European Parliament condemns Hamas for use of human shields

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In first, European Parliament condemns Hamas for terror, use of human shields

Resolution still slams IDF’s use of live fire against Gaza marches on border and calls for lifting of Gaza blockade, but Israel says ‘unprecedented anti-Israeli clauses were cut’

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session on February 6, 2018, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo/Frederick Florin)

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session on February 6, 2018, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo/Frederick Florin)

The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that denounces Hamas as a terrorist group that uses human shields, calls for Israel’s destruction and “seems to aim at escalating tensions” at the Gaza-Israel border.

The motion also calls for the release of Israeli citizens and the bodies of fallen soldiers held by the Palestinian terror group in the coastal enclave.

The carefully calibrated text, which was the result of intense negotiations between the parliament’s various factions but was eventually jointly submitted by all major political groups, also backs calls for probes into Israel’s use of live ammunition to fend off protesters at the border and calls on Israel to exercise restraint.

It passed with 524 “yes” votes, 30 “no” votes, and 92 abstentions.

Pro-Israel advocacy groups welcomed the resolution, stressing the unusual fact that a European Union body found strong words of condemnation not only for Israel but also for Hamas.

Islamist Hamas terror movement leader Yahya Sinwar (C) shouts slogans as he takes part in a protest near the border with Israel east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Mohammed ABED)

Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, spokesperson of Israel’s mission to the EU, said “the resolution adopted today is far from being pro-Israeli, however we are satisfied that unprecedented anti-Israeli clauses were cut out of the resolution and, most importantly, we are happy to hear a strong, clear call for the immediate release of the Israeli citizens and the return of the bodies of our soldiers held in Gaza.”

Idit Rosenzweig-Abu (twitter)

The resolution began as starkly anti-Israel, even urging an arms embargo against the Jewish state in its earliest drafts.

The final three-page motion starts off by noting that the now-weekly “March of Return” at the Gaza border was organized by civil society groups, that Hamas asked people to join the marches, and that Israelis reported that stones and firebombs were thrown against troops and that some protesters tried to damage the border fence and infiltrate into Israel.

The text goes on to note that the IDF used live ammunition, killing “close to 30 Palestinians” and wounding thousands.

It then recalls the fact that Hamas is listed by the EU as a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction and continues to launch rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory.

It also states that “Hamas continues to keep the population under control and pressure in the Gaza Strip, which remains a hub of internationally recognized terrorist organizations,” and heavily curtails “basic freedoms, including of association and expression.”

“The European Parliament… Calls for utmost restraint and underlines that the priority must be to avoid any further escalation of violence and loss of life; expresses its regret of the loss of lives; condemns the killings and injuries of innocent Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip over the past three weeks and urges IDF to refrain from using lethal force against unarmed protesters,” the resolution reads.

It goes on to acknowledge “Israel’s security challenges and the need to protect its territory and borders while using proportionate means” and “condemns the terror attacks of Hamas and other militant groups against Israel from the Gaza Strip, including the firing of rockets, infiltrations into Israeli territory, and the building of tunnels.”

The lawmakers then express concern that “Hamas seems to aim at escalating tensions” and “strongly condemns the continuous tactic of Hamas to use civilians for the purpose of shielding terrorist activities.”

Stressing the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and calling on Israel to respect this right, the motion calls on protest leaders to “avoid any incitement to violence, as well as to ensure that any protests, demonstrations, and assemblies remain strictly non-violent and cannot be exploited for other means.”

While the resolution takes note of the Israeli army’s fact-finding missions into past protests, it supports the calls for “independent and transparent investigations into these violent events,” which had been made by the EU, the United Nations, and many individual states.

“Intentional use of lethal force against protesters who do not pose an imminent threat to life or serious injury violates international human rights law and in the context of occupation is a serious breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” it states.

It also calls for an “immediate and unconditional end to the blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip,” which, it argues, results in “a deteriorating unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the area.”

Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

The resolution demands the “freeing and the return to Israel” of Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israeli citizens held by Hamas in Gaza against their will, and calls for the return of the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers who fell in the last war between Israel and Hamas. The EU lawmakers also offer “condolences to their families.”

“The above points are extremely important in any discussion regarding the Gaza Strip and I am pleased they were successfully pushed for by the ECR [European Conservatives and Reformists] Group to be included in the EP resolution,” said MEP Anders Vistisen, the vice chair of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who played a significant role in the negotiations that led to the resolution’s passing.

“Though the resolution is far from perfect and the left continuously seeks to blur reality, the ECR will continue to be the voice of reason,” he added. “I take the opportunity to stand with Israel over its recent mourning of all its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, and I extend my warmest congratulations to Israel for its 70th birthday which is celebrated today.”

The American Jewish Committee’s Europe branch had partial praise for resolution.

“The AJC Transatlantic Institute today praised the European Parliament for condemning Hamas for the war crimes it committed during the recent violent protests, but criticized the EU legislature for urging in its resolution on the situation in the Gaza Strip an ‘unconditional’ end to Israel’s naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory,” the organization said in a statement.

“We all want to see Gaza become the next Singapore. But calling for the ‘unconditional’ end to Israel’s targeted blockade is at this time – unfortunately – neither realistic nor an even remotely reasonable proposal,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of AJC’s EU office.

“The European Parliament deserves praise for its clear-eyed assessment of Hamas’s responsibility for escalating the violent protests. By also spelling out and condemning Hamas’s war crimes – such as using its own people as human shields and firing rockets on Israeli cities – Parliament has taken a principled stand,” said Schwammenthal.

At the same time, “Publicly urging a sister democracy and close friend to investigate in a ‘transparent’ manner seems – at the very least – somewhat out-of-place,” he said.

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A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb

Oct 16, 2017

(VALLETTA, Malta) — A Maltese investigative journalist who exposed the island nation’s links to offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers was killed Monday when a bomb exploded in her car, the prime minister said.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, had just driven away from her home in Mosta, a large town on Malta’s main island, when the bomb went off, sending the vehicle’s wreckage spiraling over a wall and into a field, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Caruana Galizia’s death resulted from a “barbaric attack” that also amounted to an assault on freedom of expression, Muscat said. He described her as “was one of my harshest critics, on a political and personal level” as he denounced her slaying.

One of the topics the veteran reporter examined was what the documents from the 2016 leak said about Malta. She wrote that Muscat’s wife, the country’s energy minister and the government’s chief-of-staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.

Muscat and his wife, Michelle, denied they had companies in Panama.

Caruana Galizia filed a police report two weeks ago saying she was receiving threats, law enforcement officials told Malta news outlets on Monday.

The slain journalist had been a regular columnist for The Malta Independent, writing twice weekly for the newspaper since 1996. She also wrote a blog called “Running Commentary,” which was followed by in Malta.

A half hour before she was killed, she posted to her web site an item about a libel claim the prime minister’s chief of staff had brought against a former opposition over comments the latter made about corruption.

Caruana Galizia herself had been sued for libel over articles she wrote for her blog. Opposition leader Adrian Delia sued her over a series of stories linking him to a prostitution racket in London. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business.

Monday evening’s Parliament session was scrapped, except for briefings about the bombing given by Muscat and Delia, who called the reporter’s slaying a “political murder.”

Muscat said he has asked the U.S. government and the FBI for help investigating the car bombing.

Caruana Galizia is survived by her husband and three sons. One son, Matthew, was on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its work on the Panama Papers scandal.

The leak exposed the identities of rich and powerful people around the world who allegedly had offshore holdings in Panama.

Caruana Galizia’s family has asked the Courts of Malta to have the magistrate assigned to conduct the inquiry into the journalist’s death replaced.

The family said the magistrate, Consuelo Scerri Herrera, “in her personal capacity, had launched judicial procedures against (Caruana Galizia) regarding comments she had written.”

Caruana Galizia for many years was a harsh critic of Malta’s Labor party and government. More recently she had expanded her criticism to include the opposition Nationalist Party.

Her slaying drew swift denunciations in the tiny EU nation.

“Daphne played a vitally important role in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government,” said Sven Giegold, a Greens member in the European Parliament.

Italian newsweekly L’Espresso, which has also written about alleged corruption linked to Malta, said the reporter’s murder demonstrated that a well-documented expose’ “is perceived as a danger by the powerful and by organized crime.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani in a tweet called the development a “tragic example of a journalist who sacrificed her life to search for the truth.”

European Central Bank Will Not Follow The U.S. Fed On Raising Interest Rates

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

ECB will not follow the Fed: ECB’s Constancio

The European Central Bank will not exit its ultra-loose monetary policy faster than it considers appropriate by following the Federal Reserve, the ECB’s vice president said on Monday.

The Fed has increased its benchmark rate in March and is expected to push it up at least twice more this year.

The ECB’s official policy rate stands at zero as the inflation rate in the 19-member currency bloc is still below the central bank’s target.

“We have, in Europe, an independent monetary policy and we don’t follow the Fed or the Fed interest rates,” Constancio said at a hearing in the European Parliament.

Constancio told lawmakers that each central bank should deal with its own domestic situation: “That’s the way it should be.”

(Reporting by Andreas Framke and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Tom Heneghan)