Russia, Turkey stand by Assad

Russia, Turkey stand by Assad

Agencies
Anti-government protesters hold signs calling for an end to the Assad regime’s crackdown. (AFP Photo)
Anti-government protesters hold signs calling for an end to the Assad regime’s crackdown. (AFP Photo)

DAMASCUS/BEIRUT/ANKARA/MOSCOW: Syrian forces killed at least 23 protesters after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets after Friday prayers, activists said, as Russia and Turkey rejected Western calls for the Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, is facing the most serious international isolation of his rule. The U.S. and its European allies Thursday demanded he leave power.

But both Russia and Turkey Friday dismissed calls for Assad to quit, offering the Syrian leader rare support despite a damning U.N. report Thursday on his “apparent shoot to kill” policy.

A Russian Foreign Ministry source said Russia opposes U.S. and European calls for Assad leave power and believes he needs more time to implement promised reforms, while in Turkey.

An official source told AFP Turkey also believes it is “too soon” to call for Assad’s departure.

“We are not there yet. First and foremost the people of Syria must tell Assad to go. This has not been heard in the streets of Syria,” the Turkish official said.

“The Syrian opposition is not united and we haven’t seen yet a collective call from Syrians to tell Assad to go, like in Egypt and Libya.”

Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK), which brings together top civilian and military officials, discussed Ankara’s strategy on Syria Thursday but fell short of making an open appeal for Assad to resign. It instead repeated calls for an immediate end to violence.

“It has been emphasized once again that the use of violence and force against civilians must be stopped immediately,” the MGK said in a statement, released late Thursday.

It said a democratic change must take place in compliance with the “legitimate demands of the friendly and brotherly Syrian people,” according to Anatolia news agency.

A Russian official, quoted in Interfax news agency said: “We do not support such calls and believe that it is necessary now to give President Assad’s regime time to realize all the reform processes that have been announced.”

The position sets Russia firmly against the West, which has stepped up pressure on Assad five months into a violent government crackdown against protesters seeking an end to his rule.

Russia, which holds veto power as a permanent Security Council member, has said it would not support a resolution on Syria but did back an Aug. 3 statement that criticized the violence and called for the clampdown to stop.

Moscow said this week that in the absence of formal sanctions it would continue its arms sales to Syria. Russia, which has a naval maintenance facility in Syria, has repeatedly urged Assad to carry out reforms and has taken a more positive view of the government’s actions than Western nations have.

“Quite a lot has been done on this path,” Interfax quoted the Foreign Ministry source as saying.

“Most important is Assad’s announcement yesterday that they are stopping all military operations. This is a very important move and it bears witness to the intention of Assad and the Syrian authorities to proceed on the path of reforms.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the announcement of an amnesty for political prisoners, the lifting of decades-old emergency rule and a plan to hold parliamentary elections by the year’s end were among the government’s moves aimed at reform. A group of Russian politicians, experts and journalists were planning Saturday to travel to Damascus on a reconnaissance mission, one of the informal delegation’s members told AFP, saying media reports out of the country were incomplete.

Russian senator Aslambek Aslakhanov added the delegation would seek to meet both Assad and the opposition.

On the political front, a group of “revolutionary blocs” formed a coalition Friday vowing to bring down the regime and paid tribute to more than 2,000 civilians killed in a crackdown on protesters since mid-March.

Military operations have subsided in the past few days, following a fresh crackdown on major flashpoint cities that started at the beginning of the month to root out anti-government protesters. But persistent gunfire and shootings, along with Friday’s killings, underscore the difficulty of any kind of diplomatic pressure achieving results in the absence of any appetite for military intervention.

Human rights groups said Assad’s forces have killed nearly 2,000 people since the uprising erupted in mid-March. A high-level U.N. team recommended Thursday that the violence in Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court over possible crimes against humanity.

The U.N.’s chief human rights official said Friday that there was evidence of widespread human rights abuses including torture and killings by Assad’s forces

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in an interview with France 24 television that her body had drawn up a list of 50 Syrians in senior positions that she said were responsible for violent repression.

She said she had asked the U.N. Security Council to refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court but admitted that she was “not optimistic” as many member states would prefer to put Damascus under diplomatic pressure.

Instead, she said, the U.N. Human Rights Council would meet Monday to see if member states on this less senior body could agree on action to take.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he has received reports of atrocities in Syria but has no jurisdiction “at this stage” to open an investigation because Damascus does not recognize the court.

He said he could begin investigating at the request of the U.N. Security Council. Syria’s U.N. ambassador said a U.N. humanitarian assessment team will arrive in Damascus Saturday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also said Friday it is optimistic Syrian authorities will grant the humanitarian organization access to all detainees in the country “within weeks.”

The number of protesters Friday appeared to be markedly lower than in previous weeks, largely due to the crackdown and security presence. But amateur video posted online by activists showed thousands of protesters in various areas, some calling for Assad’s departure, others for his execution.

Although Assad told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday that military and police operations had stopped, residents and activists said soldiers, tanks and armored personnel carriers were still deployed in restive cities.

Asked Friday whether the U.N. chief believes Assad when he says the violence has stopped, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said: “We continue to hear some disturbing reports that we would need to look into.”

Uncertain World: The balance that tripped up America

Uncertain World: The balance that tripped up America

Weekly column by Fyodor Lukyanov

The role the West played in the collapse of the Soviet Union remains a subject of debate. As it is still entwined in the ongoing political struggle, neither side can be expected to be objective. Still, 20 years provides enough distance to soberly reflect on what really happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

© RIA Novosti.

Fyodor Lukyanov

Did the West (above all the United States as its strategic spearhead) seek the Soviet Union’s downfall? In a word, no, because at that time no one could even imagine it was possible at all.

Ronald Reagan, a man obsessed with fighting “godless Communism”, was a fierce opponent of the USSR. He pursued a strategy of undermining Soviet power on all fronts – from supporting anti-Soviet and anti-Communist movements in other countries to driving down world oil prices to deny the Kremlin a vital source of revenue. But even Reagan could not have dreamed of achieving such a decisive victory, completely eliminating his main opponent. Partly this was because he thought he was up against a dangerous and incredibly strong enemy. This belief was reinforced by his security advisers who exaggerated the Soviet Union’s strength (with all the attendant effects on the U.S. budget) .

Reagan and his aides understood better than most how vulnerable the Soviet economy was, and so they conspired with Saudi Arabia to lower world oil prices and bated the Soviet Union into a new phase of the arms race with the threat of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was essentially a bluff. But their thinking behind this power play was to force Moscow to make strategic concessions, not to bring the country to its knees. By the end of his first term, Reagan had completed the initial phase of his plan – to escalate tension. The second phase was to enter into talks with the Soviet Union and tilt the balance of power toward the United States. Regan thought the new man in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev, would be an amenable negotiating partner.

But Gorbachev and Reagan’s relationship was one of equals. The Soviet Union’s real moment of geopolitical generosity occurred during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. A realist in matters of foreign policy, Bush believed in the need for a balance of power more than his predecessor and mentor Ronald Reagan. The Americans were amazed – some Europeans were exasperated – by how readily the Soviet Union backed down. Gorbachev and Shevardnadze’s constructive approach on the issue of German unification by far surpassed what Bonn’s NATO allies – Italy, France and even Britain – were prepared to accept.

It would be too simplistic to chalk this up to the idealism, naivety and even the treachery of the Soviet leadership. In 1989-1990, the Gorbachev team could feel in their bones what the West only had an inkling of. The country was coming apart at the seams, partly due to mismanagement at the top and partly due to causes beyond anyone’s control. The Soviet leadership was fighting a loosing battle against a deepening crisis. They sought to shed the country’s foreign policy burden (releasing the socialist camp, unifying Germany, etc.) to free up resources and gain time to tackle crippling domestic problems. The U.S. did not understand just how grave these problems were, so Moscow’s willingness to meet the U.S. half-way aroused suspicion – did the concessions conceal a crafty plan?

Steeped in the realist tradition, with its emphasis on balance, George Bush and his closest advisers like Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft were leery of the claims about Soviet decline even after it had became obvious. Bush’s famous August 1, 1991 speech in Kiev – in which the president warned Ukraine against “suicidal nationalism” and spoke of the risks of independence – is a classic example of political shortsightedness. Reading it today, you can’t help but be struck by how Bush pinpoints the future problem of the post-Soviet space, where independence has not led to real freedom.

Following the August coup attempt, it was impossible to pretend that nothing was happening, but even then there was resistance to the idea that the Soviet Union was doomed. The magnitude of this prospect, and what it would mean for the geopolitical order, was simply too great.

I asked a high-ranking Soviet diplomat, who worked on U.S. affairs, when Washington finally became convinced that the Soviet Union was gone for good. His answer shocked me. “I believe this was the fall of 1992,” he said. “For a few more months the Americans still suspected that the CIS was just a transitional phase and that it might become the reincarnation of the single state.”

But realists weren’t the only breed at the very top of the U.S. government.  There were some who imagined life without the Soviets and, later, even without the Russian Federation in the borders it came to occupy. They huddled around Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, later vice president and informal neoconservative leader. But official policy was shaped by Bush and his inner circle, and the president was troubled by the prospect of Soviet nuclear weapons getting into the wrong hands and the mass destabilization of Eurasia resulting from the disappearance of the country that constituted its backbone.

Cheney and his associates got their chance a decade later. The global disaster that Bush the Elder and his team feared would result from the collapse of the Soviet Union never came to pass, and this emboldened the neoconservatives.

None of the Soviet Union’s rivals mourned its downfall. There was a geopolitical inheritance to divide up, in keeping with the realist school. The post-Soviet and early Russian leadership adopted a faulty practice, however, which it employed for several years, probably in response to circumstances – threatening the West with its own weakness. If you fail to back us, the argument went, malicious, vengeful reactionaries will gain the upper hand. Occasionally, this would result in some tactical gains, but this approach not only contradicted the basic principles of classic diplomacy (why deal with the weak?), it was also unbecoming and led us down new dead ends. In this regard, Vladimir Putin’s diplomacy, however peculiar his style, seems more sane.

Twenty years on, it’s clear what the Washington realists were instinctively afraid of. The disruption to the geopolitical balance caused by the Soviet Union’s rapid disintegration made America a hegemonic power, a role it has proven ill-suited for despite all its might.

The United States is now facing huge challenges largely rooted in the Cold War. The world, however, lives in a different reality, one in which people don’t really care who won that war.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Gorbachev Thinks Putin Has Russia By the Balls

Putin ‘castrated’ democracy in Russia – Gorbachev

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev makes universal ball-grasping motion.

© RIA Novosti. Kirill Kalinnikov

 (RIA Novosti)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has killed off democracy in Russia, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on Thursday.

Speaking to the BBC on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the 1991 unsuccessful coup attempt that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev said Russia had largely failed in its attempt to build democracy.

“Putin and his team are for stability, but stability kills development and results in stagnation,” Gorbachev said.

“The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it.”

The comment was the latest in a series of attacks on Putin by Gorbachev.

Gorbachev, 80, told The Guardian earlier this week that Putin was obstructing President Dmitry Medvedev’s attempts to implement a modernization program.

“The modernization plan put forward by the president in the economy, politics and other spheres is good but the president’s possibilities are limited,” Gorbachev said. “He’s being outplayed and outsmarted by Putin, I see.”

He also said that Putin had failed to take advantage of Russia’s windfall from high oil prices.

“Those opportunities were not properly used and managed. Of course, now the issue is that we are facing a tide of social problems that will define the country’s future, education, healthcare and other things. If we are not able to address those problems successfully, there will be no modernization in Russia. We need a different program from Putin’s,” he added.

Twenty years of Ukraine: Our way is just beginning, by President Viktor Yanukovych

Twenty years of Ukraine: Our way is just beginning

Viktor Yanukovych “Mirror of the week. Ukraine »№ 29

Twenty years – enough time for human development. But for the growth of the state – is only the beginning. And our main achievement at this moment in history – a clear understanding of our common goal. We know what to do and understand how to achieve this. We have defined development strategy, and we have enough political will for its implementation. European democratic prosperous Ukraine, a free state, in which people feel secure – it is our goal, and it will be achieved. And in this way we hope to support all Europeans.

24 August, 1991 Ukraine revived as an independent state – an integral part of the European family of free nations. The dream of many generations of true. Spirit of unity, strength of will of the people, faith in a better future embodied in reality.Declaration of Independence was an important historic step towards our country.Since then and forever the future of Ukraine – in the hands of its people. Ukrainian society, supporting the December 1, 1991 decision of the Supreme Council, has taken a final decision in favor of sovereignty and responsibility for own actions.Ukrainian idea of ​​independence became a unifying force rod which were and are fundamental values: freedom, humanism, democracy, tolerance, justice and social cohesion.

20 years have elapsed since then, been difficult. Hard reality has destroyed the hope of rapid improvement of life, build in a short time a prosperous free society and the legal democratic state. Romantic admiration of the fact of independence has grown into a need for real action. The need for pragmatic, informed and responsible approach to every decision.

Society is not the first decade of hard to overcome the Soviet legacy. The state, no matter how painful it was to recognize, often losing in the development of its neighbors. Corruption all these years roz’yidala management system and did not give the possibility to breathe freely Ukrainian. But despite the difficulties, the main step is already done: we finally decided on her future. The European choice of the basis for foreign policy identity of Ukraine. A European values ​​- the foundation of our development.

Ukraine not only wants to be a European country. This geographical fact does not require extra proof. We want to join the great European project – building a united Europe based on values ​​of freedom, democracy and law. Everyone in a difficult time trying not subsidies or indulgences, and the opportunities and rights. Everyone, despite the hard pressure and conscious inhibition, on the basis of equal partners.Connect – for our common future.

We believe that the Association Agreement and the formation of a deep and comprehensive free trade – that is what you want today and Ukraine and the European Union. We hope that this is conscious and our partners.

Ukraine is difficult to blame kon’yunkturnosti or inconsistency. For centuries, even in the toughest conditions, our society has remained a European, and its best representatives of many brought to the cultural treasure of Europe. Evidence of our roots are and domed Kyiv, and medieval Lviv, Odessa and diverse, and modern features-Constructivist Kharkiv. We can imagine no Ukrainian land of ancient Greek Olbia and Genoa Sudak and Feodosia, Jewish and Polish shtetliv palaces. Our history is rich and multicolored, our people – multinational, and it is – our common world heritage.

We are united not only past but present. And in this I am convinced the future.Examples of this – a lot. And the possibilities – too.

The next year Ukraine will together with our strategic partner Poland will host the finals of the UEFA European Football Championship – “Euro 2012”. This event will give another chance of European Union citizens see today’s Ukraine, and Ukrainian – communicate with tourists and fans of the EU.

Ukraine demands not only economic cooperation, and especially – the radical expansion of human contacts with the European Union. It does not need power, and society, every citizen. Ukrainian leadership will do everything to implement the National Plan for visa-free regime. We hope the EU side will understand our capabilities and limitations and help the citizens of Ukraine to exercise their right to freedom of movement.

Ukraine is deeply realized, that our European progress is impossible without good relations with Russia. Since independence, irrefutably proved that such relations are possible only in strict compliance with bilateral balance of national interests and mutual respect. The state and its leadership will do everything in their power to build such a balance.

We understand the importance of relations with leading countries – the United States and hope that in the years to develop these relations on upward. To realize the enormous potential available here – our main goal.

In today’s neglected relations with the People’s Republic of China – just nonsense.Over the last year done a lot for the development of such relationship, and this is only the beginning of a promising collaboration.

National pragmatism, which laid the basis for the interests of Ukrainian citizen – this is our roadmap to building relations with other states.

The world respects the strong. Ukraine and further reform the armed forces, other security sector agencies, introduce European principles and standards, develop cooperation with NATO and other security institutions in Europe.

We do contribute to international stability and security, resolving conflicts on the basis of strict compliance with international law. And not only in Europe. Ukrainian peacekeepers perform complex tasks of maintaining peace and also in Asia and Africa.

We recognize – the road to Europe runs through every village and town of our country. And toruvatymut this way not only to diplomats and we all – citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities, those for whom the state – not just words, and common cause.

Ukraine urgently needs modernization of all spheres of public life. Further delay threatens not stagnation, and slow suicide state. In order to avoid tragedy, we are on the path of reform. This decision dalosya not easy. And may not always succeed, but the direction is correct – and it is not in doubt.

We set lofty goals to the state. We focus on the stage, which is actually decent Ukraine. We must enter the club of world leaders. We must give the possibility to freely breathe the Ukrainian business. We will remove administrative barriers that prevent citizens feel comfortable in their own land.

After decades of empty talk and attempts to avoid responsibility in Ukraine for the second consecutive year, drastic changes occur. Changes in tax and budget legislation, ongoing administrative and pension reform, running a large experiment in health care, there is discussion of the new Criminal Procedure Code and electoral legislation. Coming new
serious action. Ukraine has changed, and transformation in the interests of the Ukrainian people will continue. Whether you want it advocates the old system of irresponsible populism or not.

The success of reforms – reducing corruption, priority threat to national security of Ukraine. For the first time in many years, we are taking real, not decorative, as it often has been, events. But corruption can not be destroyed without ensuring full equality of all citizens before the law.

An important step – now in Ukraine there is no caste and untouchables, sure, never in the future will be gone. And if anyone believes that this is a separately taken the campaign, he is deeply mistaken. No position, no fortune, past or present, will not protect criminals. Restored the basic principle of justice – the inevitability of punishment. Ukrainian Themis Eyes are closed, it will focus only on the justice system, and scales calibrated in accordance with European standards.

This love is not all. Often our actions to encounter strong resistance. But we are confident that the course taken – the right and the results will help all citizens of Ukraine to get rid of corrupt tax, to protect its own dignity in the face of today’s and tomorrow’s officials.

Do not deny it – the government made mistakes. Not one. Unfortunately, we are not immune from this in the future. But we learn. Time has proved conclusively that the current leadership of Ukraine is able to perform housework.

Ukrainian authorities to strictly comply with the provisions of the Constitution on the rights and freedoms of man and citizen and do everything necessary to fill these provisions real content. And here we rely on the support and assistance of Ukrainian civil society leaders and the general public of all European countries.

We are open to dialogue, but not give up our principles, chief of which – serving the interests of Ukrainian society and democratic state.

All these factors give me full confidence that today, during the twentieth anniversary of independence, Ukraine has a broad consensus. Each of us is fully aware what country we are building together. This is – a modern, democratic, legal, high-tech and advanced country that is an integral part of European cultural space. And this goal unites all Ukrainian, regardless of political affiliation or belief. The way to achieve it without alternative – a deep modernization of the country. The time will come, and for ten years Ukraine will be in the European Union will enter into the circle of developed countries. I am convinced of this.

Znuasmall

Taliban claims responsibility for Pak mosque bombing

Taliban claims responsibility for Pak mosque bombing

PTI

People look at a child killed in a suicide blast in Ghundi, in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber on Friday.
AP  People look at a child killed in a suicide blast in Ghundi, in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber on Friday.

The Pakistani Taliban on Saturday claimed responsibility for a devastating suicide attack on a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency that killed over 50 people, saying it was carried out in retaliation for local resistance against the militants.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Muhammad Talha said in a statement that Friday’s attack was directed against the Kukikhel tribe, whose members killed two militants recently.

Talha claimed the tribesmen had also destroyed three Taliban hideouts in the area.

A teenage suicide bomber blew himself up in the Jamia Masjid in Jamrud area of Khyber tribal agency after Friday prayers, killing more than 50 people and injuring more than 120.

The bombing was one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent months.

A tribal elder in Jamrud area said Taliban fighters had come to the mosque over a week ago to recruit new members.

Local residents refused to joined them and said they would not support the Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Islam, another militant group operating in Khyber.

Witnesses said that when the bomber entered the mosque on Friday, he shouted: “Who will throw me out of the area now?”

Over 250 people were in the mosque when the blast occurred.

TTP Bombed Jamrud Mosque, According to Unknown Caller

Jamrud mosque bomb death toll hits 51: Officials

By AFP

Local residents carry the body of a blast victim following a suicide bomb attack at a mosque in the town of Jamrud, 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Peshawar on August 19, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: The death toll from a suicide bomb at a crowded mosque in Khyber Agency, the country’s deadliest attack for three months, rose to 51 on Saturday, officials said.

A suicide bomber detonated himself as more than 500 people had packed into a mosque for Friday prayers in Jamrud, killing many instantly and wounding scores more.

“The death toll has risen to 51 and 121 people were wounded,” local government official Khalid Mumtaz Kundi told AFP.

“Sixty-one of the wounded are still in hospital,” Kundi said.

Blood was splattered across the mosque’s main hall and walls, while the building’s doors and windows were destroyed and its ceiling fans mangled by the blast, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Ball bearings used in the suicide vest were also scattered across the mosque.

Friday’s bomb was the deadliest since May 13 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a police training centre in a town about 30 kilometres north of Peshawar, killing 98 people.

A little known militant spokesman who identified himself as Mohammad Talha claimed responsibility by telephone on behalf of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“We, the Taliban claim responsibility for this attack. This mosque belonged to KukiKhel tribe and we are fighting against them and anyone fighting with us will have the same fate,” Talha told AFP.

The authenticity of the claim could not be verified but bombings blamed on the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked networks have killed more than 4,550 people since 2007.

The Sinai Is Even Hotter Than Usual–Maybe As Hot As 1973

[Israeli and Egyptian forces skirmish, leaving 5 Egyptians dead.] 

Tensions boil after Egypt-Israel border clash

BY HANNAH ALLAM AND SHEERA FRENKEL

MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

CAIRO — Furious over a murky Israeli military operation that left five Egyptian security personnel dead at the border, top Egyptian politicians on Friday demanded a full investigation and urged a swift government response, including summoning the Israeli ambassador and halting natural gas exports.

Skirmishes along the tense Egypt-Israel border flare up periodically, but this time the reaction from Cairo’s political elite reflects a new reality: With authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak gone, Israel has few friends left in Egypt.

That could mean an escalation of the already pervasive lawlessness in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which shares a frontier with Israel and is mostly controlled by Bedouin tribes.

Hundreds of Egyptians protested Friday at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, and the crowds grew late into the evening, with witnesses reporting that protesters toppled concrete barricades and set off fireworks. Armored military vehicles were dispatched to the scene but left without incident.

“To Sinai we go by the millions!” protesters chanted. “Generation after generation, Israel is our enemy!”

The demonstration encapsulated the lingering anger over the Mubarak regime’s close relationship with Israel, which is widely despised here as a former occupier of the Sinai that more recently has enforced a devastating blockade of Palestinians in neighboring Gaza. Fifty-four percent of Egyptians want their country’s long-standing peace treaty with Israel annulled, according to a poll conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center after the popular uprising that forced out Mubarak.

“Our glorious revolution aimed to bring back Egyptian dignity, inside and outside of Egypt, and what could have been accepted before the revolution will not be anymore,” Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf wrote on his Facebook page. He added that he was discussing all available options “regarding the murder of the honest Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai.”

Egypt’s interim military rulers lodged a formal complaint with Israel over the deaths and dispatched the army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Sami Anan, to lead an investigation, according to the state news agency MENA.

But politicians gearing up for Egypt’s first post-Mubarak elections in November seized on the incident to distance themselves from the old regime’s policies, vowing tougher stances on Israel. Several presidential contenders – Islamist, liberals and moderates – condemned the raid and suggested several ways to censure Israel, including revisiting the peace treaty, suspending diplomatic relations and stopping natural gas exports.

“Israel must understand that the days when they killed our sons without a proper and strong reaction are gone and not coming back,” former Arab League chief and potential presidential candidate Amr Moussa wrote on his Twitter account.

The deadly raid Thursday was part of Israel’s retaliation for an ambush that killed eight Israelis, six of them civilians, near the Egyptian border earlier that day. Palestinian gunmen apparently carried out the attack, entering southern Israel from the Egyptian desert that serves as a buffer between the two nations, according to Egyptian officials and news reports.

Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said the attackers had entered Israel through a gap in a security fence that Israel is building along its southern border.

Details of the ensuing fighting between Israeli forces and the suspected assailants were sketchy, but three Egyptian security officers were killed, according to official accounts. News reports said that seven other Egyptian personnel were wounded; two died Friday of their injuries.

Israeli warplanes hit dozens of targets across Gaza overnight, while militant groups launched rocket attacks at southern Israeli cities.

Israeli officials said that diplomatic relations with Egypt were “strained” over the attacks.

“We are not dealing with the usual players there. It is a new reality on the ground and our security vis-a-vis Egypt is not certain,” said an Israeli diplomatic official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing diplomatic protocol.

He added that Israel’s vocal complaints about lax Egyptian security in Sinai would likely only damage relations further.

“There have been calls in Israel for the Israeli military to re-enter Sinai. That is not realistic at this juncture, and likely to become dangerous if it is seen as a threat or insult to Egypt,” he said.

Israeli officials said they had issued repeated warnings that an attack on Israel could be launched from the Sinai Peninsula. In a briefing to an Israeli parliamentary committee last week, military intelligence officials reiterated that Islamist groups could easily form attack and training cells in the sparsely populated Sinai desert.

“We have highlighted this as a threat for some time. But in Israel they got used to thinking of Egypt as the ‘quiet’ border, and we focused on other frontiers,” said one official who took part in the committee, speaking anonymously because the committee hearings are confidential. “Now the threat has become reality.”

(Special correspondent Frenkel reported from Los Angeles. Adam Sege in Washington and special correspondent Refaat Ahmed in Cairo contributed to this report.)

Attack On US Base In Gardez Another Major Fatality Event or Averted Catostrophe?

[PressTV is reporting the following event.]

‘Huge Afghan blast kills 27 US soldiers’

The US-led forces in Afghanistan (File photo)
A powerful explosion has rocked a US military base in eastern Afghanistan and reportedly killed at least 27 American soldiers and left dozens wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, saying the huge explosion left at least 27 American troops killed and 34 others wounded, a Press TV correspondent reported.

The incident occurred early Thursday when a truck bomb went off inside the US military base in Gardez city, the capital of Afghanistan’s Paktia province.

According to the Taliban spokesman, the truck contained hundreds of kilos of explosives.

Witnesses say the explosion was very powerful and a US helicopter was also destroyed in the blast.

American forces in Afghanistan have been experiencing their deadliest days since the beginning of August.

On August 6, at least 31 US Special Forces were killed after Taliban militants shot down an American helicopter belonging to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Wardak.

The death toll was the biggest in a single incident for foreign forces since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began in 2001.

In another attack on August 11, ISAF said in a statement that six US-led soldiers lost their lives following the explosion of a roadside bomb in volatile southern Afghanistan.

The security situation remains fragile in Afghanistan despite the presence of about 150,000 US-led foreign forces in the war-torn country.

The increasing number of troop casualties in Afghanistan has caused widespread anger in the US and other NATO member states, undermining public support for the Afghan war.

Suicide Truck Bomber Attacks U.S.-Run Base in Afghanistan

FoxNews.com

A suicide bomber killed two Afghan guards when he attempted to detonate a truck bomb near the entrance of a heavily-guarded U.S.-run base in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, NATO’s U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

“At 6:45am Afghanistan time, a suicide bomber attempted to drive into a US-run civil-military base in Gardez, Afghanistan,” an ISAF statement obtained by Fox News said.

“The attempted bomber did not make it through the front gates and his vest-bomb did not go off. Two Afghan guards were killed; no other injuries or casualties reported.”

The Taliban, the main militant group leading an escalating 10-year insurgency, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Gardez, the capital of eastern Paktia province, which borders Pakistan.

“A suicide bomber tried to attack the base with a truck bomb but he was encountered at the first gate by Afghan guards. He set off his bombs there,” Paktia provincial police chief, Abdul Ghafar Sapai, told AFP.

Sapai did not mention any fatalities, saying that two local guards and a border policeman in a nearby police base had been wounded. He said the distance between the first barrier and the main gate was more than 300 feet (91 meters).

The police chief said “good security measures,” including anti-blast concrete blocks, stopped the attacker from reaching his target and causing more casualties.

The base houses small groups of troops and civilian experts who are trying to help rebuild the war-torn country and enhance security. The groups are known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and are assigned across Afghanistan, AFP reported.

The PRTs are run by various Western nations as part of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The Gardez PRT is run by the United States.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, contacting AFP from an undisclosed location by telephone, said one of their fighters drove a bomb-laden car into the entrance of the base and detonated the explosives.

Mujahed said dozens of U.S. and Afghan troops were killed and wounded.

The Taliban are known to make exaggerated, sometimes false, statements when it comes to deaths caused in their attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.