China marks Japan’s WWII surrender

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

China marks Japan’s WWII surrender

Xinhua

A peace assembly was held in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province, yesterday to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Representatives from countries, including China, Japan, the United States and Thailand, attended the event held at the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, mourning the 300,000 people who were killed in one of the most barbaric episodes of World War II.

Japanese invaders slaughtered about 300,000 Chinese during a six-week rampage after they captured the city, which was then China’s capital, on December 13, 1937.

Members of an anti-war NGO based in Kobe, Japan, laid wreaths and paid tribute to the victims in silence. It was the 22nd time the group had attended the peace assembly in Nanjing.

“We choose to come to China to mark the event because Chinese people were the victims of the war and they deserve tribute and remembrance,” said Miyauchi Yoko, head of the group.

“Ordinary people suffer the most in times of war,” said a student from Thailand. “Everyone should make contributions to world peace.”

Ge Daorong, a survivor of the massacre, was only 10 years old when Nanjing fell to the Japanese. During the massacre, he and his close family took refuge in a safety zone and survived the onslaught, but his three uncles did not.

“We look back at sad episodes of history in order to cherish today’s peace,” Ge said at a forum held after the assembly.

In northeastern Heilongjiang Province, nearly 100 teenagers from China and Russia took part in a historical reenactment to mark the anniversary of Japan’s WWII surrender.

The activity was held at Shengshan Stronghold, a war relic that has now been turned into a base for patriotic education of young people from China and Russia.

“Both China and Russia suffered great losses during WWII,” said Yulia Ablova, an education official from the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk. “We need to remember the history and cherish the peace.”

In the southwestern city of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, 1,207 hand prints of WWII Chinese veterans were donated to the Jianchuan Museum Cluster, the largest private museum complex in China, to commemorate the anniversary.

The hand prints were from surviving soldiers in Hunan Province who fought during the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945).

During the ceremony on Tuesday, Fan Jianchuan, curator of the museum, said the veteran hand-print installation was expanding. More than 4,800 red hand prints have been imprinted on tempered glass slabs arranged in a V-shape to symbolize victory.

“Seventy-three years ago, these hands held broadswords and spears, threw hand grenades and buried landmines to safeguard our country and rescue our people,” Fan said. “They should be remembered.”

3 Czech NATO Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

3 Czech NATO Service Members Killed In Afghanistan

Three Czech service members with NATO’s Resolute Support mission were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan by a suicide bomber, the U.S. military and Czech authorities said.

In addition, one American service member and two Afghan soldiers were injured.

They were on foot patrol with Afghan forces, according to NATO.

The Czech Republic’s Interior Minister Jan Hamáček confirmed the deaths on Twitter, saying, the “Czech Republic has suffered a terrible loss. Our three soldiers were killed in a suicide attack while on a foot patrol with Afghan forces in Parwan province. My thoughts remain with the families and friends of our fallen [soldiers].”

The Czech Republic “had recently approved a plan to deploy 390 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2020, up from the current 230,” as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, according to The Associated Press.

“My thoughts and prayers, along with those of all of the 41 Resolute Support nations, are with the families and friends of our fallen and wounded service members, and our injured Afghan brothers and their families,” U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, Reuters reported, and claimed to have killed “eight U.S. invaders in a tactic bombing,” according to a spokesperson quoted by the wire service.

The bombing happened in the area of Charakar, in the east of the country and north of Kabul, according to reports.

Separately, The Associated Press reports the Taliban attacked a district headquarters in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province Saturday, killing four Afghan soldiers, while nine Taliban fighters died in a gunfight with Afghan soldiers.

ISIS affiliates have also continued to carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan. ISIS claimed responsibility this weekend for a Friday attack on a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s Paktia province that killed at least 29 people and injured at least another 80 people, according to reports.

NATO describes the Resolute Support mission as “a NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).” The organization says the current mission includes about 16,000 personnel.

NATO formally ended its main combat mission against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2014.

As of almost a year ago, the U.S. military reported having 13,329 uniformed American forces in Afghanistan, but has since stopped providing troop numbers.

U.S. service member Cpl. Joseph Maciel of South Gate, Calif. was killed last month in southern Afghanistan in what the military called an “insider attack.”

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Russia to deploy military police on Golan Heights

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will deploy its military police on the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel, its defense ministry said on Thursday, after weeks of mounting volatility in the area.

Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi speaks during a news briefing, with a map showing the territory of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria seen in the background, in Moscow, Russia August 2, 2018. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s sweeping away of rebels in southwestern Syria has worried Israel, which believes it could allow his Iranian backers to entrench their troops close to the frontier.

Underlining the tensions, Israel killed seven militants in an overnight air strike on the Syrian-held part of the Golan Heights, Israeli radio said on Thursday.

Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defense ministry official, said that Russian military police had on Thursday begun patrolling in the Golan Heights and planned to set up eight observation posts in the area.

He said the Russian presence there was in support of United Nations peacekeepers on the Golan Heights who, he said, had suspended their activities in the area in 2012 because their safety was endangered.

“Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police conducted their first patrols in six years in the separation zone,” Rudskoi told a briefing for journalists in Moscow.

“With the aim of preventing possible provocations against UN posts along the ‘Bravo’ line, the deployment is planned of eight observation posts of Russia’s armed forces’ military police,” Rudskoi said.

He said the Russian presence there was temporary, and that the observation posts would be handed over to Syrian government forces once the situation stabilized.

The deployment of the Russian military police highlights the degree to which the Kremlin has become an influential actor in Middle East conflicts since its military intervention in Syria which turned the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.

Israel has been lobbying the Kremlin to use its influence with Assad, and with Tehran, to try to get the Iranian military presence in Syria scaled back.

Israel sees Iran, and Iran’s allies in the Hezbollah Shi’ite military, as a direct threat to its national security.

That message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met in Moscow last month, a senior Israeli official said.

Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, TASS quoted a Russian envoy as saying on Wednesday, but Israel deemed the pullback inadequate.

Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Christian Lowe, Richard Balmforth

IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

IDF shoots down Syrian fighter jet that entered Israeli airspace

Two Patriot missiles fired at Sukhoi aircraft that penetrated two kilometers into Israeli territory, military says

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Smoke trails from two Israeli Patriot interceptor missiles that Israel says shot down a Syrian fighter jet are seen in northern Israel on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israeli Air Force shot down a Syrian fighter jet that traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace on Tuesday afternoon, the military said.

“Two Patriot missiles were fired at a Syrian Sukhoi-model fighter jet,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF said the aircraft was monitored as it approached the border with the Golan Heights.

“It penetrated two kilometers into Israeli airspace and was shot down,” the army said.

According to Sky News Arabia, the plane crashed inside southwest Syria, in the Yarmouk Basin, an area still under the control of the Islamic State terrorist group. It was not immediately clear if the pilots ejected before the fighter jet was shot down or what their condition was.

The official Syrian news outlet SANA confirmed that Israel had shot at one of its fighter jets, but said the plane was inside Syrian airspace at the time it was targeted.

According to SANA, Israel fired at “one of our war planes, which are leveling [terrorist] encampments in the Saida region on the outskirts of the Yarmouk Basin, in Syrian airspace.”

A military source quoted by SANA accused Israel of aiding “terrorists” in the country’s southwest, where the Syrian air force has been conducting extensive bombing raids throughout the day against a number of opposition groups.

File: A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber lands at the Russian Hmeimin military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015. (Paul Gypteau/AFP)

It was not immediately clear if the plane was a Sukhoi-22 or a Sukhoi-24, two different types of Russian-made fighter jets in use by the Syrian Air Force, the Israeli military said.

The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.

“We have passed a number of messages, in a number of languages, in order to ensure that no one violates Israeli air space,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.

The spokesman said Israel has been in regular contact with the Russian military, which operates extensively in southwestern Syria, in order to prevent any conflict with Moscow.

According to the IDF, the fighter jet took off from the Iran-linked T-4 air force base in central Syria, which Israel has bombed in the past, and traveled “at high speed” toward the Golan Heights.

Conricus said there was no “confusion” about the fact that this was a Syrian fighter jet. In the past, Israel has hesitated in shooting down incoming aircraft out of concerns they might belong to Russia.

Israel stressed that it will continue to enforce the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which requires Syria to abide by a demilitarized zone between the two countries

A Syrian fighter jet is seen in flames after it was hit by the Israeli military over the Golan Heights on September 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/JALAA MAREY)

This was the first time that Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet since 2014, when another Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet entered Israeli airspace and was targeted with a Patriot missile.

“Israel has a very clear policy: No plane, and certainly not a Syrian plane, is allowed to enter our airspace” without the appropriate authorization, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Army Radio soon after Tuesday’s incident. “Any plane identified as an enemy plane is shot down,” he said.

In February of this year, the Syrian military shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet as it was taking part in a bombing raid against an Iranian-linked airfield in central Syria after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace, according to the IDF. The F-16’s pilot and navigator were injured as they bailed out of the aircraft, which crashed to ground in northern Israel.

Tuesday’s breach of Israeli airspace and the interception set off incoming rocket alert sirens throughout northeastern Israel, sending thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters for the second day in a row.

An Israeli man watches the smoke trail of a David’s Sling interceptor missile in the northern Israeli city of Safed after the interceptor was fired toward a Syrian SS-21 missile, on July 23, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Residents of northern Israel reported seeing white trails in the sky.

The Safed municipality told residents that air defense systems in the area had fired interceptor missiles and said there were no special safety instructions in light of the situation.

The alarms could be heard in the Golan Heights and Jordan Valley regions, the army said.

The sirens came a day after Israel launched two David’s Sling interceptor missiles at a pair of Syrian surface-to-surface missiles carrying approximately a half ton of explosives each that appeared to be heading toward Israel, but ultimately landed inside Syria. The Israeli interceptors did not strike the Syrian missiles: one was self-detonated by the IAF; the second reportedly fell to earth inside Syria.

The military’s air defense systems that detect and track incoming missiles and rockets are less accurate immediately after a projectile is launched, as they have less information on its trajectory. As the missile or rocket flies, the systems can better predict where it is likely to land.

Monday’s incident, which ultimately turned out to have been a false alarm, was the first known operational use of the David’s Sling system, which was declared operational last year.

The David’s Sling makes up the middle tier of Israel’s multi-layered anti-missile defense network.

In recent weeks, sirens in northern Israel have been triggered by the military shooting down unmanned aerial vehicles entering Israeli airspace from Syria.

On July 13, the Israeli military used an anti-aircraft Patriot missile to shoot down a Syrian army drone that was flying over the demilitarized zone separating Israel from Syria. Two days earlier, a Syrian military unmanned aerial vehicle penetrated some 10 kilometers (six miles) into Israeli territory before it too was shot down by a Patriot missile. The IDF said it had allowed the drone to fly so deeply into Israeli territory as it was not immediately clear if it belonged to the Russian military.

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Israel launches ‘wide-scale attack’ against Hamas, after Israeli soldier killed near Gaza fence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Israel launches ‘wide-scale attack’ against Hamas, after Israeli soldier killed near Gaza fence

Jerusalem (CNN)The Israeli Air Force launched a “wide-scale attack” against Hamas military targets in Gaza on Friday, after an Israeli soldier died after being hit by gunfire from the coastal enclave, according to the Israeli military.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the shooting attack took place Friday during a Palestinian protest along the fence separating Gaza and Israel.
It’s the first Israeli soldier killed along the Gaza fence since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, the army said.
The IDF responded first with tank and artillery fire, killing four people according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Hamas said in a WhatsApp message to journalists that three of the four people killed were members of its armed Qassam Brigades.
In addition to the shooting incident, there were also multiple explosives thrown toward Israeli soldiers during the unrest, the IDF said.
Later Friday, the army said at least three rockets were fired toward Israel from Gaza. Two of the launches were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, the military said. There are no reports of any casualties from the rocket fire.
In its most recent round of airstrikes, the Israeli military said it attacked dozens of military targets located in a Hamas battalion headquarters in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF said it had “eliminated the battalion’s command and control capabilities, the battalion commander’s office, as well as unique aerial defense capabilities.” In addition, the air force said it targeted a drone warehouse, aerial defense systems, observation posts and a factory used for underground infrastructure manufacturing.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s chief Middle East envoy, called on the two sides to step back from further escalation.
“Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed,” he tweeted.
A fireball illuminates Gaza City's skyline as the Israeli military launches a "wide-scale attack" on targets in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Mladenov in a phone conversation that if Hamas continues to fire rockets toward Israel, the response will be “much stronger” than they think.
“The responsibility for the destruction and the loss of life will be on Hamas,” Lieberman said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement: “Attack will be met with attack. Our people will continue until they get their rights and end the blockade, because they have the right to live freely.”
Tension along the fence has been simmering for months, at times erupting into violence. Recent weeks have also seen a sharp increase in arson attacks in Israel from balloons and kites launched from Gaza.
The violence has also stymied international attempts to alleviate conditions for the two million people living in Gaza.
Israel has maintained a land, sea and air blockade on the coastal enclave since June 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza.
The blockade effectively locks the more than 2 million Gaza residents inside the territory and is seen by the UN as a major contributor to the deterioration of living conditions there. Israel says it’s a necessary security measure.

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.

“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.

Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.

The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.

Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.

Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.

In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”

The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.

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So: There Is A $3 Million Bounty Put On Your Child’s Head, Now What?

(I GOT THE IDEA FOR THIS ARTICLE FROM A ‘TIMES OF ISRAEL’ ARTICLE THAT WAS WRITTEN/PUBLISHED ON JULY 3rd, 2018. YET THE COMMENTARY ON THEIR ARTICLE IS FROM MY OWN THOUGHTS, OLDPOET56)

In Israel on July 2nd of 2018 the Knesset voted a new law into place that the Palestinian Government does not like. This law was voted into effect by a vote of 87 to 15. This law says that If the PA does not quit paying their people to kill Israeli citizens as well as others in Israel like tourists that the Israeli government will withhold the amount the PA pays to these murderers and their families from the yearly tax revenue Israel pays to the PA. The spokesman for the PA Mr. Nabil Rudeineh stated yesterday (July 3rd, 2018) that this new law crosses a “Red Line” and that it amounted to a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people.”

 

In 2017 the PA paid $198 Million to so called ‘Martyrs’ families and $160 Million to the ‘Palestinian Prisoner’s Club.’ This $358 Million is equal to about %7 of the PA’s total budget of $5.1 Billion. I would like for you to think about these numbers for a moment as quite honestly, they shocked me that they were so high. The following is a small breakdown of these larger numbers. A Palestinian prisoner who is serving a 20-30 year sentence for a terrorist crime receives $2,772 per month, for life, this breaks down to over $600.00 per week. Those serving a 3-5 year sentence receive $554.00 per month for life, this would equal a little over $125.00 per week. This moral sickness gets even worse, if the prisoner is married, has children, lives in Jerusalem, or holds an Israeli citizenship, they receive even more payments. Reality is that some Palestinian prisoners who have killed Israeli citizens will be paid about $2.8 Million in their lifetime. The PA government is a physical and moral disaster yet they are not quite has inept and as evil as Hamas who rules the Gaza Strip, that shows people just how horrible Hamas is at taking care of their own citizens. Think about it, last year the government of the PA paid out $358 Million to people who murdered Israeli citizens and visitors to Israel. What good could the PA government have done with that $358 Million? Could that money have built maybe 3 or 4 hospitals or maybe 20 medical clinics. How about if they had put that money into their electrical grid, paved more roads, improved sanitation or used to improve their food supply?

 

Think about this reality for a moment, if you were to decide to visit Israel on a business trip or as a tourist, you have a $2-3 Million dollar price on your head. If you visit Israel with your family and a Palestinian murderers your wife/husband, your 5 year old daughter or your 1 month old son they will receive more income from the PA government for those murders than they could ever make working in the West Bank or Gaza Strip in their whole lifetime. These payment numbers go even higher if a Palestinian is able to kill an Israeli soldier. Think what the payment would be if they were able to kill a member of the Knesset, or a member of the PM Cabinet? Better yet, I wonder what the price is that the PA government has put on the head of Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu or for the head of President Trump or one of his family members?

 

My response to the PA government is that they have already declared war on Israel and it is because it is they who crossed the Red Line of moral decency when they put a bounty on the head of every man, woman and child in Israel. Reality also is that the PA has declared war on every visitor of every country in the world. The PA is just like Hamas in the reality that as working governments they are totally worthless and that they both are more interested in murdering civilians than they are in building an infrastructure for their own people within their own borders. In Palestine there could have been a peaceful two State solution many years ago if the PA and Hamas had wanted it to be so. Instead they have chosen to commit, to train and to bankroll murderers. Now I ask you, just how in the hell do you have peace talks with people whose first goal in life is to murder you and your family or to pay someone to do it for them?

 

Israeli-Polish Holocaust law: Does It Defend Or Betray History?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Does the Israeli-Polish Holocaust law agreement defend truth or betray history?

Jerusalem feted Warsaw’s cancellation of law banning claims of Polish complicity in Holocaust, but eminent Israeli scholar says mundane realpolitik trumped historical verity

Raphael Ahren
People from all over the world participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 24, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

People from all over the world participating in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, as Israel marks annual Holocaust Memorial Day, on April 24, 2017. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

In October 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the World War II-era Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini for inspiring the Nazis to exterminate the Jews.

The story made international headlines, with world leaders and Holocaust historians denouncing Netanyahu’s allegation as utterly inaccurate. Eventually, the prime minister walked back his incendiary accusation, clarifying that it was the Nazis and not the Palestinians who were responsible for the Shoah.

Last week, the prime minister — the son of a historian and a self-declared history buff himself — once again waded into Holocaust-related controversy, though with much less international attention.

On Wednesday, he signed an agreement with Warsaw that ended the spat between the two countries over a controversial Polish law that criminalized accusing the Polish nation of being “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”

While Jerusalem feted the annulment of the law’s most problematic stipulations, a leading Israeli expert on the Shoah called a joint statement that accompanied the deal not only factually erroneous but also a “betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust,” motivated by mundane present-day political considerations.

The argument over the agreement highlights Netanyahu’s complicated role as the global standard-bearer of the Jewish people and the memory of the Shoah who at the same time needs to engage in realpolitik to promote Israel’s real-world interests.

Minutes after the Polish parliament passed legislation to remove the troubling passages, and President Anderzej Duda signed it into law, the Israeli and Polish governments issued a joint statement on the Holocaust and Poland’s role in it.

It declared that the term “Polish death camps” is “blatantly erroneous” and that the wartime Polish Government-in-Exile “attempted to stop this Nazi activity by trying to raise awareness among the Western allies to the systematic murder of the Polish Jews.”

The joint declaration, issued last Wednesday simultaneously by Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, also rejected anti-Semitism and “anti-Polonism.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on June 27, 2018, to discuss Poland’s amended Holocaust Law. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Most controversially, it condemned “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles during…World War II” but noted “heroic acts of numerous Poles, especially the Righteous Among the Nations, who risked their lives to save Jewish people.”

The highlighting of “numerous” instances of Poles rescuing Jews, while not quantifying the cases of Poles murdering Jews out of pure anti-Semitism, led critics of the deal to argue that Israel has in effect adopted Warsaw’s skewed narrative of the Holocaust.

“It’s a betrayal. It’s simply a betrayal,” Yehuda Bauer, a professor emeritus of history and Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University and an academic adviser to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“It’s a betrayal of the memory of the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people. And the reason for it is entirely pragmatic: the diplomatic, political, and economic ties between the Israeli government and the government of Poland.”

While Israel managed to get Poland to annul the criminal sanctions, the controversial law still stipulates fines for individuals who accuse the “Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland” of having been complicit or co-complicit in the Holocaust, he noted.

Yehuda Bauer (Thonke/Ullstein bild via Getty Images/JTA)

“Therefore, the agreement between the two governments allows for the prosecution of people who say the truth,” Bauer said, also arguing that there is no doubt that the “vast majority of Poles were extremely anti-Semitic.”

Far more problematic, from Bauer’s point of view, is that the joint statement suggests that Polish authorities and the Polish people were not guilty of anything during World War II. “It’s as if the Germans alone perpetrated the Holocaust and did not have allies and assistants,” he said.

Poland was occupied by the Nazis, but the leaders of the Polish underground asked the London-based Polish government-in-exile not to express sympathy for the Jews as this would diminish its popularity, the Prague-born historian added.

“Certainly not all Poles, but a majority of Poles, either took Jewish property, or killed the Jews themselves, or handed them over to the Polish police — which cooperated with the Germans and which is not mentioned with one word in the joint statement — or delivered them straight to the Germans,” Bauer said.

“The joint statement doesn’t say the truth — that a great portion of the Polish people did this and a bold minority tried to rescue Jews — but the exact opposite,” he added.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks to six Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, February 26, 2018. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

Bauer, 92, took particular umbrage with the statement acknowledging and condemning “every single case of cruelty against Jews perpetrated by Poles” during the war.

“We recognize ‘every single case’? That implies that there were single cases,” he fumed. “That’s a lie.”

Yad Vashem recognizes 6,863 Poles as Righteous Among the Nations, the highest number of any nation.

“Considering the harsh punishment that threatened rescuers, this is a most impressive number,” Yad Vashem writes on its website. “On the other hand, when evaluating the role of Poles in the rescue of Jews, one also has to take into consideration that Poland’s Jewish community was by far the largest in Europe and that only about 10% of its Jews survived.”

Between 30,000 and 35,000 Jews were saved with the help of Poles — around one percent of all of Polish Jewry, according to Yad Vashem.

The Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on Bauer’s criticism.

Yaakov Nagel, one of the two Netanyahu confidants who secretly negotiated the agreement with the Polish government, firmly rejected the veteran historian’s criticism.

“He apparently didn’t read the statement, or he was maybe insulted that we didn’t consult him,” Nagel told The Times of Israel in an interview. “If it wasn’t Yehuda Bauer, I would respond differently,” he added, suggesting that Bauer’s advanced age may cloud his judgment.

“Here is a country that prides itself with having passed a law that they say will restore national honor, and half a year later they cancel it with their tails between their legs,” he said.

Yaakov Nagel in March 2017 (Flash90)

“This is an great achievement for the State of Israel,” Nagel went on. “The criticism drives me crazy. We got an amazing accomplishment. We had a law that everyone said was terrible, and we got rid of it without giving them anything in return. There is nothing wrong with the statement.”

Not even one of Bauer’s arguments is correct, Nagel insisted. He argued that the Polish law, which is formally called The Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation Act, has existed for decades, and that the recent additions — paragraphs 55a and 55b — were removed at Israel’s behest.

There were good Poles, and there were bad Poles. Period.

It is true that those who accuse Poland of complicity can still be fined, but even Israel has civil laws against defamation, Nagel argued.

“There were two problematic paragraphs in this law, and we managed to get rid of them entirely.”

A former national security adviser, Nagel said he was not an expert on the Holocaust, but that Yad Vashem’s chief historian Dina Porat confirmed that the joint statement was historically accurate.

According to a well-placed source, Porat was indeed involved in the secret negotiations with the Polish government but did not get to see the final draft of the statement. Yad Vashem, which issued a statement welcoming Warsaw’s annulment of the law’s controversial paragraphs, was disappointed about the wording of the joint statement, the source added.

Porat did not reply to several requests for comment. A spokesperson for Yad Vashem said the institution is currently reviewing the various documents and may publish a statement in the near future.

Holocaust survivors protesting Poland’s new bill on Holocaust rhetoric in front of the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2018. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images/via JTA)

Holocaust historians may have liked to add a sentence or two about the extent of Polish anti-Semitism and Polish guilt during the Holocaust, Nagel allowed. But Yad Vashem confirmed that “everything we wrote in the joint statement is historically accurate,” he insisted.

And what of Bauer’s complaint that the statement refers to “every single case” of Polish cruelty, making it seem as if these were isolated incidents?

“There is no sentence stronger” than the one in the joint statement, Nagel argued, saying “every single case” could refer to millions of incidents.

“There were good Poles, and there were bad Poles. Period. That’s history,” he said. No one has counted how many Poles saved Jews and how many killed Jews, he added.

The joint statement did not go into numbers since it proved impossible to get Warsaw to agree to a wording that would have portrayed the Polish nation in a more negative light, he indicated.

“You can’t have everything,” Nagel said. “There were some sentences we would have liked to add, but diplomatic negotiations are a give and take, and you don’t get everything you want.”

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Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

Sergey Lavrov says Putin and Trump will discuss situation in southern Syria on July 16; US said seeking full Iranian pullout

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Jerusalem has accused Tehran of seeking to gain a foothold in the border area as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in clearing out rebel groups there. The US and Israel view Iran’s extensive military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad’s forces, helping them turn the tide in the civil war, but Israel has also coordinated its military strikes in the territory with Iran-allied Moscow.

Lavrov on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

US officials, the diplomat was quoted as saying, are convinced that Russia would be unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in Syria.

The diplomat, who was not identified in the report, also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks as the Russian-backed regime offensive in the south of Syria was pushing tens of thousands of refugees toward the borders with Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Ahead of the trip, Safadi said he hoped there would be “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”

He added that Amman has open channels with Damascus and Moscow and the talks will focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were facing a deadline Wednesday in negotiations with regime ally Russia to either agree to tough surrender terms in the south or come under a renewed military onslaught.

Moscow has been backing a two-week offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

But it is simultaneously brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that Russia and the regime have successfully used in the past.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control and talks were focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city.

Rebels were set to meet with a Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon to deliver their decision on Moscow’s proposal for a regime takeover of the rest of the south, a spokesman for the opposition’s southern operations said.

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Rwanda: Truth Knowledge And The History Of This African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Rwanda

Introduction In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; the former Zaire) and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms – including Rwanda’s first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 – the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali’s increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring DRC continue to hinder Rwanda’s efforts to escape its bloody legacy.
History Precolonial history

The Twa, the aboriginal Pygmy inhabitants, have probably lived in the region since the first millenium of our era. Currently, the population of Rwanda consists of the Banyarwanda. “Banyarwanda” is Kinyarwanda for “People of Rwanda”. The Banyarwanda share a common culture, language, and geographic space.

At the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there existed a Kingdom of Rwanda that covered modern-day Rwanda and parts of modern-day Congo-Kinshasa around Lake Kivu. It constituted a highly organized society that included its own religion and creation myths. The Banyarwanda were known even then for their military discipline, which enabled them to fend off attacks from outsiders and mount raids into the Kingdom of Burundi and the lands west of Lake Kivu.

All three classes paid tribute to the king in return for protection and various favours. Tutsi, who lost their cattle due to a disease epidemic such as Rinderpest, sometimes would be considered Hutu and likewise Hutu who obtained cattle would come to be considered Tutsi, thus climbing the ladder of the social strata. This social mobility ended abruptly with the onset of colonial administration. What had hitherto been often considered social classes took a fixed ethnic outlook.

A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom.

Colonial Era

After signing treaties with chiefs in the Tanganyika region in 1884-1885, Germany claimed Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi as its own territory. Count von Götzen met the Tutsi Mwami (king) for the first time in 1894. However, with only 2500 soldiers in East Africa, Germany did little to change societal structures in much of the region, especially in Rwanda. After the Mwami’s death in 1895, a period of unrest followed. Germans and missionaries then began to enter the country from Tanganyika in 1897-98.
By 1899 the Germans exerted some influence by placing advisors at the courts of local chiefs. Much of the Germans’ time was spent fighting uprisings in Tanganyika, especially the Maji Maji war of 1905-1907. On May 14, 1910 the European Convention of Brussels fixed the borders of Uganda, Congo, and German East Africa which included Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi. In 1911, the Germans helped the Tutsi put down a rebellion of Hutus in the northern part of Rwanda who did not wish to submit to central Tutsi control.

During World War I, 1916, Belgian forces advanced from the Congo into Germany’s East African colonies. After Germany lost the War, Belgium accepted the League of Nations Mandate of 1923 to govern Ruanda-Urundi along with the Congo, while Great Britain accepted Tanganyika and other German colonies. After World War II Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations (UN) “trust territory” administered by Belgium. The Belgian involvement in the region was far more direct than German involvement and extended its interests into education and agricultural supervision. The latter was especially important in the face of two droughts and subsequent famines in 1928-29 and in 1943. These famines forced large migrations of Rwandans to neighboring Congo.
In 1933 ethnic identification cards were used to classify one’s ethnicity.

The Belgian colonizers also accepted the prevailing class rule already in place, i.e., the minority Tutsi upper class and the lower classes of Hutus and Tutsi commoners. However, in 1926 the Belgians abolished the local posts of “land-chief”, “cattle-chief” and “military chief,” and in doing so they stripped the Hutu of their limited local power over land. In the 1920s, under military threat, the Belgians finally helped to bring the northwest Hutu kingdoms, who had maintained local control of land not subject to the Mwami, under the Tutsi royalty’s central control. These two actions disenfranchised the Hutu. Large, centralized land holdings were then divided into smaller chiefdoms.

The fragmenting of Hutu lands angered Mwami Yuhi IV, who had hoped to further centralize his power enough to rid himself of the Belgians. In 1931 Tutsi plots against the Belgian administration resulted in the Belgians deposing the Tutsi Mwami Yuhi. This caused the Tutsis to take up arms against the Belgians, but because of their fear of the Belgians’ military superiority, they did not openly revolt.

The Roman Catholic Church and Belgian colonial authorities considered the Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic races based on their physical differences and patterns of migration. However, because of the existence of many wealthy Hutu who shared the financial (if not physical) stature of the Tutsi, the Belgians used an expedient method of classification based on the number of cattle a person owned. Anyone with ten or more cattle was considered a member of the aristocratic Tutsi class. From 1935 on, “Tutsi”, “Hutu” and “Twa” were indicated on identity cards.
The Roman Catholic Church, the primary educators in the country, subscribed to and reinforced the differences between Hutu and Tutsi. They developed separate educational systems for each. In the 1940s and 1950s the vast majority of students were Tutsi. In 1943, Mwami Mutari III became the first Tutsi monarch to convert to Catholicism.

The Belgian colonialists continued to depend on the Tutsi aristocracy to collect taxes and enforce Belgian policies. It maintained the dominance of the Tutsi in local colonial administration and expanded the Tutsi system of labor for colonial purposes. The United Nations later decried this policy and demanded a greater self-representation of the Hutu in local affairs. In 1954 the Tutsi monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi demanded independence from Belgian rule. At the same time it agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa) the Tutsis had practiced over the Hutu until then.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, a wave of Pan-Africanism swept through Central Africa, with leaders such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Anti-colonial sentiment stirred throughout central Africa, and a socialist platform of African unity and equality for all Africans was forwarded. Nyerere himself wrote about the elitism of educational systems,[9] which Hutus interpreted as an indictment of the elitist educations provided for Tutsis in their own country.

Encouraged by the Pan-Africanists, Hutu advocates in the Catholic Church, and by Christian Belgians (who were increasingly influential in the Congo), Hutu sentiment against the aristocratic Tutsi was increasingly inflamed. The United Nations mandates, the Tutsi overlord class, and the Belgian colonialists themselves added to the growing unrest. The Hutu “emancipation” movement was soon spearheaded by Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU, who wrote his “Hutu Manifesto” in 1957. The group quickly became militarized. In reaction, in 1959 the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Ruanda-Urundi, to be based on the existing Tutsi monarchy. This group also became quickly militarized. Skirmishes began between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups. Then in July 1959, the Tutsi Mwami (King) Mutara III Charles was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V.

In November 1959, Tutsi forces beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumors of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as “the wind of destruction.” Thousands of Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Bunyamalengi. They eventually became a primary force in the First and Second Congo Wars.

In 1960, the Belgian government agreed to hold democratic municipal elections in Ruanda-Urundi, in which Hutu representatives were elected by the Hutu majorities. This precipitous change in the power structure threatened the centuries-old system by which Tutsi superiority had been maintained through monarchy. An effort to create an independent Ruanda-Urundi with Tutsi-Hutu power sharing failed, largely due to escalating violence. The Belgian government, with UN urging, therefore decided to divide Ruanda-Urundi into two separate countries, Rwanda and Burundi. Each had elections in 1961 in preparation for independence.

In 1961, Rwandans voted, by referendum and with the support of the Belgian colonial government, to abolish the Tutsi monarchy and instead establish a republic. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, who had survived his previous attack, was named the first president of the transitional government. Burundi, by contrast, established a constitutional monarchy, and in the 1961 elections leading up to independence, Louis Rwagasore, the son of the Tutsi Mwami and a popular politician and anti-colonial agitator, was elected as Prime Minister. However, he was soon assassinated. The monarchy, with the aid of the military, therefore assumed control of the country, and allowed no further elections until 1965.

Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.

Conflict between the two ethnic groups broke out when the Tutsi started calling for independence from the Belgium colonial rule in the 1950s. This upset the Belgians who then looked to the Hutu because they believed that the Hutu would be easier to control. Therefore, they began replacing the Tutsi chiefs with Hutus. This created the civil unrest between the two groups. The Belgians allowed the Hutu to commit violent acts against the Tutsis such as burning down the Tutsis’ houses.

On July 1, 1962, Belgium, with UN oversight, granted full independence to the two countries. Rwanda was created as a republic governed by the majority Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU), which had gained full control of national politics by this time. In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed. In response, a previous economic union between Rwanda and Burundi was dissolved and tensions between the two countries worsened. Rwanda also now became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. In fact it was thought that in excess of 70,000 people had been killed, this certainly was the figure published in British newspapers at the time, it was thought for a while that British Royal Marines then stationed in Tanzania might be sent to Rwanda to stop the horrific loss of life there.

Post-Independence

Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU (and a Hutu) was the first president (from 1962 to 1973), followed by Juvenal Habyarimana (who was president from 1973 to 1994). The latter, also a Hutu (from the northwest of Rwanda), took power from Kayibanda in a 1973 coup, claiming the government to have been ineffective and riddled with favoritism. He installed his own political party into government. This occurred partially as a reaction to the Burundi genocide of 1972, with the resultant wave of Hutu refugees and subsequent social unrest. Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity during the early part of his regime.

Inter-relationship with events in Burundi

The situation in Rwanda had been influenced in great detail by the situation in Burundi. Both countries had a Hutu majority, yet an army-controlled Tutsi government in Burundi persisted for decades. After the assassination of Rwagasore, his UPRONA party was split into Tutsi and Hutu factions. A Tutsi Prime Minister was chosen by the monarch, but, a year later in 1963, the monarch was forced to appoint a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, in an effort to satisfy growing Hutu unrest. Nevertheless, the monarch soon replaced him with another Tutsi prince. In Burundi’s first elections following independence, in 1965, Ngendandumwe was elected Prime Minister. He was immediately assassinated by a Tutsi extremist and he was succeeded by another Hutu, Joseph Bamina. Hutus won 23/33 seats in national elections a few months later, but the monarch nullified the elections. Bamina was soon also assassinated and the Tutsi monarch installed his own personal secretary, Leopold Biha, as the Prime Minister in his place. This led to a Hutu coup from which the Mwami fled the country and Biha was shot (but not killed). The Tutsi-dominated army, led by Michel Micombero brutally responded: almost all Hutu politicians were killed.[10] Micombero assumed control of the government and a few months later deposed the new Tutsi monarch (the son of the previous monarch) and abolished the role of the monarchy altogether. He then threatened to invade Rwanda.[11]A military dictatorship persisted in Burundi for another 27 years, until the next free elections, in 1993.

Another 7 years of sporadic violence in Burundi (from 1965 – 1972) existed between the Hutus and Tutsis. In 1969 another purge of Hutus by the Tutsi military occurred. Then, a localized Hutu uprising in 1972 was fiercely answered by the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army in the largest Burundi genocide of Hutus, with a death toll nearing 200,000.

This wave of violence led to another wave of cross border refugees into Rwanda of Hutus from Burundi. Now there were large numbers of both Tutsi and Hutu refugees throughout the region, and tensions continued to mount.

In 1988, Hutu violence against Tutsis throughout northern Burundi again resurfaced, and in response the Tutsi army massacred approximately 20,000 more Hutu. Again thousands of Hutu were forced into exile into Tanzania and Congo to flee another genocide of Hutu.

Civil War & Rwandan Genocide

In 1986, Yoweri Museveni’s guerrilla forces in Uganda had succeeded in taking control of the country, overthrowing the Ugandan dictatorship of Milton Obote. Many exiled refugee Rwandan Tutsis in Uganda had joined its rebel forces and had then become part of the Ugandan military, now made up from Museveni’s guerrilla forces.

However, Ugandans resented the Rwandan presence in the new Ugandan army, and in 1986 Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who had become head of military intelligence in Museveni’s new Ugandan army, founded the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, together with Fred Rwigema. They began to train their army to invade Rwanda from Uganda, and many Tutsis who had been in the Ugandan military now joined the RPF. Kagame also received military training in the United States. In 1991, a radio station broadcasting RPF propaganda from Uganda was established by the RPF.

In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Some members allied with the military dictatorship government of Habyarimana responded in 1993 to the RPF invasion with a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda and with pogroms against Tutsis, whom it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. Nevertheless, after 3 years of fighting and multiple prior “cease-fires,” the government and the RPF signed a “final” cease-fire agreement in August 1993, known as the Arusha accords, in order to form a power sharing government. Neither side appeared ready to accept the accords, however, and fighting between the two sides continued unabated. By that time, over 1.5 million civilians had left their homes to flee the selective massacres against Hutus by the RPF army. They were living in camps, the most famous of them was called Nyacyonga.

The situation worsened when the first elected Burundian president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army in October 1993. In Burundi, a fierce civil war then erupted between Tutsi and Hutu following the army’s massacre, and tens of thousands, both Hutu and Tutsi, were killed in this conflict. This conflict spilled over the border into Rwanda and caused the fragile Rwandan Arusha accords to quickly crumble. Tutsi-Hutu hatred rapidly intensified. Although the UN sent a peacekeeping force named the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), it was underfunded, under-staffed, and largely ineffective in the face of a two country civil-war, as detailed in Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire’s book Shake Hands with the Devil.

During the armed conflict in Rwanda, the RPF was blamed for the bombing of the capital Kigali. On April 6, 1994, the Hutu president of Rwanda and the second newly elected president of Burundi (also a Hutu) were both assassinated when their jet was shot down, allegedly by missiles from the Ugandan army,[12] while landing in Kigali.[13] A French tribunal has blamed this action on Kagame’s RPF forces. Kagame and several members of Habyarimana’s government, however, have claimed that disgruntled Hutus killed their own Hutu president, as well as the Hutu president of Burundi, to justify the upcoming genocide.

In response to the April killing of the two state presidents, over the next three months (April – July 1994) the Hutu-led military and Interahamwe militia groups killed about 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsi-led RPF continued to advance on the capital, however, and soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country by June. Thousands of additional civilians were killed in the conflict. UN member states refused to answer UNAMIR’s requests for increased troops and money. Meanwhile, although French troops were dispatched during Opération Turquoise to “stabilize the situation,” they were only able to evacuate foreign nationals and in some cases the genocide continued in zones they occupied while many high-profile Hutu war criminals escaped the RPF though French-controlled areas.

Between July and August, 1994, Kagame’s Tutsi-led RPF troops first entered Kigali and soon thereafter captured the rest of the country. Over 2 million Hutus then fled the country, causing the Great Lakes refugee crisis. Many went to Eastern Zaire (notably Northern Kivu province). Between 1994 and 1996, the Tutsi-controlled RPA government of Paul Kagame continued its retribution against Hutu in Rwanda. It destroyed the Nyacyonga camp for internally displaced people with heavy artillery. The RPF killed thousands of fresh returnees from Zaire in Kibeho camp. To continue its attacks against the Hutu Interahamwe forces, which had fled to Eastern Zaire, Kagame’s RPF forces invaded Zaire in 1996, following talks by Kagame with US officials earlier the same year.

The First & Second Congo Wars

In this invasion Kagame allied with Laurent Kabila, a marxist revolutionary in Eastern Zaire who had been a foe of Zaire’s long-time dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Kagame was also supported by Yoweri Museveni’s Ugandan forces, with whom he had trained in the late 1980s, which then invaded Eastern Zaire from the northeast. This became known as the First Congo War.

In this war, militarized Tutsi refugees in the South Kivu area of Zaire, known as Banyamulenge to disguise their original Rwandan Tutsi heritage, allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against the Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area, which included the Interahamwe militias.

In the midst of this conflict, Kabila, whose primary intent had been to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa, and in 1997, the same year Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, Kabila captured Kinshasa and then became president of Zaire, which he then renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Kabila’s success in the Congo, he no longer desired an alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army and the Ugandan forces, and in August 1998 ordered both the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the DRC. However, neither Kagame’s Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni’s Ugandan forces had any intention of leaving the Congo, and the framework of the Second Congo War was laid.

During the Second Congo War, Tutsi militias among the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of Kivu desired to annex themselves to Rwanda (now dominated by Tutsi forces under the Kagame government). Kagame also desired this, both to increase the resources of Rwanda by adding those of the Kivu region, and also to add the Tutsi population, which the Banyamulenge represented, back into Rwanda, thereby reinforcing his political base and protecting the indigenous Tutsis living there, who had also suffered massacres from the Interhamwe.

In the Second Congo War, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to wrest much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Kabila’s forces, and nearly succeeded. However, due to the personal financial stakes of many leaders around Southern Africa in the Congo (such as Robert Mugabe and Sam Nujoma), armies were sent to aid Kabila, most notably those of Angola and Zimbabwe. These armies were able to beat back Kagame’s Rwandan-Tutsi advances and the Ugandan forces.

In the great conflict between 1998 and 2002, during which Congo was divided into three parts, multiple opportunistic militias, called Mai Mai, sprang up, supplied by the arms dealers around the world that profit in small arms trading, including the US, Russia, China, and other countries. Over 5.4 million people died in the conflict, as well as the majority of animals in the region.

Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the DRC (Congo) in 2001, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. It is claimed by many in the Congo that Joseph Kabila was the son of a Rwandan Tutsi mother and his real father was a friend of Laurent Kabila’s; he was adopted by Laurent Kabila only when Laurent took Joseph’s Rwandan mother as one of his many wives. Joseph speaks fluent Kinyarwanda and was trained in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and China. After serving 5 years as the transitional government president, he was freely-elected in the Congo to be president, in 2006, largely on the basis of his support in the Eastern Congo.

Ugandan and Rwandan forces within Congo began to battle each other for territory, and Congolese Mai Mai militias, most active in the South and North Kivu provinces (in which most refugees were located) took advantage of the conflict to settle local scores and widen the conflict, battling each other, Ugandan and Rwandan forces, and even Congolese forces.

Ironically, it was the Banyamulenge, the large Tutsi refugee group in the Congo, that appeared to have ended the war. Tired of the prolonged war, they rebelled against Kagame’s Rwandan troops and forced them to return to Rwanda, allowing Kabila to retake control of the Eastern Congo with the aid of the Angolan and Zimbabwean forces.

Rwandan RPF troops finally left Congo in 2002, leaving a wake of disease and malnutrition that continued to kill thousands every month. However, Rwandan rebels continue to operate (as of May 2007) in the northeast Congo and Kivu regions. These are claimed to be remnants of Hutu forces that cannot return to Rwanda[14] without facing genocide charges, yet are not welcomed in Congo and are pursued by DRC troops.[15] In the first 6 months of 2007, over 260,000 civilians were displaced.[16] Congolese Mai Mai rebels also continue to threaten people and wildlife.[17]Although a large scale effort at disarming militias has succeeded, with the aid of the UN troops, the last militias are only being disarmed in 2007. However, fierce confrontations in the northeast regions of the Congo between local tribes in the Ituri region, initially uninvolved with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but drawn into the Second Congo War, still continue.

In Burundi, the Burundi Civil War from 1993 to 2006 coincided with the First and Second Congo Wars. At least 300,000 Burundians were killed, and refugees into Tanzania and Congo contributed to the region’s major population displacements. In August 2005, a Hutu born-again Christian, Pierre Nkurunziza, was elected as Burundi president. At least three cease-fires between rebel groups and Burundi forces, in 2003, 2005, and September 2006, have been signed.

Rwandan stability is undoubtedly dependent both on stability in Eastern DRC (Congo) and in Burundi.

Post-civil war

After the Tutsi RPF took control of the government, Kagame installed a Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu, in 1994. Many believed him to be a puppet president, however, and when Bizimungu became critical of the Kagame government in 2000, he was removed as president and Kagame took over the presidency himself. Bizimungu immediately founded an opposition party (the PDR), but it was banned by the Kagame government. Bizimungu was arrested in 2002 for treason, sentenced to 15 years in prison, but released by a presidential pardon in 2007.

After it took control of the government in 1994 following the civil war, the Tutsi-dominated RDF party then wrote the history of the genocide and enshrined its version of events in the current constitution of 2003. It made it a crime to question the government’s version of the genocide.[18] In 2004, a ceremony was held in Kigali at the Gisozi Memorial (sponsored by the Aegis Trust and attended by many foreign dignitaries) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide, and the country observes a national day of mourning each year on April 7. Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca village justice program.[19] Recent reports highlight a number of reprisal killings of survivors for giving evidence at Gacaca.[20]

Some have made claims that the memorialisation of the genocide without admission of the crimes by the Tutsi-RDF are one sided, and is part of ongoing propaganda by the Tutsi-led Rwandan government, which is essentially a one-party government at this time.The author of Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, has demanded that Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan president, be tried as a war criminal.

The first elections since the invasion of Rwanda by Kagame’s forces in 1990 (and the subsequent creation of a military government by Kagame in 1994) were held in 2003. Kagame, who had already been appointed president by his own government in 2000, was then “elected” president by over 95% of the vote, with little opposition. Opposition parties were banned until just before the 2003 elections. Following the elections, in 2004, a constitutional amendment banned political parties from denoting themselves as being aligned with “Hutu” or “Tutsi.” However, the RPF, a primarily Tutsi political organisation, was not disbanded and therefore continues its dominance. Most observers therefore do not believe the 2003 elections to have been fair nor representative.[23] Elections have been compared to the “fair elections” of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe. The next presidential elections are due to be held in 2010.

Rebuilding

Rwanda today struggles to heal and rebuild, but shows signs of rapid development. Some Rwandans continue to grapple with the legacy of almost 60 years of intermittent war. One agent in Rwanda’s rebuilding effort is the Benebikira Sisters, a Catholic order of nuns whose ministry is dedicated to education and healthcare. Since the genocide, the Sisters have housed and supported hundreds of orphans, and created and staffed schools to educate the next generation of Rwandans.

The major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and China. In April 2007, an investment and trade agreement, 4 years in the making, was worked out between Belgium and Rwanda. Belgium contributes €25-35 million per year to Rwanda. Belgian co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. It has distributed agricultural tools and seed to help rebuild the country. Belgium also helped in re-launching fisheries in Lake Kivu, at a value of US$470,000, in 2001.

In Eastern Rwanda, The Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, along with Partners in Health, are helping to improve agricultural productivity, improve water and sanitation and health services, and help cultivate international markets for agricultural products.

Since 2000, the Rwandan government has expressed interest in transforming the country from agricultural subsistence to a knowledge-based economy, and plans to provide high-speed broadband across the entire country.

Geography Location: Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Geographic coordinates: 2 00 S, 30 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 26,338 sq km
land: 24,948 sq km
water: 1,390 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: total: 893 km
border countries: Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, Uganda 169 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; two rainy seasons (February to April, November to January); mild in mountains with frost and snow possible
Terrain: mostly grassy uplands and hills; relief is mountainous with altitude declining from west to east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rusizi River 950 m
highest point: Volcan Karisimbi 4,519 m
Natural resources: gold, cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), methane, hydropower, arable land
Land use: arable land: 45.56%
permanent crops: 10.25%
other: 44.19% (2005)
Irrigated land: 90 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 5.2 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.15 cu km/yr (24%/8%/68%)
per capita: 17 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts; the volcanic Virunga mountains are in the northwest along the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo
Environment – current issues: deforestation results from uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuel; overgrazing; soil exhaustion; soil erosion; widespread poaching
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: landlocked; most of the country is savanna grassland with the population predominantly rural
Politics After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front organized a coalition government loosely based on the 1993 Arusha accords. The National Movement for Democracy and Development – Habyarimana’s party that had instigated and implemented the genocidal ideology – along with the CDR (another Hutu extremist party) were banned, with most of its leaders either arrested or in exile. It is not clear whether any Hutu parties are currently allowed in Rwanda. After the 1994 genocide, the RPF installed a single-party “coalition-based” government. Paul Kagame became Vice-President. In 2000, he was elected president of Rwanda by the parliament.

A new constitution, written by the Kagame government, was adopted by referendum in 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003, respectively. Opposition parties were banned until just before the elections, so no true opposition to the ruling RPF existed. The RPF-led government has continued to promote reconciliation and unity amongst all Rwandans as enshrined in the new constitution that forbids any political activity or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion. Right of return to Rwandans displaced between 1959 and 1994, primarily Tutsis, was enshrined in the constitution, but no mention of the return of Hutus that fled Kagame’s RPF forces into the Congo in the great refugee crisis of 1994-1998 or subsequently, is made in the constitution. Nevertheless, the constitution guarantees “All persons originating from Rwanda and their descendants shall, upon their request, be entitled to Rwandan nationality” and “No Rwandan shall be banished from the country.”

By law, at least a third of the Parliament representation must be female. It is believed that women will not allow the mass killings of the past to be repeated. Rwanda topped a recently conducted global survey on the percentage of women in Parliament with as much as 49 percent female representation, currently the highest in the world.

The Senate has at least 26 members, each with an 8 year term. Eight posts are appointed by the president. 12 are elected representatives of the 11 provinces and the city of Kigali. Four members are designated by the Forum of Political Organizations (a quasi-governmental organization that currently is an arm of the dominant political party); one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the public universities; one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the private universities. Any past President has permanent membership in the Senate. Under this scheme, up to 12 appointees to the Senate are appointed by the President and his party. The elected members must be approved by the Supreme Court. The 14 Supreme Court members are designated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, each with a 5 year term; 24 posts are reserved for women and are elected by province; 53 posts can be men or women and are also are elected by local elections; 2 posts are elected by the National Youth Council; 1 post is elected by Federation of the Associations of the Disabled.

The President and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must be from different political parties. The President is elected every 7 years, and may serve a maximum of 2 terms. In 2006, however, the structure of the country was reorganized. It is unclear how this affects current elected representation proportions.

The current Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame, has been praised by many for establishing security and promoting reconciliation and economic development, but is also criticized by some for being overly militant and opposed to dissent. The country now has many international visitors and is regarded as a safer place for tourists, with only a single isolated mortar attack in early 2007 around Volcanoes National Park near Gisenyi.

With new independent radio stations and other media arising, Rwanda is attempting a free press, but there are reports of journalists disappearing and being apprehended whenever articles question the government. The transmitter for Radio France International was banned by the government in Rwanda in 2006 when it became critical of Kagame and the RPF.

People Population: 10,186,063
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41.9% (male 2,143,479/female 2,124,588)
15-64 years: 55.7% (male 2,826,557/female 2,842,020)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 99,721/female 149,698) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.7 years
male: 18.5 years
female: 18.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.779% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 39.97 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 14.46 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 83.42 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.53 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 78.16 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 49.76 years
male: 48.56 years
female: 51 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.31 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 5.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 250,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 22,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria (2008)
Nationality: noun: Rwandan(s)
adjective: Rwandan
Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, none 1.7% (2001)
Languages: Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.4%
male: 76.3%
female: 64.7% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 9 years
male: 8 years
female: 9 years (2005)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2005)
People – note: Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa