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Jordanian Group Threatens Suit over Baptism Site


The Arab Union for Resistance to the Expulsion of Arab Christians said, Thursday, that it will sue Israel over development of Kasr Al-Yehud baptismal site on the Israeli side of the River Jordan, near Jericho, which opened almost two months ago.

The site, believed to be the third most holy site in Christendom as the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, was closed most of the time since 1967. Its threat joins claims of the Jordanian government that the real site is on its side of the river.

Report Upholds Gaza Blockade, Faults Flotilla Raid

By VOA News &

A long-awaited U.N. panel report on the Israeli raid of a Turkish aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip was leaked Thursday by the New York Times. In it, the panel found that Israel used excessive and unreasonable force during its raid of the Mavi Marmara last year, but concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza is legal under international law.

The New York Times posted a copy of the 105-page confidential report on its website ahead of its expected release Friday.

The panel, headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, as well as member from both Turkey and Israel, found that Israeli commandos who boarded the Turkish flagged vessel Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, 2010, "without warning or consent" used "substantial force" against the activists on board.

"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza," the report says in its opening paragraphs. "The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law."

It argued that while the majority of the hundreds of people aboard the six vessels had no violent intention, the same could not be said of IHH – the Turkish aid group that primarily organized the flotilla. It said, "There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH."

The panel said the action of the Israeli commandos "seems to us to have been too heavy a response too quickly" and "it was an excessive reaction to the situation." They concluded that "the operation should have been better planned and differently executed."

The flotilla of six ships carrying 600 pro-Palestinian activists set out to break Israel's blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and deliver medical, educational and construction materials to the Palestinian territory. But the mission turned deadly when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship and nine passengers were killed in the ensuing chaos. The report notes that seven of the dead suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Regarding the boarding action, the Palmer committee said Israel should have issued warnings closer to the moment of action and should have first turned to nonviolent options – utterly ignoring that the commandoes who boarded the vessel were armed with less-than-lethal 'pneumatic guns' and that 'live fire' was only employed when those proved insufficient to stop the threat to life and limb they faced.

The report also assailed Israel for the way in which the nine were killed and others injured. "Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel," it says.

The report does, however, acknowledge that once on board the commandos faced "organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers" that required they defend themselves against violent attack.

The report also criticizes Israel's subsequent treatment of passengers, saying it "included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance" – a hotly contested allegation never independently verified and unsupported by corroborating evidence.

The report did recommend that Israel should make "an appropriate statement of regret' and pay reparations, which Israel has said it will consider if Turkey softens its stance, but Istanbul has rejected that formula as 'insufficient.'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said an apology - a step beyond an 'expression of regret' - and compensation would not be sufficient to return his ambassador to Tel Aviv - insisting Israel also terminate its blockade on Gaze despite the report's conclusions.

Turkey had argued that the naval blockade was illegal and that Israel had no right to stop the ships in international waters.

Relations between Israel and Turkey, once very close, became very strained over the incident, with Ankara recalling its ambassador to Tel Aviv. The two countries have been negotiating about some type of apology from Israel and over compensation for the victims, but have been unable to agree. The U.N. panel did recommend that Israel should express regret and compensate the victims.

Mini-St. Louis? Yemenite Jewish Refugees in Cairo Face Deportation


The leading rabbi of the Jewish Community in Yemen described 12 Jews who fled Yemen when protests there broke out are 'outlaws' who had left the country 'illegally.'

Rabbi Yahya Yousof said the 12 refugees are now in Egypt and are expected to be deported back to Yemen soon due to false information given to Yemeni immigration authorities. The 12 Jews are presently being detained in Egypt.

It is unknown if the 12 fled Yemen on their own, or whether it was a part of a botched Satmar operation to relocate Yemen's Jews to Argentina (21 have gone so far).

Yousof, who has previously said trying to leave Yemen was a betrayal of their host nation's `hospitality,' said the 12 could face legal actions due to giving false information and traveling with false paperwork. "The Yemeni government has been treating Yemeni Jews with great respect and very few Jews are planning to leave the country," said Yousof. "Why would Jews leave Yemen when they are respected by the people and its government?"

However, a Yemeni Jew from Raidah, 50 kilometers to the north of Sana'a, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many Yemeni Jews – including the 12 in Cairo – have been planning to migrate to Europe in fears of being killed by Islamic terrorists.

Yemen's Jews have faced a growing wave of anti-Semitic violence in recent years – not to mention the kidnapping of daughters of marriageable age which forced the government of now-embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh to relocate them and place them under heightened protection.

The future of Yemen's community would be thrown into doubt should Saleh depart - an outcome that seems increasingly likely. Saleh, a tenacious political survivor who has backed out of three transition of power deals to date, said earlier this week he would agree to step down in the coming months.

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