rejects Arafat choice of burial site (November 6, 2004)
Even before Yasser Arafat is declared dead, he is at the centre of a dispute over where he will be laid to rest, after Israel refused to allow his burial in the holy city of Jerusalem. The Palestinian leader wishes to be interred at one of the most sacred sites in Islam, Haram as-Sharif, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, inside Jerusalem's old city. But Ariel Sharon told his cabinet that he will not permit Mr Arafat to be buried in the old city or anywhere else in greater Jerusalem, which Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital. Yesterday, Israel's justice minister, Yosef Lapid, said: "Arafat won't be buried in Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is the city where Jewish kings are buried and not Arab terrorists." US and French officials were attempting to defuse the row after Israel said it would prefer Mr Arafat to be buried in the Gaza Strip. His family, backed by some Palestinian leaders, wants him interred on the edge of Jerusalem or in Ramallah, where he has mostly lived since he returned to the West Bank 10 years ago. CLIP
Arafat funeral conundrum (November 5, 2004)
The issue of Yasser Arafat's funeral is already proving to be an extremely complicated one. Problems are arising over where the Palestinian leader would be buried and who would attend the funeral.
'Plan agreed' to keep Gaza calm (November 7, 2004)
Qurei is stressing the need for national unity - Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has had talks with faction leaders in Gaza, as uncertainty mounts over who will succeed Yasser Arafat, if he dies. After meeting officials from groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Mr Qurei said commanders had agreed on a plan to ensure security and order. Meanwhile, an aide to Mr Arafat said on Saturday the ailing leader was not in a coma but remained in intensive care. CLIP
Gaza militants die in Israel raid (November 6, 2004)
At least two Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli helicopter strike near a Jewish settlement in Gaza. The Israeli army said the men - Islamic Jihad militants - were suspected of carrying explosives. In another incident, two Palestinians were killed in a car bomb explosion in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. The two men killed in Gaza on Saturday were identified as Omar Nufal, 26, and Ramzi al-Jaabir, 29 - both Islamic Jihad members. Israel said it had killed a third militant alongside them, but Palestinians have not confirmed this. Suspected device The three had been spotted "carrying what was suspected to be an explosive device" near the Gush Katif settlement, the army said. It said one of its soldiers had been slightly wounded. The Gaza Strip has been occupied by Israel since it captured the territory in the 1967 war. About 1.4 million Palestinians live in Gaza, of which 900,000 are refugees from conflicts with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning to withdraw settlers and Israeli soldiers from Gaza next year, though Israel will maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace.
The struggle to succeed Arafat (November 5, 2004)
BBC News, Jerusalem Yasser Arafat has no successor. The Palestinian leader has designated no-one, and there are no figures in Palestinian politics with remotely the same charisma or authority. Yasser Arafat remains by far the most popular Palestinian figure. But that does not necessarily mean the succession battle has to collapse into chaos - and so far the discipline of the Palestinian authorities in handling the current crisis has impressed outsiders. It is not just that Yasser Arafat actively discouraged any pretenders to his throne. The jobs he occupies make the succession extremely complicated. CLIP
After Arafat: A new Mideast?
For nearly forty years Yasser Arafat has been the great variable of Middle East politics. In wily one-man rule, he controlled the fortunes of his people, diplomatic, political and financial, decreeing alliances and rivalries, launching armed attacks on civilians, later signing interim agreements with the Jewish nation he had once vowed to supplant, still later keeping Israeli peace offers at arm's length, setting the stage for an endless, thus far aimless war.In sharp swings of policy, in successive phases of exile, he took his people, and their dreams of statehood, with him. Now, for the first time, his people face a future without him. Now Israel and its American allies, who have long held Arafat responsible for the death of the peace process, face a new reality.In what ways, and to what extent, will Arafat's disappearance change the equation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is Ariel Sharon likely to encounter stepped-up European and American pressure to make progress toward the road map peace plan and modify the unilateral disengagement to include coordination with the Palestinians and others? Could, as Israeli Military Intelligence has suggested, the absence of the PA chairman spell an end to the violence of the intifada?
Q&A: What follows Arafat? (October 28)
Arafat has made no plans for a successor - With Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat seriously ill, key questions about who or what might follow him are being asked. Is Yasser Arafat still important? Mr Arafat has cut an isolated and forlorn figure for a few years. He has been confined by the Israeli army to his compound in Ramallah since 2001, and Israel and the US have refused to have anything to do with him. The Palestinian Authority which he leads is widely perceived by Palestinians as corrupt and incompetent. Despite this, he is still the most popular Palestinian politician, remaining the figurehead of the Palestinian national cause. He is also the only Palestinian leader in a position to negotiate or sign a deal on behalf of Palestinians as a whole. Ironically, American and Israeli calls for Palestinians to ditch their leader may have helped Mr Arafat. CLIP
From: "The Other Israel" firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7 Nov 2004
Subject: Beating the shadow with a big stick
This week, in America the ideology of aggression and the playing on fear have been rewarded a meagre victory, but a victory it was. The nearing death of a humiliated president, symbol of the oppression and suffering of his people lead to a disgusting game of the Israeli paperazzi - also this week. But nothing much changed this week on the ground. Still military confrontations are resulting in the daily killing of Palestinians and (less) Israeli soldiers being hit. And the olive harvest under the threat of the settlers continued also this week to depend on Israeli and international helpers, with each weekend a different group organizing busloads of harvesters, and Rabbi Arik Asherman and Yakov Manor also this week frantically getting together smaller groups during work hours. And the wall continued to be built and grow longer on Palestinian lands just as before. And in Budrus, villagers together with Israeli and international activists were also this week demonstrating against it, leading to arrests. And as if we didn't know it for a long time, we saw on this week's Friday evening TV news how Palestinians are deprived of water which is lavishly allotted to the nearby settlers. And when we saw how settlers make good money by selling the water from their tap on the black market to their thirsting Palestinian neighbors, it turned out (you may not believe it) that we are still able to feel deep shock. [Beate Zilversmidt]
Special report: Israel & the Middle East
PART III - Renewed fighting and violence in Ivory Coast
French, Ivory Coast Forces Battle
November 6, 2004
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) - French troops clashed with soldiers and angry mobs Saturday after government warplanes killed at least nine French peacekeepers and an American civilian in an airstrike - mayhem that threatened to draw foreign troops deeper into Ivory Coast's escalating civil war.
Mob violence broke out in Ivory Coast's largest city after France retaliated for the airstrike by destroying two government warplanes at an airport outside the capital.
Thousands of pro-government youths, some armed with machetes, axes or chunks of wood, took to the streets of the country's commercial capital, Abidjan. Crowds went door to door looking for French citizens and set fire to a French school, sending a pall of smoke over the city.
"Everybody get your Frenchman!'' young men in the mob shouted to each others.
Later, massive explosions and heavy gunfire rocked Yamoussoukro, the capital of the West African nation. It was not immediately known what caused the apparent fighting in the ciry, where both Ivorian and French forces are based.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency session Saturday, with U.S. and French diplomats preparing a sharp warning to Ivory Coast's government. France quickly sent three Mirage fighter jets to West Africa and ordered more troops to Ivory Coast in response to the violence.
France's Foreign Minister Michel Barnier demanded action from Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo act. Gbagbo must "clearly assume his responsibilities and the role that is his to return the country to calm - especially in Abidjan.''
"We must immediately return to the path of peace,'' Barnier said.
Hard-liners in Ivory Coast's military broke a more than year-old cease-fire, launching surprise airstrikes Thursday against rebel positions and vowing to retake the northern part of the country in rebel hands since the civil war began in 2002.
Government officials said Saturday's airstrike that hit a French peacekeeper position was an accident - but the violence highlighted the nationalist fervor in the pro-government south.
Many in the south resent the French troops, suspecting them of siding with rebels, even though the peacekeepers have protected government troops in the past. France has about 4,000 troops in Ivory Coast, and a separate U.N. peacekeeping force numbers around 6,000.
Saturday's violence began when government warplanes struck French positions at Brobo, near the northern rebel-held town of Bouake, in the afternoon, U.N. military spokesman Philippe Moreux said.
Eight French soldiers were killed and 23 others wounded, said Defense Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau in Paris. An American citizen was also killed in the raid, the French presidency said, without providing details.
A ninth French soldier died of his wounds, said France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere before the emergency council meeting. Council diplomats said the American who was killed was believed to have worked for a non-governmental organization and been at the French base.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Ergibe Boyd in Abidjan said they've been told of the death by the French but haven't confirmed it. She said the American was likely a missionary, since there is no U.S. military or diplomatic presence in the area.
In response to the strike, French infantry destroyed the Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets on the ground at an airport in the capital, Yamoussoukro, 75 miles to the south, French military spokesman Col. Henry Aussavy said. The jets were believed to be the ones that carried out the strike.
"Our forces responded in a situation of legitimate defense,'' Bureau, the spokesman, said. "Now the priority is the immediate end of combat.'' France sent three Mirage fighter jets, due to arrive in nearby Gabon. and French President Jacques Chirac said he ordered the deployment of two more military companies to Ivory Coast.
At the U.N. Security Council, the United States, which currently holds the council presidency, and France were drafting a presidential statement warning Ivory Coast's government to stop attacks immediately or face "serious consequences,'' council diplomats said.
In the violence in Abidjan, loyalist mobs tried to overrun a French military base near the airport. French troops fired in the air and lobbed tear gas at the crowd. "French go home!'' loyalist mobs screamed as they marched through the city. Mobs went house to house, seeking out French civilians, French military spokesman Henry Aussavy said.
At least three French families had called French authorities to say loyalist militias had stormed their homes, a Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. There was no immediate word on any civilian casualties.
At the same time, Ivory Coast soldiers tried to destroy French aircraft at the airport itself, sparking clashes with French forces, a French spokesman, Jacques Combarieu, said. Combarieu said a French soldier was lightly injured and an airplane was lightly damaged before the fighting ended.
After nightfall, state TV ran a nonstop crawl across screens, asking for restraint: "We are asking all patriots and Ivorians to not attack, and to not attack the property, of French people or the international community.''
A senior member of Ivory Coast's government - Sebastien Dano Djeje, Cabinet member for National Reconciliation - said the bombing of the French position in the north "was a mistake. We didn't aim to hit them.''
But then he questioned whether the government air force was really behind the strike. "But what proves it was Ivorian planes? We have to do an investigation,'' he told The Associated Press.
Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, had been the pride of France's former colonial empire for prosperous decades after independence in 1960. A downturn in commodities prices and political change in the 1990s helped bring instability, and the country suffered its first-ever military coup in 1999.
Turmoil and regional, ethnic and political hatreds have reigned since. Civil war erupted in September 2002. A power-sharing deal brokered by the French ended major fighting in 2003, but otherwise failed to take hold.
Explosions Rock Ivory Coast's Main City Abidjan (November 06, 2004)
ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Loud explosions rocked Ivory Coast's main city of Abidjan early on Sunday and heavy gunfire could be heard as thousands of anti-French demonstrators marched toward a French military base.A witness said a French military helicopter fired warning shots into a lagoon crossed by two bridges that lead from the city center toward the French base and the airport.Red tracer bullets streaked across the night sky, coming from the residential district of Cocody in the commercial capital of the world's top cocoa grower. The witness said Ivorian army soldiers appeared to be shooting at the helicopter from positions in Cocody, which is just across the lagoon from the two bridges and the city center. On Saturday, Ivorian warplanes killed nine French peacekeepers in a bombing raid during the fiercest clashes with rebels for 18 months. France hit back by destroying most of the West African country's small air force, sparking anger in Abidjan against French troops based in the city.Thousands of stick-wielding youths marched past the French embassy in the city center and headed toward the airport, which was under French army control. U.N. spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo said there had been shooting at a crossroads near the airport for about 45 minutes but it had died down.
Ivory Coast seethes after attack (7 November, 2004)
Armed mobs of government loyalists took to the streets of Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, in anger against France. Rioters attacked a French school and army base as Paris moved to disable the Ivory Coast air force following an air attack on French peacekeeping force. Nine French soldiers and a US citizen were killed when Ivorian planes hit a rebel stronghold in the north. The UN Security Council condemned the attack, and voiced support for French and UN forces in Ivory Coast. Paris has dispatched an extra two companies of troops to beef up a force of 4,000 already deployed since the end of the civil war last year, and has also redeployed three jet fighters to the region. French forces earlier destroyed two Ivorian bombers at an airbase in the capital, Yamoussoukro, along with two Russian-built Sukhoi 25 and three Mi-24 helicopters. In a telephone call to President Laurent Gbagbo, France's Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said a political solution must be found, and stressed that "violence leads to nothing," a ministry statement said. The BBC's world affairs correspondent, Mark Doyle, says this is the most serious crisis between France and its former colony since independence in 1960. Ivory Coast was for many years a tolerant melting pot of religions and ethnic groups, but a coup in 1999 followed by civil war ended all of that with a vengeance, our correspondent says. (...) The African Union has urged both the government and rebels to refrain from any further violations of the truce they signed last year after a bitter civil war which split the country.
France's role in Ivory Coast (6 November, 2004)
Ever since independence in 1960, Ivory Coast has maintained strong ties with its former colonial power. French investors, soldiers, and political advisers have traditionally played a key role in sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest economy - and the world's leading cocoa producer. When Ivory Coast was ripped apart by its first coup in 1999, the French watched nervously as four decades of Paris-backed stability lay in ruins. The latest crisis is also deeply worrying for France - which had some 20,000 nationals in Ivory Coast when it began two years ago. France has some 4,000 troops there to protect them, as well as to monitor the ceasefire and maintain the buffer zone which is keeping the two warring sides apart. CLIP
Ivory Coast peace in tatters? (5 November, 2004)
In Ivory Coast, air raids carried out by government forces on the former rebels, known as the New Forces, seem to confirm the war has started again, despite the UN-backed peace process. The raids come a week after the New Forces announced a state of maximum alert, and three weeks after a missed deadline for disarmament to begin. For them, a ceasefire signed in July last year now seems to be little more than another worthless piece of paper fluttering down onto the pile of such documents that has built up in the country since the crisis began on 19 September 2002. Panic The bombs bursting on New Forces' town of Bouake have caused real damage in the rebel-controlled north, and heighten huge tensions in the government-held south. CLIP
Q&A: Ivory Coast's crisis (6 November, 2004)
The security forces killed scores of opposition supporters in March, a UN report says Ivory Coast, previously West Africa's richest country, has been divided between north and south - between rebels and the national army - since September 2002. Government air strikes on rebel-held territory in the north this week, and clashes on the ground between the two sides, marks the first major unrest since a peace deal brokered by France in January 2003. BBC News looks at the reasons behind the conflict and whether peace and prosperity can return. CLIP
PART IV - Some of the other armed conflicts around the world
Tales of people at war Across the world today, millions of people are caught up in conflict. BBC filmmakers follow 16 different characters in 16 different war zones over a 24-hour period.
Who's fighting who? Separatists, pushing for independence from Russia, have been fighting Russian forces since the early 1990s. There are said to be 80,000 Russian troops in Chechnya. Muslim volunteers from overseas are known to have travelled to Chechnya to fight for the separatists.
What is the fighting about? The roots of Chechen separatism go back nearly two centuries, but the present conflict arose when Chechnya declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The separatist fighters want independence, or at least self-rule, and have vowed to continue fighting until Russian forces leave.
How many people have died? The war has cost tens of thousands of lives. Some estimates put Russian losses in the past decade at 25,000. Russian officials have said 14,000 Chechen fighters were killed between 1999 and the end of 2002.
Who's fighting who? The separatist region of Abkhazia fought a bloody war as it tried to break away from Georgia in the early 1990s. The fighting is over, but the situation on the UN-patrolled Abkhaz-Georgian border remains tense. South Ossetia, a separatist region in the north, fought a war for reunion with a neighbouring Russian republic in 1991. Georgia regained control of a third renegade region, Ajaria, when its leader flew into exile in May 2004.
What is the fighting about? Ethnicity is at the heart of Abkhaz and South Ossetian separatism. The ethnic Abkhaz people have a strong affinity with North Caucasian nationalities in Russia. South Ossetians aspire to unification with the neighbouring Russian republic of North Ossetia. The conflict over Ajaria was largely about money and power.
How many people have died? Ten thousand people died in the war in Abkhazia. The conflict in South Ossetia cost 1,400 lives. Despite expectations of conflict, the resumption of Georgian control over Ajaria in May 2004 was achieved without bloodshed.
Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan
Who's fighting who? Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire accord in 1994, ending five years of fighting over the disputed enclave, but the conflict has not been resolved. Ethnic Armenians control Karabakh and a swathe of Azerbaijani territory around it. Hundreds of thousands of refugees remain stranded on either side of the ceasefire line.
What is the fighting about? Tensions dormant for decades resurfaced in a territorial dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the dying days of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s calls by the majority Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh for unification with Armenia sparked inter-ethnic violence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the republic went to war, backed by their newly-independent mother countries.
How many people have died? Up to 35,000 people died in the conflict. Around a million people were displaced by the fighting.
Israel and the Palestinians
Who's fighting who? Palestinian militants are involved in what they see as a resistance struggle against occupation by the Israeli army. They have also launched suicide bombings in Israeli cities. Israel has responded with incursions into Palestinian areas and by assassinating militant leaders.
How long has the war been going on? The latest round of fighting, known as the Aqsa Intifada, began in 2000 following a breakdown in "land-for-peace" negotiations. Arabs and Israelis have fought several wars since the establishment of Israel in 1948, including in 1967 when Israel captured the land it now occupies.
How many people have been killed? Three thousand Palestinians and 900 Israelis - of whom about 1,400 Palestinians and 650 Israelis have been civilians.
Who's fighting who? The ousted Taleban are the most prominent of the militants fighting American and Afghan forces trying to extend the writ of US-backed authorities in Kabul. Clashes are most frequent in the south and east, but there have been incidents of violence in the capital, too, and several turf wars between regional warlords.
What's the fighting about? Afghanistan has had over 20 years of civil war. When the Taleban refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden in 2001 they were driven from power by US-led forces. In their absence there has been a resurgence of conflict between regional warlords. Now the Taleban are re-emerging as a fighting force.
How many have died? More than 700 people have died in attacks since last August, the bloodiest period since US-led forces toppled the Taleban.
Who's fighting who? Maoist rebels have been fighting Nepal's security forces since 1996.
What's the fighting about? The rebels want to establish a communist republic in the Himalayan kingdom, which is one of the world's poorest countries.
How many have died? Over 9,000 people have died in the conflict, the military says - most of them since the army joined the fight in late 2001. The army is better equipped but mountainous terrain favours the rebels. Observers see little prospect of either side winning the war soon.
Who's fighting who? The Karen National Union (KNU) is the most significant ethnic group still engaged in armed struggle with the government in Rangoon, although analysts say the KNU has been reduced to about 1,000 fighters. The Karen ethnic group make up about 7% of Burma's population.
What is the fighting about? Since Burma's independence from Britain, the KNU has been fighting for autonomy from Rangoon, in line with the Karen's concept of its ethnic identity.
How many people have died? Scores of people are thought to have been killed each year for the last decade or so, though an effective ceasefire is now in place.
Who's fighting who? Ethnic Hmong have been waging a low-level war against the Laos Government.
What is the fighting about? The problem stems from the Vietnam War, when large numbers of ethnic Hmong sided with the US army. The 300,000 Hmong left in Laos have suffered discrimination ever since. Sporadic violent attacks in the region may have been perpetrated by them, although the government blames "bandits".
How many people have died? It is very difficult to be sure, though the numbers are probably small.
Who's fighting who? Several groups are fighting for autonomy in the southern Philippines. The New People's Army - the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - has been fighting the Philippines government for more than 30 years. It numbers about 9,000 fighters.
What is the fighting about? The NPA wants to overthrow the Philippines government. The US classes it as a terrorist organisation, although Manila regards it as an extortion gang rather than a threat to national security.
How many people have died? Over the last decade, between 15 and 100 people have been killed each year.
Who's fighting who? As the government and southern rebels sign a peace agreement, a new rebellion has broken out in the western region of Darfur. There, the government is accused of backing the Arab "Janjaweed" militia.
What's the fighting about? In the south, Christians and animists opposed plans to expand Islamic Sharia law to the areas where they lived. In Darfur, the rebels accused the Arab-dominated government of ignoring the region and now accuse the government and the Janjaweed of "ethnic cleansing" against black African residents.
How many have died? About 2 million in 20 years of fighting in the south. In Darfur, about 10,000 have died and 1 million fled their homes.
Who's fighting who? Several rival warlords are battling for power.
How long has the fighting been going on? Since 1991, when Siad Barre was toppled from power. Ever since, there has been no central government despite attempts to set up transitional authorities.
How many people have died? About 1 million.
Who's fighting who? The Lord's Resistance Army rebels are fighting the army.
What's the fighting about? The LRA say they want to rule Uganda according to the Biblical Ten Commandments but routinely commit atrocities - mutilating victims and kidnapping children to become fighters or sex slaves. The LRA also accuse the government of ignoring the north of the country.
How many have died? Unknown - some 1 million have fled their homes.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Who's fighting who? A peace deal has ended "Africa's first world war", involving at least six other nations - Angola, Burundi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. But fighting continues between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in Ituri province and elsewhere in the east, bands of armed men still roam, killing, looting and raping.
What is the fighting about? The conflict began when those responsible for the genocide in Rwanda fled to DR Congo and Rwanda invaded to pursue them in 1996. The man it backed, Laurent Kabila, toppled the leader Mobutu Sese Seko. In 1998, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia intervened on the side of the government after a new Rwandan and Ugandan attempt to change the DR Congo government. Almost all of the armed groups have been accused of looting DR Congo's rich natural resources - gold, diamonds, etc.
How many people have died? At least 3 million overall and 50,000 in Ituri.
Who's fighting who? The Farc are the largest, oldest and best-equipped left-wing guerrilla group in Colombia. They were formally founded in 1966 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party. But they are not the only armed actors in the Colombian drama. As well as the smaller left-wing rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), there is also the right-wing paramilitary umbrella organisation known as the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), which formed in the 1990s.
What is the fighting about? Idelogically, the leadership of the FARC still remains loyal to its original aim of bringing about a Marxist state in Colombia. However in recent years, their opponents have strongly criticised their methods of raising funds, particularly their extensive involvement in kidnapping, and their alleged links with the drugs trade. They face opposition not just from the security forces, but also from the paramilitaries essentially vigilante organisations which were set up deliberately to combat them.
How many people have died? The political violence has killed at least 35,000 people over the past decade and forced millions of Colombians to flee their homes.
One Day of War was broadcast in the UK on Thursday, 27 May, 2004 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.
1990-2004: 57 Major Armed Conflicts, 3.6 Million Dead http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/04/global/irin_conflict.htm
(Dublin, August 17, 2004) There were 57 major armed conflicts in various parts of the world between 1990 and 2001, according to the 2003 edition of the Human Development Report (HDR 2003), an annual publication of the United Nations Development Programme. An estimated 3.6 million people died in these conflicts. Most were civilians and the overwhelming majority were in Africa. Millions were wounded. Over the years, violent conflicts have uprooted millions from their homes. Millions more had to flee their homes. The need for action to prevent such conflicts and the suffering they cause has rarely been as strong as it now is. This need has been highlighted at various fora and has led to a number of initiatives, not least the establishment of conflict prevention strategies and mechanisms by regional and global bodies such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the African Union, as well as civil society groups. At the same time, a global focus on security as a result of the US-led War on Terror has given rise to a new set of questions as to the nature of so-called humanitarian intervention, including the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive and in particular military action against another state for the purpose of protecting people there. This focus may have helped to raise a sense of urgency in tackling conflicts but, according to some development actors, it has also highlighted the complex relationship between development and security. Of particular concern to development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is the extent to which the resurgence of a unilateralist, military approach to intervention and the War on Terror has led to a prioritization of the security agenda, shifting the emphasis from the fight against poverty to the fight against terrorism.World Bank President James Wolfensohn remarked at a conference in Shanghai, China, in May that increasingly less attention was being given to the problems that come with poverty. Without dealing with that question of poverty, there cant be any peace, and $900 billion being spent on military expenditure, $300 billion being spent on agricultural subsidies and $50-$60 billion being spent on overseas development assistance is one of the absurdities that we have to change, he told the Scaling Up Poverty Reduction Conference. CLIP
New and Recent Conflicts of the World (Updated on January 11, 2003)
A chronological chart with basic information about wars and conflicts that have begun since the 1940s. The world is a violent place, and for various political, economic, religious and other reasons, wars and conflicts often erupt. The purpose of this web page is to chronicle these conflicts and attempt to explain why they occur and what may result from them.
Current Major wars and conflicts - Current Minor wars and conflicts - Recently concluded or suspended wars and conflicts - Major Acts of Terrorism CLIP
The 2004 Armed Conflicts Report
Ploughshares Monitor, Summer, 2004 The 2004 Armed Conflicts Report (For a map showing the countries hosting armed conflict, click here.) In 2003 the number of armed conflicts totalled 36 in 28 countries. These numbers are a slight decline from 2002 which saw 37 armed conflicts in 29 countries. The drop continues a general downward trend since a peak of 44 conflicts in 1995 and involves the fewest number of states hosting wars since Project Ploughshares began tracking armed conflict in 1987. Five states experienced more than one conflict in 2003, with four armed conflicts in each of India and Indonesia, and two wars in each of Sudan, the Philippines, and Iraq. The Israel-Palestine conflict is reported as a single conflict taking place on the territory of two states, Israel and Lebanon. All but five of the 36 armed conflicts of 2003 are more than two years old, almost two-thirds (23) have been fought for more than 10 years, and eight of the current armed conflicts have endured for over 25 years.
Human Rights Watch World Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed Conflicts
Flashpoints: A Guide to World Conflict
Informative vignettes about two dozen or so conflicts worldwide.
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict
Full Coverage of most conflicts around the world
Darfur peace talks take new turn (Nov 6)
The talks have come unstuck over no-fly zone proposals - African Union mediators are meeting separately with Sudanese government and Darfur rebel representatives as part of peace talks in Nigeria's capital Abuja. The meetings come after the government refused to agree to a no-fly zone over Darfur, saying such an accord would hamper its ability to ensure stability. Some 1.6 million people have fled their homes and 70,000 have been killed since the conflict began in early 2003. A draft resolution on Darfur is currently being examined by the UN. Anarchy warning Peace talks between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels stalled on Friday over the question of creating a no-fly zone over the area. Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo had put forward a compromise, which called for a ceasefire on land and in the air. The rebels - who had accepted the draft agreement - want military flights to be prohibited, because they say government planes are bombing villages in Darfur. The new UN resolution being examined by the UN Security Council is expected to be adopted when it meets in Nairobi later this month. UN envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk has warned of anarchy in Darfur.
Sudan's Darfur rebels say not carrying out attacks (06 Nov 2004)
CAIRO, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels on Saturday distanced themselves from attacks which have forced aid agencies to suspend operations and evacuate staff in West Darfur state. (...) We don't start attacks, we only defend ourselves," Imam said.Imam said government forces had bombed a village 45 km (25 miles) north of Nyala in South Darfur state on Thursday, killing five civilians and wounding three. Government officials were not immediately available for comment. After years of low-level fighting between mainly African farmers and Arab nomads, the SLA and JEM, largely African groups, launched a revolt against Khartoum in early 2003 complaining of neglect and marginalisation.Khartoum responded by arming Arab militias which have been accused of rape, looting and pillage by international organisations and the rebels.The United Nations has said 70,000 people have died from disease and malnutrition since March, a figure disputed by Khartoum. There are no reliable figures for how many people have died as a direct result of the fighting.
More news on the situation in Darfur and Sudan
Clickable map - Select a region for a guide to the conflicts in One Day of War
Every minute, two people are killed in conflicts around the world. Often very little is known about the people who are fighting and dying. The BBC programme One Day of War follows individual fighters in 16 of these wars, over the same 24 hour period. Use this map to find out about each of these conflicts. Why are people fighting? How long have the wars been going on? And how many have died? Then read accounts of the conflicts from each of the 16 locations.
The struggle to film conflicts around the globe (13 May, 2004)
One Day of War - The idea was simple enough: to record a day in the life in a war zone in as many countries around the world as we can reasonably fit into a 90-minute film. Listen to Will Daws discuss the programme on Radio Five Live When you sit down with this brief it is easy to become overwhelmed; there are over 70 active conflicts in the world today. CLIP
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