Total deaths: 896 (as of July 25)
Israeli soldiers killed: 36
Israeli soldiers killed: 35
Palestinian militants killed: 122 (of which 2 were children)
Palestinian civilians killed: 649 (of which 104 were women, and 190 were children)
Video footage of how the Israeli air force is conducting raids in Gaza. One technique is to “knock on the roof” of a building that Israel intends to destroy by firing at the roof of a building to scare its occupants into leaving, before dropping larger munitions to destroy the building.
The video below also contains an audio recording of a phone conversation between an Israeli operator and a Palestinian where the Israeli warns the Palestinian to tell his neighbours to evacuate as the Israeli air force is about to destroy a building in his neighbourhood.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died. Sharon had been in a coma for the past 8 years. Nicknamed the “bulldozer”, Sharon was regarded as the “father” of the Israeli settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He was the darling of Israeli right win settlers who would often chant “Arik – King of Israel”.
Yet when be became Prime Minister he authorised the controversial evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Sharon’s famous quotes:
“As one who fought in all of Israel’s wars, and learned from personal experience that without proper force, we do not have a chance of surviving in this region, which does not show mercy towards the weak, I have also learned from experience that the sword alone cannot decide this bitter dispute in this land.”
“Israel will fight anyone who tries, through suicide terrorism, to sow fear. Israel will fight, Israel will triumph and when victory prevails, Israel will make peace.”
Ahmed Jabari was the commander of Hamas’ military wing – the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. He was born in Gaza city in 1960, and was a former member of Fatah. He left Fatah and joined Hamas, later becoming its military leader. He is a father of 14, and was responsible for the kidnap of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the negotiations regarding Shalit, and his eventual release.
The master orator, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Iran and Islam. Bibi was his usual dramatic self, speaking while holding up an image of a bomb with a fuse, and drawing a red line under the bomb’s fuse to indicate the red line – representing the last chance to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon (the middle of 2013).
In light of the recent Julian Assange controversy, I wrote an article on the Nigerian attempt to kidnap Umaru Dikko and return him to Nigeria to face trial. The article was published yesterday in the UK’s Independent newspaper:
“Umaru Dikko, the man who was nearly spirited away in a diplomatic bag
One of the more outlandish options for Julian Assange’s passage to Ecuador has been tried before. Max Siollun reports
Monday, 20 August 2012
On 31 December, 1983, the elected government of Nigeria was overthrown in a military coup by the country’s army. The new military government jailed several government ministers for corruption and embezzlement while in office. However, the powerful former Transport Minister, Umaru Dikko, fled to London. The military claimed that Dikko used his position as Transport Minister to enrich himself in a series of racketeering scandals. It regarded Dikko as its most wanted fugitive from justice and wanted to bring him back to Nigeria to face trial.
To bring this about, they hatched a plot to kidnap him off the streets of London. Nigerian intelligence services and undercover agents (with the help of several Israelis who were alleged to be members of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad) tracked Dikko to a house in west London. After placing the house under surveillance, the agents decided to strike on 5 July, 1984.
Moments after Dikko emerged from the house, two men burst out from a van parked outside the house. They grabbed Dikko and bundled him into the back of the van. The team inside the van included a doctor who injected Dikko to render him unconscious.
Dikko’s kidnappers locked him in a large crate labelled “diplomatic baggage” and addressed to the Nigerian Ministry of External Affairs in the then capital city, Lagos. They claimed diplomatic immunity for the crate’s contents, and drove him to Stansted airport to place him on a waiting Nigerian cargo plane.
Unbeknown to the kidnappers, Dikko’s secretary had glanced out of her window just in time to see her boss being bundled into the van outside his house, and she dialled 999.
The kidnap was initially thought to be the work of criminals and was referred to Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also informed.
The British government ordered customs officials at airports, ports and border crossings to be vigilant when inspecting Nigeria-bound vessels. One customs officer at Stansted airport was especially vigilant. Although the Nigerian cargo plane was minutes from taking off with Dikko on board, he ordered the crate to be opened. Nigerian intelligence officials and diplomatic staff protested that the crate could not be opened as it was protected by diplomatic immunity.
The customs officer called anti-terrorist police. They cordoned off the area and evacuated airport staff. Customs then opened the crate with armed police watching. Inside the crate, they found Dikko unconscious, next to the doctor who had injected him. The doctor had accompanied Dikko in the box to top up his anaesthetics and ensure he did not die during transit.
Armed police surrounded the Nigerian cargo plane on the runway, arrested its crew and refused to allow the plane to take off. They also arrested the Nigerian officials and Israelis who drove the crate to Stansted, and several members of Nigeria’s High Commission in London.
The Nigerian and Israeli governments always denied any involvement in the affair. Foreign intelligence involvement became apparent only when the sophistication and daring of the Dikko kidnap was revealed.
The kidnap caused one of the worst-ever diplomatic crises between Britain and Nigeria. The Nigerian High Commissioner was declared persona non grata in London, and the head of Nigeria Airways narrowly escaped being arrested by British police. Diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Britain were suspended for two years. The controversy also weakened Nigeria’s war on corruption, as Britain rejected a subsequent formal request from Nigeria to extradite Dikko and other Nigerian politicians in the UK who were wanted in Nigeria on charges of corruption.
Four men were convicted of kidnapping Dikko (three Israelis and a Nigerian) in a trial at the Old Bailey, and were jailed. All were released and returned to their countries after serving their sentences. After regaining consciousness in hospital, Dikko remained in Britain for over a decade.
Max Siollun is a historian and the author of “Soldiers of Fortune: Nigerian Politics Under Buhari and Babangida“.
Military service is a compulsory requirement of most Israelis. However Israel has historically exempted ultra-orthodox religious Jews (“Haredim”) from military service. The exemption was originally granted by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and was meant to apply to a few hundred religious students.
However demographics and economic realities have overtaken the exemption. The Haredim are now the fastest growing segment of Israel’s population. They make up 10% of Israel’s population, 13% of Jewish males, and 25% of primary school pupils.
60% of Haredim men are not employed in mainstream economy, and estimates claim that their exemption costs Israel $750 million every year.
Forcing the Haredim to serve is likely to cause a showdown as many of them will resist military service. Expect a compromise. I don’t see Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu getting into a fight with the Haredim.
13.5 Jews worldwide, 81% of whom live in Israel or America.
A video chronicling a 9 month investigation by Al-Jazeera in to the 2004 death of Yasser Arafat – expanding on recent revelations that his personal effects were contaminated with high levels of the radioactive material polonium.
Q and A with Arafat’s widow Suha:
What is polonium?
Polonium has previously been used to assassinate, most famously in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy turned dissident. Litvinenko was killed by Polonium in London in 2006.
Interview with Mohammed Rashid on the last time he saw Arafat: