August 23, 2006
NEW REPORTS ON ISRAELI INVASION OF LEBANON
A report published today by Amnesty International accuses Israel of committing war crimes by deliberately destroying Lebanese civilian infrastructure. The United Nations Development programme has also released findings today which state that Lebanon’s 15-year economic and social recovery from civil war was wiped out in the recent Israeli offensive against Hezbollah. Khaled Sid Mohand reports from Beirut.
According to the United Nations Development Programme and Amnesty International, the 34-day Israeli offensive destroyed most of the Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure. Lebanese authorities estimated last week that direct structural damage inflicted by the Israeli bombing reached 3.6 billion dollars – including 30,000 houses, 80 bridges, and 94 roads destroyed or damaged. The bombardment of power and water plants and transport links was “deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy” according to Amnesty International’s Deputy Secretary General Kate Gilmore. The human rights group is calling on the United Nations to conduct an independent inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law on both sides of the conflict. Hezbollah rockets have killed 40 civilians in northern Israel. Around one third of the 1,183 people killed in Lebanon were children, while 4,054 people were injured and 970,000 displaced. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Khaled Sid Mohand in Beirut.
SITUATION AT SCHIPHOL
Twelve passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight to Mumbai, India were arrested today in the Netherlands. The pilot reportedly made a request for fighter jets to escort the plane back to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport after members of the flight crew mentioned suspicious behavior from a number of passengers.
ABDUCTED FOX NEWS WORKERS APPEAR IN VIDEO
A previously unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades has claimed responsibility for the abduction of two media workers with Fox News. The journalists were kidnapped on August 14th while working in Gaza City. They both appeared in a video broadcast today on Al-Jazeera. The militant group is demanding the release of “Muslim female and male prisoners in American jails ” within the next 3 days.
P.A. WORKERS HOURS REDUCED
Meanwhile, the Palestinian government has reduced the work week for government employees to 40 hours with a two-day weekend. The declaration comes in the midst of negotiations for a Palestinian national unity government and a major financial crisis due to the suspension of international aid money to the Palestinian Authority. Saed Bannoura reports:
Since Hamas was elected as the majority party in the Palestinian government in late January, international aid money has been frozen, preventing the government from paying salaries to over 200,000 employees. The implementation of the 40-hour work week at this time appears to be a concession to government workers who have not been paid for month and is being hailed as a victory by worker’s unions. Jamil Shehadeh is the head of the Palestinian Teacher’s Union, which had threatened a strike just as schools are set to open: (sound) “Everybody should know that the base of all our problems here is the Israeli occupation – if we didn’t have the occupation, we wouldn’t have such problems. Secondly, those countries who blindly support Israel are part of the problem. And third, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for paying the salaries. The Authority should find ways to fulfill its obligations to the workers.” Palestinian workers have long been exploited by Israeli contractors as cheap labor, but since Israel has blocked the borders, and recruited Thai and other southeast Asian immigrants to replace Palestinian workers, the unemployment rate in Palestine has soared to over 50%. Raids by Israeli immigration police on workplaces have increased, with over 1,000 Palestinian workers arrested in Israel in the last month alone. For FSRN from imemc.org this is Saed Bannoura in Beit Sahour, Palestine.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, supporters of the top two presidential contenders have reached a ceasefire agreement. Fighting broke out between the two factions on Sunday after the announcement of the need for a run-off to determine the country’s next president.
CHILEAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MOBILIZE
Chilean high school students took to the streets again yesterday, protesting the slow process of reforms to the country’s education system. Jorge Garretón reports from Santiago.
The Presidential Commission on Education Reform is expected to submit its final report outlining changes to Chile’s education system by December. But high school students charge the Commission is taking too long to address their demands. High school students demonstrated yesterday and despite small pockets of violence, where students fought with police, high school student spokesperson Maximiliano Mellado called the demonstration peaceful and positive. Police arrested some 220 students during the demonstration. Another student spokesperson, José Valenzuela says if the Commission does not quickly address their demands, students could be out on the streets again mimicking the earlier massive shut down of the public education system. President Michelle Bachelet convened the Commission after agreeing to meet the students’ demands for a new Education Act, better funding to public schools and do away with the current for-profit education model that regulates the educational system. For FSRN this is Jorge Garretón in Santiago.
Update from Lebanon (3:29)
Israel’s foreign minister has urged rapid action on building an expanded UN peace force in Lebanon, warning of an explosive situation on the ground. Syrian President Bashar Assad has meanwhile indicated his opposition to the deployment of UN troops along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Israelis accuse Syria of supplying arms across the border to Hezbollah, including the rockets which were used to attack Israel throughout the month-long conflict. David Enders has more.
Immigration Bill Costs Disputed (4:08)
Groups dispute the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis that the Senate’s version of immigration legislation will cost 126 billion dollars. As FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports, some say it’ll cost less, some say it’ll cost much more.
Proposed Foreign Forces for Somalia (2:32)
Army chiefs from the the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development IGAD member states have finalized plans for the deployment of forces in the horn of Africa nation of Somalia. The proposal to deploy foreign forces will first be forwarded to the UN security council before the deployment finally takes effect.This announcement is coming after the prime minister of Somali’s transitional government Ali Mohamed Guedi also named a cabinet in place of one which was sacked following mass resignations last month. The Union of Islamic courts militias who now control a larger part of Somalia including the capital Mogadishu are opposed to the deployment of foreign forces. Joshua Kyalimpa reports.
CA Raises State Minimum Wage (3:38)
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders have struck a deal to hike the state’s minimum wage by a dollar and a quarter over the next year and a half. Democrats in return are giving up their proposal to for automatic increases with the minimum wage tied to inflation. Schwarzenegger had vetoed two previous bills seeking to raise the minimum wage. His turn around, however, removes a potential divisive issue in the gubernatorial race. Christopher Martinez reports.
Religious Abuse Cited at GTMO (3:31)
The Center for Constitutional Rights released recently-declassified notes detailing an eyewitness account of the mistreatment of the Koran and a subsequent attack on detainees by military police at Guantánamo in early June of this year. We’re joined by President of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner.
Commentary From Mumia Abu Jamal: Kids at War with the World (3:42)