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Amnesty: Libyan militias committing war crimes

October 30th, 2014 No comments

CAIRO (AP) — Amnesty International says rival militias and armed groups in Libya are committing “mounting war crimes” with impunity.
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Sweden recognizes Palestinian state, hopes will revive peace process

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom attends a news conference at the Rosenbad government building in StockholmBy Simon Johnson STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Swedish government officially recognized the state of Palestine on Thursday, the first Western European country to do so, reflecting growing international exasperation over the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told reporters her government hoped it would bring a new dynamic to the situation. …

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Abbas warning over holy site closure

October 30th, 2014 No comments

The Palestinian leader’s spokesman calls the closure of a disputed Jerusalem holy site after the shooting of a Jewish activist a “declaration of war”.
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UN chief launches campaign to end female genital mutilation

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Kenyan Maasai women gather during a meeting dedicated to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), on June 12, 2014, in EnkorikaUN chief Ban Ki-moon launched Thursday a global campaign to end the often deadly practice of female genital mutilation within a generation, as survivors said it had "shattered" their lives. "The mutilation of girls and women must stop in this generation, our generation," Ban said on a visit to the Kenyan capital Nairobi. "Men and boys must also be encouraged to support the fight against FGM — and they should be praised when they do." FGM ranges from the hacking off of the clitoris to the mutilation and removal of the entire female genitalia, and is carried out from the youngest babies to teenagers.

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Iraqi Kurd fighters ‘enter Kobane’

October 30th, 2014 No comments

An advance party of 10 Iraqi Kurd fighters have entered the Syrian border town of Kobane to join the battle against Islamic State militants, activists say.
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Libya militias commit ‘mounting war crimes': Amnesty

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Smoke billows from buildings in Benghazi pounded by Libyan airforce, as they were reported storing ammunition belonging to Benghazi-based Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group, on October 22, 2014Pro-government and rebel militias vying for control of western Libya are committing war crimes including torturing detainees and targeting civilians, Amnesty International said Thursday. Libya is being rocked by fighting between militias in the west and in second city Benghazi, where troops are trying to dislodge Islamists who control most of what was the cradle of the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Amnesty said militias in the west showed "an utter disregard" for civilian casualties and accused them of indiscriminately lobbing artillery fire into crowded civilian neighbourhoods, damaging homes and hospitals. "In today's Libya, the rule of the gun has taken hold," said Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme.

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October 29, 1914: Admiral Souchon Forces Turkey into the Great War

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Since last summer I have been noting each of the dates marking the centennial of events that brought the Ottoman Empire into the Great War on the side of Germany and Austria a century ago. Divisions in the Ottoman Cabinet, despite the signing of a secret alliance in August, kept the Turks from fully committing to war. The Ottoman War Minister, Enver Pasha, was enthusiastic enough, but others were dragging their feet. Germany was increasingly exasperated with its putative ally’s excuses. On this day a century ago, without Cabinet approval, including that of Minister of Marine Djemal Pasha, the Commander of the Turkish Navy simply started the war on his own.

Souchon and his staff in Fezzes

You may recall a key fact from our earlier discussions of the Goeben and Breslau (now the Yavuz Sultan Selim and Medilli), the ranking officer of the Turkish fleet was now Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, who despite donning the fez and raising the Ottoman flag, was very much still a serving officer of the Imperial German Navy.

During October, each of the German-crewed vessels (still called Goeben and Breslau by their crews) had made brief sorties into the blacj sea for gunnery practice or other excuses; these were officially protested by some in the Cabinet, who feared they were aimed at provoking Russia (which of course they were). But the Russians, not wanting a new front with Turkey, refused the bait.

By late October, the German Ambassador in Constantinople, Wangenheim, passed on instructions to “Turkish” Admiral Souchon to take decisive action. It’s not entirely clear if Enver knew what Souchon was about to do. He may have assumed it was another attempt to provoke the Russians to come out. It wasn’t. Souchon had decided to shell the Russian coast.

Yavuz, Medilli,  and other elements of the Turkish fleet steamed out of the Bosphorus on October 27. The next day, at sea, Souchon informed the other captains of their orders. The next day, October 29, Yavuz/Goeben, accompanied by the Mine Cruiser Nilofer and the destroyers (sometimes classed as torpedo boats) Tasoz and Samsun, would shell the major Russian naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. Medilli/Breslau, accompanied by the Mine Cruiser Berk would lay mines in the Kerch Strait (between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov) and then proceed to attack Novorossisk. The Turkish light cruiser Hamidiye would attack the port of Feodosia (Theodosia), and the destroyers/torpedo boats Muavenet-i-Milliye and Gairet-i-Wataniye would attack Odessa.

Muavenet. Gairet  was similar

The plan assumed surprise, but something went wrong. Muavenet and Gairet reached Odessa well before dawn, apparently around 3 am. It was still dark, but they saw a line of old tramp steamers exiting the harbor.They were showing lights, and the Turkish commander decided to use the opportunity to enter the harbor, though the Yavuz and others were still hours away from their targets.

Donets

They spotted the old Russian gunboat Donets and several other ships in the harbor and after shelling her Gayret torpedoed her and she sank. In an engagement of only 15 minutes or so they also attacked the gunboat Kubanets, which fled, They attacked a minesweeper which burned and reportedly sank, shelled several merchant vessels in the harbor, and shelled shore instantiations.

The Odessa attack, coming hours before other ships reached their targets, alerted the Russians, and around 4 am warnings were sent out to other locations. By the time Goeben/Yavuz reached the big naval base at Sevastopol, around 6:30 AM, the Russian shore batteries were on alert. He shelled the base for amount 20 minutes, firing 47 rounds (and hitting a naval hospital) but the Russian batteries were quite accurate and Yavuz/Goeben took three hits. None caused casualties but she chose to withdraw under cover of a smokescreen laid by her escorts.

Hamidie from the deck of Yavuz/Goeben

Meanwhile, at Feodosia, Hamidie had arrived to find little resistance, and gave the local population an opportunity to evacuate, before shelling the port facilities.

At Novorossisk, also after a warning, Berk began the shelling, being joined in late morning by Medilli/Breslau after she laid her mines in the Kerch Strait.

Said to Show Bombardment of Novorossisk by Medilli/Breslau

As Yavuz/Goeben was heading back to Constantinople she encountered an old Russian minelayer, the Prut, accompanied by three torpedo boats. They tried to defend her, but were driven away and one badly damaged by Yavuz’ guns. The crew of the Prut, which was filled with a cargo of mines, opted to scuttle her rather than risk being blown to bits if their cargo was hit.

The German and Turkish crews lost no men, and suffered only minor damage, mostly the three hits on Yavuz/Goeben. Russian casualties are unknown but mostly occurred at Odessa.

But Souchon had done something more. Without official authorization from the Cabinet, he had started the war with Russia.

Russia declared war on Turkey November 2, joined by Serbia the same day and Montenegro on November 3. Serbia and Montenegro had other problems on their hands but were doing their Pan-Slavic duty.  Britain and France followed suit on November 5, and we’ll be hearing more about them, especially Britain, than we will about Montenegro in coming weeks.. The Ottoman Empire was in the war.

Commemorative German postcard (painting?):





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Palestinians urge UN to demand Israel end settlements

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Buildings under construction are seen in the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit near the Palestinian West Bank village of Wadi Fukin, on September 4, 2014The Palestinians urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to demand that Israel immediately reverse plans to build more Jewish settlements, at an emergency meeting called to address tensions in east Jerusalem. The 15-nation council met for urgent talks at Jordan's request after Israel announced plans on Monday to build 1,000 new settler homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider the capital of a future state.

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Anonymous US comment on Israel roils relations

October 29th, 2014 No comments

White House press secretary Josh Earnest pauses as he answers a question about insulting comments made towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a unidentified Obama official, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, during the daily press briefing oat the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)WASHINGTON (AP) — Anonymous White House criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that drew condemnation in Israel is roiling Washington politics, putting the U.S. administration on the defensive and prompting congressional demands for President Barack Obama to repudiate the remarks.

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Egypt destroys homes for Gaza buffer

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Egypt begins demolishing homes along its border with the Gaza Strip as part of a planned 500m buffer zone that is intended to prevent weapons smuggling.
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