Death and Destruction in Gaza as Israel Launches Ground Invasion

My piece in The Nation from Gaza:
Gaza City - Gaza is filled with the sounds of war. Normally a bustling and noisy place, the cacophony of its dense urban life has been replaced with the incessant buzzing of drones, the booms of naval artillery, the screech of F-16s and the blasts of missiles, shells and bombs crashing down.

There are no sirens in Gaza, no shelters, no air defense system. There is only destruction and death.

More than 240 Palestinians have been killed in ten days of bombardment by the Israeli military. Around 77 percent of the dead are civilians, including nearly fifty children, according to the United Nations.

The devastation is visible around every corner. Disfigured buildings, facades ripped open, buckle over in grotesque poses, spilling their insides onto the streets: a fridge covered in cement dust, a torn mattress, a closet ripped in half. Shards of glass festoon the roads. More than 1,600 homes have been reduced to rubble or severely damaged.

Dozens of graveyards have been hit. “The Israelis are even trying to kill the dead,” one resident says.

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Egyptian detainees warned not to talk to imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists

Update on the conditions of imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists for the Toronto Star:
Jailed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is being treated as a potential threat to other prisoners his family says, as guards at Egypt’s notorious Tora prison complex have warned fellow detainees not to speak with him.

Fahmy and his two Al-Jazeera colleagues, sentenced last month on terrorism-related charges, are viewed as “dangerous minds,” and other prisoners have been instructed not to interact with them, said Fahmy’s brother Adel.

Following the June 23 verdict — in a case that dealt a severe blow to press freedom in Egypt — Fahmy was transferred to another section of the prison, along with Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed.

It has been dubbed the “Marriott cell” by Egyptian authorities after the hotel where two of them were arrested last December.

The three were made to wear the navy blue prison uniform marking them as convicts, and are being held in a large cell with seven other detainees, including former cabinet members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

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Judge renews Khaled Al-Qazzaz’s detention for another 45 days

Nearly a year in prison without charge:
On July 3, Khaled Al-Qazzaz will mark two milestones: his 35th birthday and a full year in prison. An adviser to Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Qazzaz was arrested along with several of Morsi’s top aides on July 3, 2013, the day the Egyptian military toppled the Islamist-led government in a coup.

He has been held without charge ever since. On Tuesday, a judge renewed his detention for an additional 45 days, extending his imprisonment until at least early August.

Qazzaz, who is a permanent resident of Canada, is married to a Canadian citizen and has four young children. At Tuesday’s court session, a representative from the Canadian Embassy attended his hearing for the first time.

For much of the past year, Qazzaz has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a cramped, insect-infested cell inside the maximum-security wing of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison, known as “Scorpion.”

According to a medical report dated June 15 and obtained by the Star, he is suffering from slipped discs, a pinched nerve in his neck, and stiffness in his spine, and he requires surgery. A former detainee at Scorpion, who saw Qazzaz inside the prison last month, said he appeared unable to stand up unaided and was being supported by several fellow prisoners.

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Journalism in Egypt is a Crime

My interview on Democracy Now! along with Mohamed Fahmy’s brother, Adel.

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Canadian journalist jailed 7 years in Egypt

A dark day in Egypt:
A Canadian journalist working for Al-Jazeera English and his two colleagues were sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court on terrorism-related charges on Monday, in a case that has dealt a severe blow to press freedom in Egypt and sparked condemnation around the world.

The sentences were handed down to Mohamed Fahmy, an experienced journalist with dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship who previously worked with CNN and The New York Times; Peter Greste, an award-winning Australian correspondent who also worked with the BBC; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer who previously worked with Japanese news outlet Asahi Shimbun. Mohamed received an additional three years in prison for possession of a single spent bullet casing he found on the ground during a protest, Al-Jazeera said.

The courtroom, which was packed with journalists, diplomats and family members, erupted after the sentences were read out by the judge. Fahmy grabbed the caged dock and shouted out against the ruling before court police grabbed him and hauled him away. “They’ll pay for this,” he screamed.

Fahmy’s younger brother Adel angrily yelled insults at the court. His mother, Wafaa, wept as she tried to cover Adel’s mouth, afraid for his safety.

“This is not a system and it’s not a country. They ruined our lives, they ruined the whole family,” said Adel. “Everything is corrupt. This country is corrupt through and through.”

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Imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy makes appeal to Egyptian judge

Short piece for the Toronto Star on the Al Jazeera trial:
Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy stood before the judge overseeing his trial on terrorism charges on Monday brandishing a book about George W. Bush.

Waving the book, Fahmy told the judge it was the former U.S. president who destroyed Iraq — not Al-Jazeera.

“A channel can’t destroy a country,” said Fahmy. “This is an insult to the media martyrs who died in order to cover these wars.”

Fahmy was the acting Cairo bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English when he was arrested on Dec. 29, along with colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer.

The three journalists have been imprisoned for 170 days on terrorism charges in a case that has sparked worldwide condemnation.

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Alaa Gets Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

Segment on Democracy Now! on the sentencing of Alaa Abdel Fattah to 15 years in prison with Ahdaf Soueif as well as Mohamed Alshamy talking about his brother, the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalist, Abdulaah Alshamy.

Health worsens as jailed Canadian journalist awaits verdict: ‘I already have a life sentence’

Latest on imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy for the Toronto Star:
A Canadian journalist who has been imprisoned in Egypt for five and a half months on terrorism charges said he now has a permanent disability due to lack of proper medical care for an injury to his shoulder that was exacerbated by his arrest and detention.

Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian citizen and the acting bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, was taken for an MRI scan on Wednesday at a private hospital close to the prison complex where he has been detained since December.

“I already have a life sentence,” Fahmy said, referring to the loss of full use of his right arm and demonstrated how he could not lift it any higher than shoulder height. He said he wants to sue the prosecutor for compensation.

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Thousands across Libya march in support of reforms

Final piece for the Washington Post from Tripoli:
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tripoli, Benghazi and other cities across Libya on Friday in support of a renegade general’s campaign against Islamist militias and his calls to suspend parliament.

The protest, dubbed the “Friday of Dignity,” took its name from the offensive launched by the former general, Khalifa Hifter, one week ago in the eastern city of Benghazi. Hifter has since garnered support from current and former military officers, political figures, civil society groups and the militias that dominate many Libyan cities.

Friday’s demonstrations were some of the largest the country has seen since the uprising three years ago. The Hifter-led revolt has ignited a long-brewing political crisis and is posing the most serious challenge to the Libyan government since the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The interim government issued a statement in support of Friday’s protests and reasserted its proposal this week to suspend parliament. “The participation of tens of thousands [in the protests] requires all to answer to the demands of the people who represent legitimacy that can’t be ignored,” the statement said.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square on Friday afternoon, chanting against the parliament and in support of a national army and police force to replace the militias that emerged after the 2011 civil war. Many of the militias are on the government payroll, although they remain loyal to their own commanders rather than the state.

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In Libya, fears of all-out war as Islamist militias allied with parliament deploy in capital

More in the Washington Post:
Powerful militias aligned with the Islamist-dominated parliament deployed in the Libyan capital Thursday, raising the specter of an all-out war with forces loyal to a renegade former general who wants the legislative body disbanded.

Known collectively as the Libya Central Shield, the militias from the western city of Misurata were heeding a call by the head of parliament, Nouri Abu Sahmein, to protect Tripoli after gunmen loyal to the ex-general, Khalifa Hifter, stormed it Sunday.

It marked the first time the Libya Central Shield has deployed to Tripoli since November, when its fighters opened fire on peaceful protesters outside their base, sparking clashes that left more than 40 dead and hundreds wounded.

The group’s main rivals, the Qaqa and Sawaiq brigades from the western city of Zintan, have allied with Hifter, threatening a confrontation in Tripoli between two of the country’s most powerful militia forces.

The deployment is the latest development in a long-brewing crisis that ignited Friday when Hifter led a fierce assault on Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi. More than 70 were killed in the fighting, the heaviest in the country since the 2011 revolt that deposed autocrat Moammar Gaddafi.

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