Israeli forces kill teen in West Bank crackdown

Israeli forces kill teen in West Bank crackdown

Six paramedics, some wearing gas masks, carry a person on a stretcher
Palestinian paramedics evacuate a wounded protester during confrontations near the settlement of Beit El in the central West Bank on 14 December.

 Ahmad ArouriAPA images

Maureen Clare Murphy – 14 December 2018

Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager in Jalazone refugee camp as the military cracked down on the Ramallah area of the occupied West Bank after 24 hours of violence in which two soldiers and four Palestinians were killed.

The slain teen was identified as Mahmoud Yousif Nakhla. The health ministry in the West Bank gave his age as 16 but some media reported that he was 18 years old.

Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian outlet, said that the teen was shot from less than 10 meters away and that soldiers attempted to withhold his body. Palestinian paramedics were only able to recover Nakhla’s body after arguing with soldiers for more than 30 minutes, according to Ma’an.
Compiled video clips from the scene show soldiers dragging and then carrying Nakhla, after which they stand guard around him. The video does not appear to show soldiers providing the teen with first aid.

Embedded video

شبكة قدس الإخبارية


بعد سحله وسحبه وهو مصاب.. هكذا تمكنت الطواقم الطبية من انتزاع جثمان الشهيد محمود نخلة من جنود الاحتلال الذين تركوه ينزف على الأرض.

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Nakhla appears to be alive in the final clip in the compiled footage as Palestinian medics put him on a stretcher and load him into an ambulance. Media reported that Nakhla was in critical condition when he arrived to hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead.
A photo of Nakhla was published by Palestinian outlets after his death was announced:

شبكة قدس الإخبارية


استشهاد الشاب محمود يوسف نخلة (18 عامًا)، متأثرًا بإصابته بالرصاص الحيّ في بطنه خلال المواجهات مع الاحتلال في مخيم الجلزون برام الله.

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Jalazone refugee camp

Jalazone refugee camp, in the central West Bank, is located only 200 meters away from the Beit El settlement built by Israel in violation of international law, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilian population to the territory it occupies.
Soldiers guarding the settlement, which is bankrolled by David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, regularly harass children in the camp.
Israeli forces guarding Beit El have killed and seriously wounded several Palestinian children from Jalazone camp in recent years.
Last year soldiers in a watchtower next to Beit El fatally wounded Jassim Nakhla, 15, and Muhammad Khattab, 17, when they shot at a car carrying four children that had stalled on the road. It was not clear at time of publication whether Jassim Nakhla was a direct relation of Mahmoud Nakhla.
Two others were reported wounded by live fire during confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians near Ramallah on Friday.
A Palestinian boy, 17, was reported to have been moderately wounded after being hit in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet during confrontations in the northern West Bank on Friday afternoon.
Israeli forces also opened fire at a Palestinian ambulance in al-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, on Friday.
Medics were transferring a patient to hospital when Israeli soldiers at Beit El checkpoint opened fire at the ambulance, Ma’an News Agency reported.
Also on Friday an Israeli soldier was reported to have been seriously injured at a military outpost near Beit El after being attacked with a rock and a knife by a Palestinian who fled the scene.
The gunmen who killed two soldiers and injured another two on Thursday also remained at large as the military searched for them for a second day, having arrested more than 100 Palestinians throughout the West Bank on Thursday and before dawn on Friday, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.
The city of Ramallah was sealed by the military the previous day and remained so on Friday:

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Hamas calls for Palestinian unity as it celebrates founding

Hamas calls for Palestinian unity as it celebrates founding

Hamas political leader says he is ready for talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and elections
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said he was ready to meet Mahmoud Abbas (AFP)
Kaamil Ahmed's picture
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said
he was ready to meet President Mahmoud Abbas to complete the stuttering Palestinian unity process, at an event celebrating 31 years since the group was founded.
The process has faltered since a push towards reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction started more than a year ago.
“I am prepared to meet the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza, Cairo or anywhere to agree on a joint Palestinian agenda,” he said, stating Hamas would be ready for elections after three months.
“We have to go directly to national unity. Reconciliation, unity, compromise – whatever the name, we want it.”
But he also called for the Palestinian Authority to end its security co-operation with Israel after a week when Israeli forces repeatedly raided Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank in search of Palestinians suspected of attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers.

Hamas Movement@HamasInfoEn
Countless Palestinians participate in the Festival of Hamas 31st Anniversary
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He criticised the Oslo agreement, signed in 1994 as the basis of a peace settlement that has not materialised and under which Israeli forces are not allowed to operate in Palestinian cities.
Tens of thousands packed out al-Katiba square in the centre of Gaza, waving flags as chants and a military parade were held on the main stage.
Haniyeh also claimed that Hamas had gathered intelligence on a recent Israeli undercover operation in Gaza which was exposed in November, leading to an escalation that almost pushed the two sides into a fourth war.
“The times when the Israeli Special Force entered into and left Gaza are precisely known to [Hamas’s military wing] al-Qassam. Moreover, al-Qassam leaders know how many hours the Israeli Special Force stayed in Gaza,” he said.
“A trove of technical and security information was collected by al-Qassam after the Israeli Special Force’s Infiltration into Gaza. The information will be used to reveal the work mechanisms of the Israeli special forces in West Bank, Arab states and other countries.”
There have been repeated attempts at reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions since Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave from Fatah in 2007 but the gap between the sides has remained.
The lack of agreement has proved a barrier to Hamas’s own attempts to complete a truce with Israel that promises an easing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza that has existed since Hamas took control.
Egypt has brokered the indirect Hamas-Israel talks but has also pushed for the Palestinian unity process to be completed first.
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Melania Trump is not a ‘reluctant’ first lady, spokeswoman says in fiery op-ed

Melania Trump is not a ‘reluctant’ first lady, spokeswoman says in fiery op-ed

Before she got to the meat of her argument, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman conceded that she might be wasting keystrokes.

It was doubtless that the media, she conjectured, was going to take her CNN opinion piece as an “assault on the press” and continue to push the narrative that Melania Trump was a reluctant first lady.

Stephanie Grisham — a staunch defender of the first lady whom insiders have nicknamed “the enforcer” — wrote the op-ed in response to what she deemed a “trivial poll” about Trump’s dropping favorable rating among Americans and an ensuing piece by a network contributor that said the first lady “doesn’t understand what it means to be first lady.”

The argument that Trump does not want and is not good at her job is, of course, not new — as anyone familiar with the #FreeMelania hashtag can attest to.

But Grisham argued the first-lady-like things Trump has been doing are vastly underreported, including: reading Christmas stories to sick children, flying out to an aircraft carrier to visit members of the military for the holidays, hosting a successful state dinner and dozens of holiday events at the White House, and representing the administration at a state funeral to which her husband was not invited.

“CNN has a dedicated reporter who covers Mrs. Trump,” Grisham wrote. “But the media consistently ignores the first lady’s work on behalf of the people of this country, and children in particular, in favor of more trivial matters.”

“Each event in her comprehensive ‘Be Best’ initiative is focused on helping children with the many issues they face today,” Grisham continued. “Yet, somehow, she is still characterized as a “reluctant” first lady.

Kate Andersen Brower’s take that Trump doesn’t understand what it means to be first lady, Grisham wrote, was a “condescending opinion, apparently written in response to a single answer Mrs. Trump gave in a Fox News interview Wednesday,”

“The simple fact is that Mrs. Trump deserves honest reporting and media coverage that focuses on the substance of her message: the importance of helping children grow up to be happy, healthy and socially responsible adults,” Grisham wrote.

Grisham’s op-ed was another show of force for the spokeswoman. Last month, she wrote a statement about the Trump administration’s now-ousted deputy national security adviser, who was involved in a dust-up over the size of the first lady’s entourage on the Africa trip in October, as The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey and Emily Heil wrote.

The bad blood resulted in a searing statement that Grisham issued to reporters about Mira Ricardel: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

A day later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Ricardel’s departure — and Grisham’s “enforcer” nickname was solidified.

As Sarah Ellison wrote last week:

Grisham’s role has drawn attention for her acerbic statements directed at those who have crossed Melania Trump and her husband. When Trump attacked Mika Brzezinski in the summer of 2017 and claimed falsely in a tweet that she was “bleeding badly from a facelift,” rather than shying away from the controversy, Grisham offered this statement on Melania Trump’s behalf: “When her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.” When Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump,
cheekily called herself the “first Trump wife” and therefore “the first lady” while promoting a book last year, Grisham called Ivana “attention-seeking and self-serving.” Grisham even got into an argument on Twitter with Issa Rae after the actress said in an interview that she would cancel her show “Insecure” if she learned that Melania Trump was a fan.

Sarah Ellison, The Washington Post

The first lady’s approval rating is at its lowest point since just before President Trump took office. People’s opinions of Melania Trump also have been influenced by, well, Melania Trump.

As Heil wrote, Trump has recently “taken a higher-visibility role, traveling solo to Africa and speaking about her platform, Be Best.” She drew criticism for wearing a safari helmet on the trip that some said made her look like a colonialist tourist.

In an interview with ABC News in October, the first lady called herself “one of the most bullied people in the world.” She also has said that women accusing men of sexual assault need to show “really hard evidence.”

During a June visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, where children were being separated from their migrant parents by the Trump administration, the first lady wore a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?” She said the jacket’s message was intended “for the left-wing media” and other critics. Many say it painted her as coldly aloof to the plight of Mexican and Central American immigrants. In a statement, Grisham later said that “there was no hidden message.”

First lady Melania Trump wore a jacket bearing the phrase “I really don’t care. Do U?” during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border area in June. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In the end, Grisham said, the whole op-ed exercise might be for naught.

“I could continue with examples, but will inevitably be attacked for having a ‘woe-is-me attitude’ — it couldn’t possibly be that we are defending ourselves,” she said.

“Regardless,” she added, “Melania Trump is proud to be the first lady of the United States and is proud to represent the American people.”

Hey Stephanie Grisham: Can you teach the president how to emulate your reasoned media criticism? https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/15/opinions/melania-trumps-spokeswoman-speaks-out-grisham/index.html
10:28 AM – Dec 16, 2018

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Melania Trump’s spokeswoman speaks out
Melania Trump’s spokesperson issues a rebuttal to Kate Brower’s opinion piece. Stephanie Grisham writes, “to claim that Mrs. Trump’s interview was ‘a lost opportunity to put attention on families of…
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A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?
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Celebrations of the 47th Victory Day in Bangladesh

Celebrations of the 47th Victory Day in Bangladesh

by Anwar A Khan-
Bangladesh will commemorate 47 years since our victory over Pakistan’s military regime on the16th day of December It sometimes seems to me that all people and freedom fighters, who never returned from bloody battlefields, do not lie in the ground where they fell, but turned into white cranes. And the will to conquer is the first condition of victory and in 1971 we fulfilled the first condition. The bud of victory is always in the truth and our people stood in the truth in 1971.
Bangladeshis a land of countless festivals, in stride with the cycle of the seasons. These proceed with sowings and harvesting and around them have grown legends,most of them portraying the victory of good over evil. Joy Bangla. JoyBangabandhu. Joy our Bangladesh, we love you. Joy our valiant and patrioticpeople who fought with the cruel Pakistani military junta and their localhenchmen for establishing Bangladesh in the 1971 war. We must salute thoseheroic people of Bangladesh who were brutally murdered by the evil forces ofPakistani establishment and their local henchmen.
December 16 is our Victory Day. We have lost in nostalgia for those horrible months of 1971 and are now enjoying the sunshine of our independence on this bright morning. The Victory Day is Bangladesh’s most important secular holiday and a key element of the national identity, reflecting the nation’s enormous suffering and honouring millions of victims of the bloody hell 1971 war, but we also  wish to speak about the need today to fight global terrorism and cooperate with other nations to do that.
The Victory Day is also a public holiday in Bangladesh. In a remarkable feat of historical memory, today it is a vast torrent that fills the streets of every Bangladesh’s city. Yet it is hard to deny the sheer weight of public enthusiasm on display, with whole families walking together to honour their ancestors, generating a mood that seems both somber and festive. It is something for parents to do with their children, generation after generation. About three million Bangladesh’s people died and much of the country was devastated, leaving almost no family untouched. Hence, the anti-Pakistani victory is a great source of pride for our people, and legitimacy for our state, at a time when there is quite a lot of uncertainty. So, the idea is to take every opportunity to celebrate it.
As this year’s Victory Day will commemorate the 47th anniversary of the capitulation of the Pakistani regime, it is comparable like to Memorial Day in Bangladesh, and dedicated to the commemoration of all who died during our glorious Liberation War in 1971. Both are typically marked with parades and the visiting of memorials and cemeteries. For us it can be canonised as the “Great Patriotic War” in Bangladesh — can in terms of mythological importance be compared to D-Day for Americans. Both events have left unforgettable imprints in the psyches of the respective societies.
While paying dues to fallen heroes is commended around the world, the Victory Day in Bangladesh has increasingly become a manifestation of our people’s supreme sacrifices in 1971.  It marks the decisive battle during the 1971 War of Independence in which our people defeated Pakistani forces who sought to re-assert control over our sacred land.
Although it marks the important historical battle, the annual military parade also commemorates and recognises the contributions of all our people in their fight to gain and retain our independence. The Victory Day is celebrated all over the country. We hope the people of Bangladesh celebrate the end of Pakistani domination on us and remember those who stood by us in those times when the Pakistan’s army and their local accomplices were knocking at our door, bombing our places into oblivion and killing millions of our people with no mercy in their hearts. The veterans also say that even though those horrible days are long gone, they should never be forgotten, adding that unfortunately our world has changed from true patriotism to mollification.
The immortal people bring together people whose near and dear ones fought for independence of Bangladesh on this grand occasion. Thus, we shall honour the memory of heroes who earned this hard-won victory. Forty seven years ago, the war, the deadliest conflict in human history, came to an end as Pakistan’s Instrument of Surrender came into force on 16December 1971. Almost all people of the Bangladesh’s population were caught up in this 9 months long war. The observance of Victory Day is carried annually out to pay respects to the victims and fallen heroes of the war and to give laurels to the surviving veterans. Being a landmark event, people commemorate the patriots who gallantly fought the-then fascist Pakistani troops.
It was the shared operose experience defending our beloved country that shaped andformed Bangladesh’s modern nation. The memory of the war has become sacred,and, for most people, it is as important as their own birthday. The emergenceof Bangladesh has always had a significant place in Bangladesh’s ideology andits importance to its people can be magnified. Withso many deaths in the fight against the Pakistani military junta and its localconfederates, most Bangladesh’s families experienced personal loss.
The Victory Day is the festival of hope and togetherness. May our life beilluminated with endless prosperity, sparkling happiness and glowing health andthat should be our prayers on this gracious occasion. We wish all parts oflight in our life and our dreams come true for a golden Bangladesh. It is ofrejoicing that will be when we all see the green and red flag flying atop. Wewill sing and shout the victory, because life is a highway. Righteousness wasrestored driving away wrongful-nesses; those were the days of great trials offierce battles, darkness, tanks, bombs, guns and bayonets; still we were thevoice in the desert crying to behold the victorious freedom fighters werecoming, riding on the clouds shining like the sun, at the trumpet’s call.  Lift our voices because it is the day ofremembrance out of the hellish state of affairs, salvation will finally come.
Bangladesh’s beauty is a merited gift; her departure is unnecessary; and her lips without speaking can write history. Bangabandhu’s call was the one we want to answer for eternity; to speak until no words remain; gave until there was nothing to defeat to his submission is life’s greatest victory. The night flower of this heart like a rainbow our presence brightened the horizons, but just like the stars disappeared with the daylight. In the midst of the night, when silence reigns over the noise, we see the crown of victory and breathe the air of love.
There is no time to be alone, we are just always feel life’s love on the Victory Day and our true companion is an entire world of joy in Bangladesh. We want the thunder, the crashing of waves, the guts and the glory of victory parades on the Victory Day. There is no rockets flaring, there is no loud display. If we walk together with the true spirits of our glorious Liberation War, we shall soon get there someway which were battered by the anti-Bangladesh liberation force and their buddies. And the women and men, they will smile, on the Victory Day. And the children, they will laugh and they will sing and they will play. And the forests will echo our grace, for the brand new dawn of our youths.  And when we shall finally defeat our enemies, our people will be free. And all across this great land, the bold truth we shall see. So, as we march together, to avoid catastrophe, let’s remember always our sacred destiny is to free Bangladesh from the anti-Bangladesh liberation force and their mango-twigs through vote out in the December 30 national polls and restitute the very foundations in full on which Bangladesh was founded in 1971.
This is joy with tears in our eyes on the Victory Day because the days and nights at open-hearth furnaces, our motherland spent, sleepless.  Days and nights we fought a hard battle and we did all we could for hastening this day. Let us not minimise the deliberate murder of three million people. Let us have a moral victory that can shine as a light to all nations. Thus, the Victory Day is a time to remember the fallen as well as to celebrate the triumph.
The celebration of Victory Day continued during subsequent years. The war became a topic of great importance in cinema, literature, history lessons at school, the mass media, and the arts. The ritual of the celebration gradually obtained a distinctive character with a number of similar elements: ceremonial meetings, speeches, lectures, receptions and fireworks. But on this occasion the government also announced that it would make the remembrance of all who lost their lives a part of the event. The government should decide to bring the loss of life during the war into focus on this occasion through a Day of Remembrance is welcome.
Our people were truly patriot; loved the country so dearly……….From our side, the war was fought on the philosophies of establishing of Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism, Secularism in the country. The true spirits and values of our glorious Liberation War of 1971 can best be described by a song sings by famed singer Rathindra Nath Roy, “For the youngsters; for the adults; for the poor; for the riches; for all; for the have-nots; for the beggars-our country is for all people; for all people where there is no difference between ponters and blacksmiths; where there is no difference amongst Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians; one mother; and one country but belong to all (Chotoder boroder, shokoler, ……..ek mata, ek desh shokoler).”
Through the ballot revolution on 30 December 2018 — we must re-live and sort out the tortured history of more than two decades by two military regimes and a regime by their mango-twigs in order to move forward in the 21st century. And the anti-Bangladesh liberation force and their confederates must be reduced to ashes through this national poll. So, there is no substitute for victory because our victory lies with the truth. Long live the cause of freedom!
-The End-
The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs
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The olive and the resistance

The olive and the resistance

A man and five young boys collect olives together.
Yasser al-Zaben (left) and young relatives gather olives in Burin. The family lost about 20,000 square meters to surrounding settlements and the trees that grew there were burned. “What we demand is a better life for our children than for ourselves,” al-Zaben, a civil engineer, says.
Anne Paq and Ahmad Al-Bazz –13 December 2018
Amira Salman cannot imagine her life without olives.
“I have been working with olives for 50 years. Nothing works without the olives,” the 56-year-old said, citing a popular saying: “Lentils and oil are the foundation of every home.”
With two of her sons, she was harvesting olives in Deir Istiya, in the Nablus region of the northern occupied West Bank. In keeping with traditional arrangements, the Salmans will keep one-third of the olives they pick while the rest go to the owner of the land.
Another olive harvest season in Palestine has just passed, a period much awaited every October and November. It is an important time for the Palestinian economy. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the olive sector comprises 15 percent of total agricultural income. The olive harvest mitigates the impact of unemployment and poverty by providing three to four million days of seasonal employment per year and by supporting 100,000 families.
Eighty percent of land cultivated with trees in the occupied West Bank and Gaza is used for olive groves, according to the UN. The olive oil they produce is largely consumed by the domestic market. Excess supply – some 4,000 tons annually on average – has been exported, mostly to Israel, though since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, this market has dwindled and is near an all-time low.
Olive trees provide resources not only for the olive harvest, but also for soap and wood used for craft. The significance of olive trees to Palestinians is also more than its economic value, said Baha Hilo, the coordinator of the initiative To Be There – which works to bring people from around the world to Palestine for informational tours, including during the olive harvest season.


“There is a connection between the Palestinian family and their olive trees. You see that and you hear that whenever Israeli bulldozers come and destroy olives groves. So you ask a Palestinian family: ‘How does it feel?’ And they will say: ‘It’s like butchering my family’ or ‘It feels like cutting my arm off.’ There is a biological connection between you and that olive tree that produces for you, that gives you a means of livelihood.”
The olive tree has become part of the Palestinian identity, a national symbol of resistance and of the connection to the land. Harvesting, especially close to the settlements or in areas cut off by the Israel’s wall in the West Bank, is considered part of the resistance to Israel’s occupation.
But the olive harvest has also become synonymous with attacks by Israeli settlers against pickers. These settlers routinely destroy trees and steal olives. Since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, the UN estimates that some 800,000 Palestinian olive trees have been uprooted, set on fire or vandalized by settlers or been cleared for Israeli settlements, construction of the wall and other measures related to the occupation.
In areas close to Israeli settlements, Palestinians need to obtain permits from the Israeli military authorities to harvest olives. These are usually granted only for a few days.
This year was no exception when it came to attacks by settlers. So far this year, more than 7,000 olive trees have been damaged by Israeli settlers.
Settler attacks during the harvest have been reported in Turmusaya near Ramallah; Burin, Haris, al-Lubban al-Sharqiya, all in the Nablus region; as well as in Jit village and Deir al-Hatab, where settlers assaulted two Palestinians. Tel Rumeida in the Hebron area also witnessed settler violence.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also reported damage to around 700 olive trees and theft of produce in five incidents in the villages of al-Mughayyer(Ramallah), Burqa and Tell (Nablus), al-Khader (Bethlehem) and Farata village, between Nablus and Qalqiliya.
The International Women’s Peace Service, an organization of international activists based near Nablus, reported an attack by Israeli settlers against a Palestinian couple picking olives in the village of Urif on 8 November. Following the attack, the Israeli army shortened the picking period of the villagers.
Despite such constant threats of settler violence and army harassment, the olive harvest is a time of great solidarity among Palestinians and with the outside world. Every year, internationals come to help the Palestinian farmers, especially in areas near settlements. Palestinians also volunteer, such as Muhannad, 26, who is part of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements activist group.
“My motivation is supporting the sumud [steadfastness] and the resistance for the other families,” said Muhannad, who did not want to give his family name. “For us, it’s very important to be here as Palestinians, to help farmers staying on the land and in their houses, because we know that if we don’t come here, the settlements will expand, and then the next settlement will be my house.”
Palestinians can also count on members of their family. Every year, several generations work side by side, passing down the tradition and the love of the land.
“The olive tree in Palestine is the homeland, it’s freedom, it’s belonging. If we do not belong to the olive tree, we do not belong to Palestine,” said Yasser al-Zaben, a civil engineer from Burin. “Therefore, we are ready to leave our work, even if we make tens of thousands of dollars, just to work one day in the olive orchards.”
Anne Paq is a French freelance photographer and member of the photography collective ActiveStills.
Ahmad Al-Bazz is a multi-award winning journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker based in Nablus, and a member of the photo collective ActiveStills.

A bare olive tree, branches cut, stands forlornly in the foreground.

Vandalized olive trees in Turmusaya, near the Israeli settlement of Adey Ad. According to the owner, Rabah al-Araj, 165 of his olive trees were cut down on 2 October. It was not the first time.
“Every year they cut trees. Every year.” He says he was once attacked by a settler, who shot at him him while he was planting trees.

An Israel flag on a settlement home flutters right behind Muhammad Quneibi's olive orchard.

Muhammad Quneibi, 64, harvests an olive tree located just a few meters from an Israeli settlement in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. The family owns 40 trees. Settlers uprooted seven of them last year.

A woman holds a bucketful of freshly picked olives

“The state of Israel wants the land,” says Baha Hilo, coordinator of To Be There, a program bringing people from all over the world to Palestine. “Even God in the state of Israel is a God that gave this land to the Israelis. When Israeli policy is about taking away your land, your presence on your land is a form of resistance.”

A man picks olives from a tree.

“This is part of the resistance, especially for those with lands close to the settlements. So each year, we have to do it, we should do it, we must do it. My father does it, my grandfather does it. It’s in our blood. I insist on it. It’s our identity … and also the olive oil is very delicious,” says Ibrahim Eid, 26.
Eid is a nurse in Nablus but he takes time off work to help an uncle collect the olives in the family orchard in Burin.

A woman prepares coffee over an open fire.

Amira Salman, 56, from Deir Istiya, prepares coffee during the harvest.
“Can you cook without oil? We don’t like imported corn oil. I don’t let it enter our home. Olive oil is healthy and delicious. I also use traditional [olive] soap from the village.”

A woman empties a box of freshly picked olives into a sack.

A group of international volunteers work side-by-side with Palestinian farmers near the settlement of Efrat, south of Bethlehem. Laura, from Spain, is one. She came with the To Be There program and didn’t want to give her full name for fear of not being able to return to Palestine.
“It’s the third time I’ve come. I want to collect information to show in Spain and to support Palestine. This is the right of Palestinians to cultivate. You connect to the land and history. It’s important to show solidarity with farmers, especially when they are alone with settlers next to them,” she says.

Two men carry bags of olives a short way downhill from an Israeli settlement.

A Palestinian from the Jabari family and an international volunteer carry bags full of olives. Behind them is the Israeli settlement of Givat Ha’avot.
“This land is not from my father,” says Ayat Jabari, 33. “It has been in my family for generations. My father talked to us, to my brothers, to all of us, to keep it. We are young generations, but we feel the same. It grows in the heart. This is Palestinian, this is for us, and we will try all the time to keep this land, and do what we can to stay here. I am the owner of this land, how can I give it to others?”

Two women select freshly picked olives from a sack.

Fatma Quneibi, 45, and an international volunteer from Ireland pick olives together in Tel Rumeida, very close to the Tel Rumeida settlement.
“There is so much daily suffering here. How can people endure it? There are so many settlements and checkpoints. I did not realize the extent of the settlements before coming,” says the volunteer who, like most volunteers, does not want to give her name for fear of possible repercussions.

An Israeli soldier watches over a family picking olives.

An Israeli soldier stands in front of a tree belonging to the Jabari family in Hebron. Since the family had coordinated with the Israeli military, two soldiers were stationed there the whole day.

Olives on a branch, ready for picking.

An olive branch in Burin, a village near Nablus that is routinely attacked by Israeli settlers, especially during the olive harvest season.

A man checks the juice of olives as they are being pressed.

A farmer checks the quality of the olives in a Burin olive press. Good harvests and poor ones tend to alternate and 2018 was not a bumper year for olives.
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‘Liberate’ Venezuela from Maduro, urges Bolsonaro ally

‘Liberate’ Venezuela from Maduro, urges Bolsonaro ally

Brazil’s incoming foreign minister says leftist leader is not invited to inauguration

Jair Bolsonaro (left) and Ernesto Araújo. Bolsonaro has previously pledged to ‘do whatever is possible to see [Maduro’s] government deposed’. Photograph: Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

The incoming foreign minister under Brazil’s far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has called on the international community to unite to “liberate” Venezuela from the rule of its authoritarian leftist leader, Nicolás Maduro.

Ernesto Araújo, a pro-Trump climate change sceptic, made the appeal on Sunday as he announced that Maduro was not being invited to Bolsonaro’s inauguration next month “out of respect for the Venezuelan people”.

“Maduro has no place at a celebration of democracy,” Araújo tweeted. “All of the world’s countries must stop supporting him and come together to liberate Venezuela.”

However, Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, hit back on Twitter, publishing two letters, purportedly from Brazil’s foreign ministry, that appeared to show Maduro had in fact been invited.

Arreaza also tweeted what he said was Venezuela’s official response, a stinging rebuke to Bolsonaro that read: “The socialist, revolutionary and free government of Venezuela would never attend the inauguration of a president who is the epitome of intolerance, fascism and the surrender to interests that go against Latin American and Caribbean integration.”

The start of Bolsonaro’s four-year term on 1 January portends a fractious new phase in relations between Brazil and its crisis-stricken northern neighbour.

 Nicolas Maduro. Photograph: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

Bolsonaro, whose election campaign was built partly on a pledge to rout socialism, is famed for his attacks on Maduro and the “despicable and murderous ideology”he believes he represents. In an interview last year, Bolsonaro pledged to “do whatever is possible to see that government deposed”.

Such declarations have gone down badly in Caracas. Last week Maduro accused Bolsonaro’s running mate, Hamilton Mourão, of plotting a “crazy” invasion of Venezuela as part of a wider conspiracy to assassinate him allegedly being concocted by the White House.

Arreaza said such an intervention would be repelled with “the mother of all battles”.

Like his boss, Araújo has strong views on Maduro’s Venezuela, which he has compared on his blog to Stalin’s Soviet Union and Chairman Mao’s China.

In September Araújo reproduced a Donald Trump address in which the US president denounced “the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors”. Trump said: “All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.”

Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, who is poised to play a key role in Brazil’s foreign policy, has been even more hawkish, working with a group of rightwing Venezuelan dissidents who seek Maduro’s overthrow by military force. “The end is nearing,” he tweeted at Venezuela’s president this week.

In an interview with Chile’s La Tercera newspaper Eduardo Bolsonaro insisted Brazil was not about to invade Venezuela with tanks but said the best solution to the crisis was Maduro’s removal from power.
“I do not want him to die, I would like to see him go to another country,” he said.

Bolsonaro loyalists cheered the decision not to invite Maduro to Brasília. Janaína Paschoal, a politician from his Social Liberal party, said “bloodthirsty dictators” were not welcome. “If Maduro comes into Brazil he should be arrested for the crimes against humanity he is habitually committing.”

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The surprisingly interesting psychology behind Japan’s train system

The surprisingly interesting psychology behind Japan’s train system

By  |  | @EmmaRichards85
THE subtle working of Japan’s rail system may not be a topic that immediately whips you up into a flurry of excitement.
But consider the billions of people packed shoulder to shoulder making their way through Tokyo’s metro system each year, the trains running to a split-second timetable, and immaculate stations, you might start to appreciate the planning that goes into making sure this all goes off without a hitch.
Despite being home to world’s busiest train stations, Tokyo has managed to retain its reputation for reliability and staggering punctuality. In May this year, the system won global fame when it made a heartfelt apology for one of its trains leaving the station 25 seconds early. You could almost hear the collective groan of London commuters from here.
The system handles 13 billion combined passenger trips annually. While peering into a Tokyo station at rush may look like chaos, the fact that commuters manage to glide alongside each other without incident is not by coincidence or pure luck.
While most stations around the world use subtle cues to “nudge” passengers into the more efficient behaviour – think painted footprints on the ground or chevrons are the doors to encourage queueing – Japan uses deeper psychological manipulation.
Allan Richarz lays out some of their most ingenious tactics for CityLab.

The calming effect of music

That commuting is stressful will not be news to anyone. But Japan brings an extra level with the trains often reaching 200 percent capacity during peak hours. The shrill whistle of a station attendant as the train leaves, coupled with nerve-rattling buzzers to announce train arrivals added the assault on the senses.
It also prompted commuters to rush down the stairs and through the crowds in the hope of beating the trains closing doors.
Recognising the heightened alarm the ear-piercing sounds were creating, rail operator commissioned Yamaha to produce soothing, happy jingles to accompany train movements instead.


Introduced in 1989, the melodies spread until almost every station had its own signature theme tune. A 2008 study found they had proven convincingly successful, with a 25 percent drop in passenger injuries attributed to rushing on certain platforms where the melodies were used.
They are designed to minimise anxiety and composed of the ideal seven seconds, proven to reduce stress.

The youth of today

Sticking with aural influences, this one is less tranquil and more deterrent.
While Japan is a remarkably safe country with little reason to fear their young people, loitering and potential vandalism is still at the forefront of their minds. Stations have put in place ultrasonic deterrents that emit a high-frequency tone, only audible to people under 25.
When set at 17 kilohertz, older people are unable to detect the sound due to age related hearing loss. Young people, however, find the sound uncomfortable and hurry to get away from it.
This may sound harsh but the devices are widely used across Europe and the United States to prevent youth delinquency.
Richarz gives a first-hand account of seeing Japanese youth exclaiming urusai! (loud) near some exits and quickly scurrying away, while elderly business men didn’t miss a step.

The power of mood lighting

With one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, Japan is always vigilant of the risks in their stations. Leaping in front of a train is one of the most common methods chosen in Japan, averaging one a day, making it a brutal way to go as well as highly disruptive to its meticulously scheduled timetable.
While platform barriers are the eventual end goal to fix the problem, they are expensive and difficult to install in some of the older stations.
While they wait, rail authorities have found a cheap and surprisingly effective alternative.


At the end of most platforms – the quiet area most likely to be used for a suicide attempt – you can find small square panels of blue LED lighting. They don’t look like much, and you probably wouldn’t notice them if you weren’t looking out for them, but the deep blue glow they emit can be a lifesaver.
Blue light has been found to have a calming effect on a person’s mood. And they appear to work.
A 2013 study by the University of Tokyo shows an 84 percent drop in the number of suicide attempts at the stations where blue lights were installed. Reassuringly, there was no increase recorded at those stations that didn’t have them.
The measure was so effective it’s been introduced in the UK.
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Division continues amongst MPs on Brexit plan

MPs should get a free vote on different Brexit options, the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox suggested today – a plan echoed by at least one of his cabinet colleagues.
Other ministers denied claims that they were secretly planning for a second referedum with other parties.
This, as Labour activists called on Jeremy Corbyn to support a People’s Vote – although he wasn’t giving any ground on that idea, as our Scotland Correspondent Ciaran Jenkins has been finding out.
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It’s Macron’s Destiny to Be Hated

Posted on by srilankatwo

It’s Macron’s Destiny to Be Hated

The French president can make all the concessions he wants, but he can’t make the public like him.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a special address to the nation, his first public comments after four weeks of nationwide 'yellow vest' (gilet jaune) protests, on December 10, 2018 in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a special address to the nation, his first public comments after four weeks of nationwide ‘yellow vest’ (gilet jaune) protests, on December 10, 2018 in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)
No automatic alt text available.



When it comes to classical French tragedy, the fifth and final act always ends badly. In the plays of Jean Racine, Phèdre poisons herself or Eriphile stabs herself, Oreste goes mad or Nero goes even madder. The curtain then comes down, the lights come on, the audience leaves the theater and real life goes on.

Five centuries later, as France prepares for its own Act 5, Racine still has tragic lessons to teach.
Last night, President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the French nation. Looking haggard, he locked his gaze on the camera and declared an “economic state of emergency.” By way of measures, Macron vowed to raise the monthly minimum wage by 100 euros—a significant gesture, as only yesterday his labor minister vowed that it would not be raised—and to cancel the planned tax increases on those earning less than 2,000 euros a month. Equally significantly, however, he also declared the “wealth tax” he eliminated when he came to office would not be reintroduced. To do so, he declared, would cripple efforts to attract business investors to France.

It’s unlikely, however, that the speech will heal Macron’s crippled presidency. To say that his address was eagerly, even anxiously awaited would be an understatement. Since mid-November, a vast movement known as the gilets jaunes—the name reflecting the yellow traffic vests they wear—has held center stage in France. On Saturday, they marked what they called “Act 4”—the fourth consecutive Saturday of mass protests. This time, more than 100,000 yellow vests gathered in dozens of cities, with 10,000 converging on Paris alone.

They had come to express, once again, their displeasure—indeed, their hatred—for the government and for President Macron. Countless protesters have used this word to explain why they have taken—many of them for the first time—to the streets. In part, the hatred has been sparked by several official measures, ranging from a now-canceled hike in the gasoline tax and lowering of the speed limit to an increase in withholding taxes and elimination of the wealth tax, coupled with a decline in buying power and persistent unemployment.

Yet these policies alone fail to explain fully the social and political passions now burning. There has been no shortage of commentary, from observers and participants, on the ways in which Macron has turned himself so quickly into so reviled a figure. He had barely settled in the Elysée when he took the residence’s name all too literally, presenting himself as Jupiter-like figure. In fairness, Macron did not use the word to describe himself; instead, he applied it to his predecessor, François Hollande, whose failure he attributed to his refusal to be a “Jupiterian president.”

But he certainly tried to rule as a Jupiter, insisting on what his advisers called “verticality”—namely, that not only orders come from the top, but also reasoning and reflection are limited to the top. This held true not just for Macron’s specific actions, but also his general attitude. Earlier this year, for example, he exclaimed during a meeting on social security that the poor were “raking in the dough” (the French phrase, un pognon de dingue, is much earthier).

Or, again, there was this summer’s “Benalla Affair.” When videos eventually surfaced of Macron’s bodyguard Alexandre Benalla pummeling protesters in Paris, the Elysée sought to deny and deflect. Though Benalla was finally fired and charged, Macron maintained radio silence. When he finally broke the silence, he struck a note of lèse-majesté, declaring that he and he alone was responsible for what took place in the government. Fatefully, he added that if others had a problem with this, “Let them come and get me.”

Monday’s speech is proof that some French are willing to take up that challenge. The price, in terms of casualties (four dead and several hundred wounded) and money lost (hundreds of millions of euros in material damages, store and office closures, and overextended security forces), qualifies as an utter disaster for Macron.

From the start, he showed he did not understand that even Jupiter—or at least Homer’s Zeus—rules as primus inter pares: first among equals. While the mightiest of gods, he still abides by the norms of Olympus.

Yet, Macron said little in Monday’s speech that suggests he now grasps this nuance. Erect and rigid, he recognized he had “wounded” others with his words, but he failed to apologize for those same words. More importantly, while he tried to change his tone, it is not clear whether he changed it enough.

Moreover, though he repeatedly used the words “terrain” and “territoire” to underscore his concerns for rural and provincial France, Macron’s rhetoric fell flat; it’s unlikely he will convince anyone of his sincere affection for the French provinces. (This reflects a small but telling difference between Macron and nearly all past presidents. While Chirac regularly retreated to his native Corrèze, Mitterrand to his childhood Charente, and of course de Gaulle to his Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, Macron hasn’t a hometown he wishes to call his own. Though born in Amiens, Macron never waxes poetic about his provincial roots.)

Countless commentators have, understandably, pillaged France’s revolutionary past to make sense of the present-day pickle the country is now in. Many cite 1789, while others plump for 1830, 1848, or 1870. The yellow vests have been compared both to the sans-culottes of 1792—the artisans of working-class Paris who paved the way to the Terror—and the Parisian students of 1968, who nearly toppled the government of Charles de Gaulle. Yet other commentators link the rising price of gasoline today to the rising price of bread in 1789, or set today’s upheavals side by side with the medieval jacqueries, when peasants rose up against royal taxes.

The problem is that France’s current predicament is both much newer and much older than are any of these historical comparisons. It is newer not because the yellow vests are leaderless—this, after all, was largely the case with the revolutionaries of 1848—but because the source for every revolution in France has been Paris and Parisians. From 1789 to 1968, the capital of light has been the great protagonist in France’s revolutionary narrative, as in that of the modern world.

Until now, that is. The last several weeks have turned this story on its head. The vast majority of yellow vests hail not from Paris, but the provinces. Long kept under the tutelage of Paris, the residents of these exurban and rural reaches, increasingly isolated from the state and its diminishing services, are striking back. Through their demonstrations, they have not only stolen the lead role from Paris, but they have also transformed it into a simple stage.

If it is a stage, it is a tragic one. Something far older is now at play than the government’s goal of fiscal rectitude or the yellow vests’ goal of economic justice. Instead, what is at play is what we see in Racine’s plays: the character flaw of otherwise admirable individuals who, though acting in good faith, nevertheless commit enormities. While the violence is offstage in a Racine tragedy, and onstage in France’s current tragedy, in both cases it is provoked by the blinding self-confidence, of a ruler—someone who, for justifiable reasons, commits unjustifiable acts.

This is also known as hubris. Shortly before he resigned as interior minister in October, the old Socialist Gérard Collomb used this very word to describe his boss. Whether it is, as Collomb suggested, a “curse of the gods” or more simply a curse of the École Nationale d’Administration—the grande école (a term for France’s most prestigious academic institutions) that trained Macron and the rest of France’s technocratic elite—can be debated. What is not open to debate is the predicament in which Macron now finds himself. It is damning that while Macron finally canceled the gas tax increase, Act 4 nevertheless took place and his popularity continues to plummet. According to a poll by the newspaper Le Figaro, Macron’s support has sunk to 21 percent.

Of course, the tragic dimensions of France’s predicament stretch beyond this one man. For example, the gas tax, meant to help France’s transition to cleaner forms of energy, seeks to avert the end of the world. But what, the yellow vests wonder, about the end of the month? This has become their rallying cry, and it is one that touches on the very essence of tragedy, whether staged in the Comédie Française or on the Champs-Élysées—namely, the collision of seemingly incommensurable, yet equally justifiable ends.

Nicolas Hulot, Macron’s former minister of the environment, believes such a collision is not inevitable, arguing that social justice and environmental imperatives can be reconciled. For now, though, the question is whether Macron can fully achieve what Racine, following Aristotle,
calls anagnorisis. This is the moment the tragic hero, lurching from ignorance to insight, suddenly sees what had always been right under his nose. This moment, at least in Racine, usually arrives when it is too late. As a leading member of the French chorus, the centrist politician François Bayrou, is fond of saying: “When it’s too late, it’s too late.”

This week may well prove Bayrou right. Macron clearly needs to do more—and, yes, say more and with more heart—in the coming days. If he fails, and the curtain opens next Saturday on what gilets jaunes organizers are calling Act 5, those who have been rooting for Macron as liberal Europe’s last great hope will simply echo the last word of Racine’s tragedy Bérénice: Alas!

Robert Zaretsky is a professor of history at the University of Houston’s Honors College and the author of the forthcoming book Catherine & Diderot: The Empress, the Philosopher, and the Fate of the Enlightenment.
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‘Minya-stan’: Egypt’s Copts fear attacks by militants and security forces

Posted on by srilankatwo

‘Minya-stan’: Egypt’s Copts fear attacks by militants and security forces

Copts mourn Emad and David, who were shot dead Wednesday by a police officer who been assigned to protect a church in Minya
Mourners gather in Qena to commemorate the killings of Coptic Christians (supplied)
Sunday 16 December 2018
MINYA, Egypt – In front of the house of Emad Sadiq, hundreds of mourners gathered on the way to the coptic cemetary. The screams of women could be heard a kilometre away, while the lines of men extended for metres.
“Each year they do this to us. Where are you God? I wish they would suffer like we are,” the widow of Emad Sadiq and mother of David said.
On 12 December, in the latest attack in the town of Minya south of Cairo, a focus for sectarian mobs targeting Egypt’s Christian community, Emad, 50, and David, 21, were shot dead by a lower ranking police officer who was guarding the Church of Nahdet al-Qadasa, which had days earlier tightened the security presence and decorated the entrance with colourful banners.
A leaked CCTV shows the police officer getting in an argument with both men, before shooting them with his machine gun. According to the medical report published by Minya’s top Health Inspector Hani Shehata, the two victims were shot in the head.
An eye witness told Middle East Eye that Emad and David were working late in a construction site, and went to talk with the officer.
“Their voice started to get louder, and the officer showered them with bullets,” he said. The officer was arrested, and was ordered by the prosecution to be detained for four days pending investigation.
‘Should we go? We are humans like all people. They won’t be happy until our blood is shed on the streets’
– Traiz, mourner
A day after the killing, around 2,500 people gathered in front of the victims’ house, while around 200 members of the riot police roamed the area, and surrounded the village of the victims until thefuneral was over.
“We have had enough,” Ghattas Said, one of the mourners told Middle East Eye.
“I am asking the officials and those responsible for ruling the country: Where is justice? Where is mercy? Are they guarding us or killing us?”
The tragedy that rocked Minya’s community comes a month after an attack on buses that were returning from the St Samuel the Confessor monastery, killing seven.
David, one of the victims (supplied)
Inside the small church, the widowed mother collapsed in front of the two coffins, as screaming overwhelmed the scene. Quietly standing away from the coffins, attempting to calm mourners, stood Anba Makarios, a Minya bishop.
He said the that killings were “more dangerous than the monastery attack as the perpetrator was one of the police officers who is supposedly assigned to guard the church.”
“What is sadder is that it was difficult for us to even hold prayers for the funeral. Minya needs the intervention of the President,” the bishop said diplomatically.
However other mourners were not so calm in showing their grief.
“Our houses are burned in mid-daylight. Our people were displaced. And our businesses are ripped off,” said Traiz, a 69-year-old.
“Should we go? We are humans like all people. They won’t be happy until our blood is shed on the streets.”

‘We are not animals’

The pessimism among the Coptic community has also reached the youth, who held a short protest at the same time as the funeral, demanding retribution for the victims. One of them was Abanoub Samir.
“Blood has filled the streets. Minya has become like Afghanistan. Maybe we should call it Minya-stan. Nothing is sacred for them. Neither the cathedral, our big homes, or our small private residencies,” Samir said.
“We are not animals. Even if we are animals, the government and the terrorists would not have treated us like this, we are humans just like you,” he said, adding that such incidents will only fuel more sectarianism as the officer who fired the shots was a Muslim.
“What I fear is the reprisal of the police, since now one of their own will be in jail. I don’t really trust they will guard the churches well. Plus, when the media and the attention is gone, they will start arresting those who protested and showed their anger,” said another young women, Nehal Mounir.
‘When the strike comes from the guard it is treason…the officer used his official weapon, which you, me, and those who are killed, pay taxes for’
– Bishop Bimen
The Ministry of Interior has not issued a statement to comment on the incident. A relative of the victims, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that a small delegation from the Minya Security Directorate visited the family and attempted to convince them of settling and saying that the killing was due to a personal dispute.
However, following the crowded funeral, which was covered by very few media outlets, the public prosecution published a statement to say the killing took place “after an argument that started days ago”.
In Qena and Minya, worshipers on Sunday held a mass, to commemorate Emad and his son. Egypt’s media ignored the incident, and the majority of talk show programmes made sure to highlight that the two sides had a fight prior to the killings taking place.
Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II described the killings as “painful and strange” on a televised interview, adding that he expects “strong, fast, and decisive decisions to take place to absorb the tension and anger in Minya.”
Bishop Bimen, Bishop of Naqadah Qena, told the Coptic Channel MESat, that the state should work on preventing such incidents before they take place.
“When the strike comes from the guard it is treason…the officer used his official weapon which you, me, and those who are killed, pay taxes for.”
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