Thursday, January 31, 2008

Update on Iraqi Casualty Data

    6:05 AM   No comments
January 2008 - Update on Iraqi Casualty Data

Further survey work undertaken by ORB, in association with its research partner IIACSS, confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003.

Following responses to ORB’s earlier work, which was based on survey work undertaken in primarily urban locations, we have conducted almost 600 additional interviews in rural communities. By and large the results are in line with the ‘urban results’ and we now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000.

Further information about the research, our calculations, questionnaire wording and data tables is available by clicking on the links below. Also available is an article providing background on IIACSS and its founding director Dr. Munqith Dagher.

Revised Casulaty Data - Press release.doc
New Casualty Tabs.pdf
MRS story.pdf

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blackout in besieged Gaza City

    4:44 PM   No comments

Lights have gone out in Gaza City after the territory's only power plant was closed down due to a fuel shortage.
Darkness descended on Gaza as the second of the plant's two working turbines was switched off on the third day of a crippling Israeli blockade of the territory.

Sunday's shutdown has prompted fears of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians said the worst affected could be the health sector, with hospitals failing to provide services in the absence of electricity.

"At least 800,000 people are now in darkness," Derar Abu Sissi, general director of the plant, said.

"The catastrophe will affect hospitals, medical clinics, water wells, houses, factories, all aspects of life."
Israeli response
The Israeli foreign ministry said the diversion of fuel supply from domestic power generators to other uses was "wholly a Hamas decision".
"Noteworthy is the fact that while the Gaza population remains in the dark, the fuel generating power to the Hamas rocket manufacturing industry continues to flow unabated," it said in a statement to Al Jazeera.
"The Hamas claim of humanitarian crisis in Gaza is also greatly exaggerated."
Mekel said that supplies of petrol used in cars, as well as diesel, had been halted but not fuel oil and cooking gas.

"The ball is in their court," he said. "If they stop the rockets today, everything would go back to normal."

Power outages have become commonplace in the Gaza Strip in recent months after Israel declared the area a "hostile entity" and began restricting fuel supplies.

Ahead of the shutdown, residents bought up batteries and candles, as well as basic foods like rice, flour and cooking oil. Bakeries stopped operating because they did not have power or flour.

UNRWA, the UN organisation supporting Palestinian refugees, warned the shortages would drastically affect hospitals, sewage treatment plants and water facilities.

"The logic of this defies basic humanitarian standards," Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said.
Patients at risk

Dr Medhat Abbas, head of the crisis management unit at the health ministry in Gaza, said that electricity from generators would only be available for a few more hours at the Al-Nasser children's hospital.
"These patients and these children are facing their destiny and they will die soon," he told Al Jazeera.

"They escaped from their poor houses were they have very cold weather ... The families brought them here to be saved in the incubator. Now the incubator and the nursery will be out of electricity.

"What sort of humanitarian law is this?"

He said the blackout would also deprive cancer and intensive care patients of their treatment as well as spoiling blood and vaccines that were being stored.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in Gaza said that it was not only power generation that would be affected.

"It also means no fuel for the generators that fuel the water pumps - a lot of the water in Gaza is deep beneath the surface, and it has to be pumped to the surface - so no fuel can also mean no water."

'Collective punishment'

The UN has said Israel should not collectively punish Gaza's population while responding to security threats.
The organisation has criticised Israel's decision to close border crossings into Gaza, preventing aid deliveries to the 1.5 million people living in the territory, saying on Saturday that the move could provoke a humanitarian crisis.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, also urged an immediate end to violence in Gaza and Palestinian sniper and rocket attacks into Israel.
Zeev Boim, an Israeli cabinet minister, said that rather than condemning Israel's move, the UN should condemn Palestinian rocket attacks.

"I don't hear the UN's voice," he said.

Israel has continued to push ahead with its military offensive against Palestinian fighters in both Gaza and the West Bank in recent days.
Late on Sunday, an Israeli air raid killed at least one Palestinian and critically wounded another in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas officials said that the target was a group of fighters who launched makeshift rockets into southern Israel.

Around 230 such rockets and mortars have been fired over the border since Tuesday, according to the Israeli military. At least 36 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire in the past week.

However, Arye Mekel, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said that the shutdown was unnecessary. "They have an interest in exaggerating," he said.
Israel says the blockade imposed on Gaza is in response to rockets being fired from the territory.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sarkozy: Arabs have nuclear right

    12:09 PM   No comments

Sarkozy is greeted by Qatar's Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani as he eyes nuclear deals with Arabs [Reuters]
Nicolas Sarkozy has said that Arab countries should have the right to develop nuclear energy.

However, the French president said that right should not be extended to Iran until the government in Tehran has proved definitively that it does not intend to acquire nuclear weapons.

Sarkozy told Al Jazeera in the Qatari capital Doha on Monday: "In 40 years from now there will be no oil left and in 100 years no more gas, nuclear power will replace those energy sources ... It is the energy of the future.
"So, [why] should Arab countries be banned from using this energy?"

"That's why we say there is no reason to prevent Arab countries from using nuclear energy for civilian and peaceful purposes."
Sarkozy is currently on a tour of Gulf countries as he attempts to consolidate French political and economic ties in the region.

Distribution deal

"It would be giving credit to the current Iranian regime if civilian nuclear energy is only used by western democracies," he said.

"France tells Iran 'give up your race for a nuclear weapon - it's a risk and you don't really need it'. And, if you [Iran] stop the race for a nuclear weapon, you would have access to civilian nuclear power."

Sarkozy's latest comments came as officials revealed Areva, the French nuclear reactor manufacturer, has signed a $700 million electricity distribution and transmission deal with Qatar.

French power firm EDF also signed a memorandum with Qatar "to engage discussions on co-operations in the areas of nuclear power production and renewable energy generation," the Reuters news agency reported.
Sarkozy is also due to sign a nuclear co-operation deal with the UAE, the next stop of his tour, on Tuesday.

France generates the majority of its own energy from nuclear reactors and has been actively seeking deals with Arab countries such as Libya and Egypt.

Several Gulf countries are exploring the option of nuclear energy despite having large oil and gas reserves.

Peace plea

In another possible sign of France expanding its presence in the Gulf, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that Sarkozy may also sign an agreement that would allow the French navy to station vessels in the Arab emirate across the Gulf from Iran.

A source familiar with the issue told Reuters that France and Abu Dhabi would sign an agreement on "the possibility of stationing several naval units in Abu Dhabi" as part of a deal on "improved military co-operation".

The French president also used his visit in Qatar to urge for progress in the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.

"The only way to put an end to their [the Palestinians'] suffering is to create - right now - the conditions for a viable Palestinian state," he told Al Jazeera.

"As you can see, it is possible to be the friend of Israel and the friend of the Palestinians. And let me say this: both peoples are condemned to live together, side by side.

"We must put an end to hatred and division. We need to talk more about love, friendship and reconciliation."

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