Thursday, July 31, 2014

Graft And Moral Decay

"This is a huge, huge success for them. It is really remarkable. For the broadly defined party state system, which has many millions of members, now they have to face the new reality. That is: You are not immune to punishment."
Ding Xueliang, Chinese politics expert, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology

"The side that is striking out at the tigers has won the momentum."
"One thing is for sure, that is the tiger must be beaten to death, otherwise those who attack tigers will lose their sense of security."
Zhang Lifan, expert on elite Chinese politics, Beijing
Zhou Yongkang
Zhou Yongkang. Photograph: Feng Li/Getty Images

When President Xi Jinping was inaugurated he stated his intention to clear out of his new Communist Party administration the corruption that senior officials called "tigers", were known for. Their excesses have long been no secret; ordinary Chinese have deplored and complained of it, to little avail. Party elite enriching themselves at the expense of the state and feeling entirely entitled to their fabulous ill-gained riches matched by their political arrogance have been an embarrassment to China.

Even when it was well known which high-placed government ministers abused their privileges well beyond the kind of entitlement that could be overlooked, there was an institutionalized cultural taboo against shaming them publicly. But now the anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has announced its investigation of the now-retired 71-year-old Zhou Yongkang, formerly chief of security, third most powerful man in the Politboro.

Mr. Zhou was one of nine leaders in the ruling Politburo Standing Committee whose personal availments were strictly off limits to question, let alone investigation and prosecution. China is big on harmony and unity and both would be in a state of disequilibrium were it to undertake to investigate one of the members of the ruling inner circle; simply unheard of. Now, it is being well and truly heard of. President Xi seems to be riding the horse of clean-sweep.

It should come as no surprise since for the past few months speculation has whispered tales of corruption and greed. Built to a crescendo while some high-ranking officials and business people associated with Mr. Zhou's reign have been investigated, and reports of the immense wealth that the Zhou family gathered to itself have also been circulating, adding to the suspense of the denouement.

According to Ding Xueliang, the announcement to the public on Tuesday of the investigation represented a "powerful demonstration" that President Xi and his righthand man, fellow Standing Committee member Wang Qishan, are "really in control". As security chief, Mr. Zhou had oversight of China's domestic spy agencies, a situation giving him access to information relating to other high-ranking politicians.

Mr. Zhou may have accumulated incriminating files on other high-ranking politicians to keep them in line, and ensure that any among them who considered him a corrupt agent and an enemy of the state would remain silent. But with his investigation now being conducted into serious violations of party discipline, many of them may now be experiencing an uncomfortable weight of concern over their own status within the Party.

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July 30, 2014 
Algemeiner Editor Dovid Efune on Real News TV. Photo: Screenshot.

As many as 25 percent of Hamas rocket attacks against Israel in the current Israel-Hamas war don’t make it out of Gaza and strike civilians inside the coastal enclave, Algemeiner Editor Dovid Efune asserted in an interview on Real News TV on Friday.

Asked about an explosion at a UN school on Thursday, which killed at least 15, according to Gazan reports, Efune pointed to the IDF’s claim that the source of the munition may have been Hamas.
Efune said, “This is really a watershed moment, which brings up a fundamental issue which is never discussed in the mainstream media and that is this: you have hundreds and thousands of rockets that are being shot out of Gaza. In our estimations, at least 25 percent of those rockets do not make it into Israel and fall short into Gaza.”

“You have the IDF saying the other day that they had at least 100, they showed a map of rockets that fell inside of Gaza. And remember, in Gaza there are no air raid sirens. All of the bunkers are used absolutely by the Hamas terrorists, where they don’t allow civilians to go inside. There’s no warning and they cause tremendous damage. On the ground though, you have the Hamas guys… and the UN who… back them up and they come in and blame everything on Israel. Everything, all the damage.”
Asked about what steps Israel is likely to take next in its Gaza offensive, Efune said that the Israeli people are calling for the threat of Hamas rockets and terror tunnels to be eliminated.

“In terms of whats gonna happen in Gaza and how far Israel can go, there’s no doubt that the Israeli public is not willing to live with this anymore,” he said. “Its become kind of a biennial event where their lives are in disarray. And you’re dealing with a responsible democratic country with [an] elected government and they have to, they have to, do what they can to protect the citizens. They do not have any choice in this matter. Having said that, there’s a lot of international pressure led by Secretary of State Kerry for Israel to pull back.”

On the role of the United Nations in the conflict Efune said: “The UN is a very unfortunate disaster. Complete, complete disaster. You have a situation there where the worst human rights violators in the world are running the show at the Human Rights Council. So, you basically have murderers who are judging themselves. It’s ridiculous. It’s preposterous. But the biggest problem is that the UN is really protecting the biggest human rights offenders. It’s clear that Hamas is using human shields; it’s clear that Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, a theocratic government, is holding its population hostage. Those are the violations that the UN has to be focused on and they’re letting Hamas off scot-free, completely.”

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The images missing from the Gaza war By Uriel Heilman July 31, 2014

The images missing from the Gaza war

These weapons were found in a Hamas-built tunnel under the Israel-Gaza border, July 24, 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)
These weapons were found in a Hamas-built tunnel under the Israel-Gaza border, July 24, 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)

JTA -- The Global Jewish News Source -- 31 July 2014
There’s no shortage of images from the Gaza conflict.
We’ve seen rubble, dead Palestinian children, Israelis cowering during rocket attacks, Israeli military maneuvers and IDF footage of Hamas militants emerging from tunnels to attack Israeli soldiers.
What we haven’t seen are practically any images of Hamas fighters inside Gaza.

We know they’re there: Someone’s got to be launching those rockets into Israel (more than 2,800) and firing at invading Israeli troops. But so far the only images we’ve seen (or even heard about) are the Israel Defense Forces’ videos of Hamas fighters using hospitals, ambulances, mosques and schools (and tunnels) to launch attacks against Israeli targets or ferry arms around Gaza.
Why haven’t we seen journalists’ photographs of Hamas fighters inside Gaza?

We know Hamas doesn’t want the world to see images of Palestinian fighters launching rockets or using civilian havens like hospitals as bases of operation. But if we’re able to see images from both sides of practically every other war — in Syria, in Ukraine, in Iraq — why is Gaza an exception?

If journalists are being threatened and intimidated when they try to document Hamas activity in Gaza, their news outlets should be out front saying so. They’re not.

On Tuesday, The New York Times published an account by photographer Sergey Ponomarev on what his days are like in Gaza. Here’s what Ponomarev said:
It was a war routine. You leave early in the morning to see the houses destroyed the night before. Then you go to funerals, then to the hospital because more injured people arrive, and in the evening you go back to see more destroyed houses.
It was the same thing every day, just switching between Rafah and Khan Younis.
Are there attempts to document Hamas activity?
If you’re wondering whether the Times has assigned another photographer to cover this aspect of the story, so am I: The Times hasn’t been running photos of Hamas fighters in Gaza — period. Looking through the Times’ most recent three slideshows on the conflict (here, here and here), encompassing 37 images, there’s not a single one of a Hamas fighter.

In an L.A. Times slideshow of more than 75 photographs from the conflict, there’s not a single image of a Hamas fighter either, according to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

For many viewers, the narrative of this war must appear quite straightforward: Powerful Israel is bombarding defenseless Palestinians. That’s understandable when there are hardly any photographs of Palestinian aggressors.

In a July 15 Washington Post story by William Booth, Hamas’ use of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as an operating base is mentioned — but only in half a sentence in the story’s eighth paragraph.
The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.
As Tablet noted, that’s called burying the lede.
Likewise, a Palestinian(!) news agency reported this week that Hamas executed dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel last week. JTA reported this, but it got no mention in mainstream media outlets.

Either reporters and editors are uninterested in telling the side of the story that shows what Hamas is doing in Gaza or they’re unable. Let’s consider that latter possibility.

Much has been made by Israel supporters of a decision by The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Casey to delete a tweet about how Hamas uses Shifa Hospital as a base of operations. Presumably, Casey deleted the tweet because of threats by Hamas either to his person or his ability to continue to cover the conflict.

A Times of Israel report earlier this week suggested as much:
Several Western journalists currently working in Gaza have been harassed and threatened by Hamas for documenting cases of the terrorist group’s involvement of civilians in warfare against Israel, Israeli officials said, expressing outrage that some in the international media apparently allow themselves to be intimidated and do not report on such incidents.
The Times of Israel confirmed several incidents in which journalists were questioned and threatened. These included cases involving photographers who had taken pictures of Hamas operatives in compromising circumstances — gunmen preparing to shoot rockets from within civilian structures, and/or fighting in civilian clothing — and who were then approached by Hamas men, bullied and had their equipment taken away. Another case involving a French reporter was initially reported by the journalist involved, but the account was subsequently removed from the Internet.
After leaving Gaza, freelance Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati, in a pair of tweets blaming Hamas for a recent civilian casualty incident, backed up the claims that Hamas threatens reporters:
Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris (July 29)
Why are we reading about this intimidation only in Jewish or Israeli media — or on blogs — and not in Western mainstream media?

Attorney Scott Johnson takes news outlets to task for this on the blog Powerline:
Hamas threats don’t account for the relentless ignorance and stupidity of the coverage of the Gaza hostilities, but they account for some of it. Reporters and their media employers cooperate with Hamas not only in suppressing stories that do not serve Hamas’s purposes, but also by failing to report on the restrictive conditions under which they are working.
This is no small point. Public opinion is a crucial element to this conflict. It will play a role in determining when the fighting ends, what a cease-fire looks like and who bears primary responsibility for the deaths of innocents.

If media outlets are suppressing images of Hamas fighters using civilians as shields, and using schools and hospitals as bases of operation, then people watching around the world naturally will have trouble viewing the Israelis as anything but aggressors and the Palestinians as anything but victims.

But they’re only getting half the story. And where I come from, a half-truth is considered a lie.

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Col. Richard Kemp: Israeli Pilot Aborted Gaza Strike 17 Times to Protect Civilians; Jewish People Should be Proud of the State of Israel (INTERVIEW)

July 30, 2014
Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.
Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Having just returned from another tour of Sderot and discussions with Israeli soldiers at the staging area near Gaza, Col (ret.) Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, sat down for an interview with The Algemeiner.

Deborah Danan: Why do you think the international community expresses such vociferous objection to IDF actions in Gaza?

Col Richard Kemp: Well, the starting point for so much of the world’s media, opinion-makers, political leaders, NGOs, human rights groups, will always be that whatever Israel does is wrong. It’s seen as oppressor of Palestinians, illegal occupiers – even of Gaza despite the withdrawal nine years ago – then already your starting point is at a disadvantage. Then add that to the fact that the Israeli military operations against Hamas inevitably include civilian casualties. The reason for that is because Hamas use as a key element – possibly the key element of their strategy – human shields. They want to lure and force Israel to kill civilians. And so you see images of dead babies, dead boys on the beach, women screaming about their children, and no reality can overcome those images. It’s understandable in a way, because it is heart-wrenching, I’ve seen firsthand what shrapnel can do to a baby, and it’s horrifying, and the problem is that there’s no reference, no open-mindedness to the fact that the only reason that these children have been killed is because of Hamas’ aggression towards Israel.

DD: Do you have any recommendations as to what Israel could do to change these perceptions?

RK: Israel is doing to a large extent what it can; obviously it’s got to have efficient and slick media operations to counter the distortions that are so common in the international media. But of course Israel is at a disadvantage there too because while Israel might understand the need to come out with a rapid rebuttal or message of the truth of what’s happening in the conflict, it still has to be utterly faithful to facts and cannot afford to get it wrong, or to exaggerate. Hamas, on the other hand, can say whatever they want and it doesn’t get challenged and if it does get challenged it doesn’t matter for them because they’re not accountable to anyone.
To me, the most important effort that Israel can make is not with the masses, rather it’s with the decision makers, the world leaders, after all, it’s their attitude and their understanding that will shape the way the West sees Israel.

DD: What specific steps do the US and the UK take to avoid civilian casualties?

RK: They have restrictive rules of engagement in conflicts where there is a risk of civilians getting killed, for example in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. They take strenuous efforts to ensure the minimum loss of life of civilian populations, including surveillance to verify the presence or absence or civilians, using appropriate munitions – that is, not dropping massive bombs if there’s a risk of killing nearby civilians, and sometimes the army might choose to go in on the ground to avoid the collateral damage from  airstrikes. Or for example, if you would attack an objective with all guns blazing, but you think that there might be civilians in the area, you might choose not to fire until you’re sure there is a positive enemy target, which of course puts your troops at a disadvantage, but it’s a risk you take to preserve human life.
Three days ago I spoke to an Israeli pilot that told me that the same morning he had aborted an enemy target a total of 17 times because there were civilians in the target zone, and eventually he abandoned the operation. I asked him, was that not frustrating? His answer was simply no. And that to me, is one of the best things about the IAF – that the last very thing they want to do is bomb a target and have that on their conscience for the rest of their lives. And it was the same thing with infantry soldiers. I spoke to soldiers who have been fighting in Gaza, and several of them said to me: ‘We know what the rules of engagement are but even without them, it is always on our minds that we cannot kill civilians.’ See for them, this has nothing to do with orders, it’s just always there at the forefront. We’re talking about [reservists who are] simply artists, metal-workers, musicians, they are not killers. They have absolutely no desire to kill civilians. In fact, in terms of civilian casualties, the attitude of IDF solders is the exact mirror image of the way they’re portrayed to the world.

DD: Tell us some more about the civilian to combatant ratio in conflicts since the Second World War. 

RK: Since WWII, the average has been 3 civilians dying for every fighter killed. In some conflicts that number is higher, 4 or 5 civilians dead for every combatant. In Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense it was 1-to-1 – and that’s a figure that has been agreed upon by the Palestinians as well.  Obviously, I can’t tell you what the ratio will be of this operation because it’s not at the end. What is discouraging though, is the willingness of media to simply report the number of civilians killed in Gaza and how many are children – figures which only come from Palestinian medical authorities which are controlled by Hamas. I don’t know if they’re true or not, but you have to make an assumption given Hamas’ track record for falsification of the numbers of casualties. It is however, quite possible that when this conflict ends we will see that the ration is more than 1-to-1, and if that is the case it is likely to be attributed to two things, one is what Hamas learned in Pillar of Defense and Cast Lead in the way to better protect and hide their fighters and weapons from Israeli airstrikes, including in underground tunnels, and number two, they know from Pillar of Defense just how much traction you get from killing civilians – and of course they want to capitalize on that.

DD: In your estimation, how much damage has Hamas inflicted from rockets that fall short and end up within Gaza’s borders?

RK: I don’t know – I couldn’t possibly estimate what it amounts to in total. But obviously, we’ve just seen that rockets fired by Hamas have landed on Al Shifa hospital and Al Shati refugee camp. There’s no doubt that their munitions falling short are causing significant civilian casualties.

DD: What’s the British attitude to the war with Gaza and do you think it’s changed over the last few operations?

RK: I think that the people in Britain have been heavily influenced by the photographs of dead children, by Hamas propaganda which incidentally includes of course, falsified photos of dead children – including photographs of dead Israeli children who are portrayed as dead Palestinian children. The Fogel family was attributed as a Palestinian family. To show you the stupidity of the people that do it, in the picture you can actually see a menorah. That sort of stuff influences the British people, plus the strident voices of many of the Muslim population in England who are outraged by the number of their Muslim brethren being killed in Gaza – yet who seem to have no outrage by the 190,000 killed in Syria. No protests, no outrage there, nothing. The attitude of the British public as a whole is negative. However, the attitude of the prime minister [David Cameron] has been much more supportive than we’ve seen in the two other conflicts in Gaza. However, I think that the British abstention in the vote of the resolution of the UNHRC in condemning Israel and investigating war crimes is an act of moral cowardice by Great Britain, and one which undermines the otherwise strong support given by the government to Israel. When political leaders tell Israel to take more steps to reduce civilian casualties – thereby inferring that Israel is not doing enough and is somehow happy to cause civilian casualties – that kind of message encourages Hamas to continue their strategy of human shields and furthermore, encourages other extremist groups around the world to follow the same strategy. And that leads to the death of innocent people. Ban Ki Moon is guilty of this, David Cameron is guilty of it, Barack Obama is guilty of it.

DD: How has the British army in Afghanistan gained from the Israeli army’s expertise?

RK: There are a number of elements that Britain has taken from the Israeli army. One of which is methods of reducing civilian casualties that we’ve seen in operation since Afghanistan, where Britain has adopted tactics like leaflet dropping on targets with potential civilians in the area. British soldiers lives have also been saved by Israeli battlefield medical technology and also by Israeli counter-bomb technology, that is, technological equipment that stops or detects improvised explosive devices like roadside bombs. British soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan have been saved and are being saved by that technology. Beyond that, British and Israeli intelligence cooperation is extremely tight and that has saved the lives not just of soldiers but of British civilians as well. By the way, British soldiers and ex-soldiers strongly support Israel and the IDF because unlike many civilians, they understand the threat that Israel faces they understand the tactics used by Hamas and they understand what the IDF have to do to deal with Hamas because those same tactics are used by the Taliban and in response, British soldiers have to use the tactics of the IDF to fight them.

DD: Finally, do you have a message to the Jewish People?

RK: I would say that the Jewish people should be extremely proud of the state of Israel, they should try their best to disregard the terrible anti-Israeli propaganda that is designed solely to contribute to the conspiracy to exterminate the state of Israel – I myself, am personally outraged by the shocking anti-Semitic violence and verbal attacks that have been triggered by this conflict against Jews, especially in Paris and Germany, but also in Britain and other countries – it’s absolutely despicable and should be fought by authorities as vigorously as possible.
Israel is the one country in the western world today that is standing up for its morality and for its values against the onslaught of international jihad.

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Italian Journalist Defies Hamas: ‘Out of Gaza Far From Hamas Retaliation: Misfired Rocket Killed Children in Shati’

July 30, 2014
Gabriele Barbati, Jerusalem Correspondent for Radio Popolare Milano. Photo: GB.
Gabriele Barbati, Jerusalem Correspondent for Radio Popolare Milano. Photo: GB.
Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati said he was able to speak freely about witnessing a Hamas misfire that killed nine children at the Shati camp, confirming the Israel Defense Forces version of events, but only after leaving Gaza, “far from Hamas retaliation.”

On Twitter, Barbati, Jerusalem Correspondent for Radio Popolare Milano, and a former reporter for Sky Italia, in Beijing, said, “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children yday [yesterday] in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared debris.”

He said, “@IDFSpokesperson said truth in communique released yesterday about Shati camp massacre. It was not #Israel behind it.”

On Tuesday, the IDF released aerial photos showing how a rocket from Gaza targeting Israel hit the Shati camp, run by the UNRWA, and Al Shifa Hospital, which has become a de-facto Hamas headquarters, against international rules of war.

Barbati said he was unable to speak about the Al Shifa hit, but he was certain that it was a Hamas rocket that hit the Shati camp, and a witness saw militants rushing to clean the debris.

Blogger Elder of Ziyon, who praised Barbati for telling the truth in a war where many journalists have been intimidated by Hamas, noted that “When Hamas made the area off limits to reporters, it was cleaning the area from any debris that could show the truth.”
An IDF diagram showing how four rockets from Gaza hit the sea, Israel, Shati and Al Shifa Hospital. Photo: IDF.
An IDF diagram showing how four rockets from Gaza hit the sea, Israel, Shati and Al Shifa Hospital. Photo: IDF.

On Tuesday, CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, called out two correspondents from The Wall Street Journal for deleting photographs that would implicate Hamas in the war crime of using the Al Shifa hospital as a military headquarters. Other journalists, including a Gazan reporter for French media recounted to France’s Libération how Hamas had interrogated him in the same hospital, but later asked the newspaper to take down the story.

Elder of Ziyon said, “Every single report on TV from Gaza should have this disclaimer: ‘Our reporters have been threatened, implicitly and perhaps explicitly, by Hamas to only report one side of the story.Viewers must not trust anything they are saying.’”

“There is an assumption of fairness in journalism, a contract between the media and the viewers,” the influential blogger said. “This contract has been broken, as far as I can tell, by nearly every single reporter in Gaza in nearly every report, with a couple of rare exceptions.”

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The Russian Bear's Tight Squeeze

"In the wake of continued aggression by Russia, which includes the ongoing supply of logistical support and weapons systems to agents of the Putin regime in eastern Ukraine, Canada is announcing its intent to once again increase economic and political pressure, in the coming days, by imposing additional sanctions on the regime and those closest to it."
"President Putin's failure to end his support to armed rebel groups constitutes a very real threat to international peace and security. His actions represent an overt, direct threat to the Ukrainian people and its rightfully elected government,"
Prime Minster Stephen Harper, Ottawa, Canada

"Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of progress. It does not have to be this way. We can't, in the end, make President Putin see more clearly; ultimately that's something President Putin has to do on his own."
U.S. President Barack Obama

"Furthermore, when the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response."
 "[The 28-nation bloc means to send a] strong warning [to President Putin that the] illegal annexation [of Crimea and Russia's destabilization of Ukraine cannot be tolerated]."
Herman Van Rompuy, EU president, Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president

Europe's capital markets, EU citizens and banks will now be barred from buying bonds or stocks issued by state-owned Russian banks in an effort to restrict Russia's access to Europe's capital markets. For its part, the U.S. sanctioned three Russian banks; VTB Bank, Bank of Moscow, and the Russian Agricultural Bank; along with a state-owned shipbuilder. Credits encouraging exports to Russia have been suspended, and the export of certain goods to Russia's oil and gas industry have been prohibited.

The new European sanctions will include an arms embargo on Moscow along with a ban on the sale of technology that could have dual military and civilian use, or is of a sensitive nature, such as advanced equipment used for deep-sea and Arctic oil drilling. Europe has hesitated to embark on tougher sanctions, more highly dependent on its trade relationship with Russia, for fear of harming their own economies and with a view to their gas dependence on Russia.

Germany imports one-third of its gas from Russia. France has decided to proceed with its contract to deliver two high-value warships to Russia. "Unlike the Americans, we always have to get 28 countries together. And the interests are very different. All the same, I think that we -- at the latest with the shooting down of this plane -- have a situation in which we cannot simply carry on in the same way", explained Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor and economy minister.

American authorities state they expect Europe's list of targets to include some of the same energy companies, defence suppliers and financial institutions hit with sanctions by the Obama administration even before the Malaysian airliner had been shot down from the sky over Ukraine. President Putin's obduracy may continue; there are rumours in certain circles that the Kremlin has decided to give permission for Russian forces to enter Ukraine.

If so, Russia will have completely isolated itself and earned the umbrage -- with an emphasis on outrage and disappointment -- of the rest of Europe and North America. As its already-embattled economy slowly disintegrates and Russian citizens find themselves no longer so willing to admire and encourage their belligerent president to continue raising the outraged hackles of other world leaders.

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Operation Protective Edge

"Today, there is no electricity in Gaza. The shelling of the station is a violation of all red lines."
Jamal Dardasawi, principal, Gaza's electricity distribution company
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014.
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Photo by AP

What happens when a citizen of any country doesn't pay its utility bills is that the utility cuts off its service. Israel supplies the major proportion of energy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Israel's energy provider is still awaiting payment of millions of dollars of energy-use that the Palestinian Authority has not found it necessary to pay for, and Israel still keeps the juices flowing lest it be accused of withholding vital necessities of life for millions of Palestinians.

Israel is, of course, accused of having hit the power plant that sat idle for weeks for lack of fuel this past winter. Since the facility powers water and sewage systems along with providing hospitals with their energy source, it is a catastrophe that eight of ten lines that run from Israel were damaged. By whom precisely has not yet been forensically determined, but fingers attached to Palestinian hands point directly toward Israel; guilt by accusation.

And striking during Eid Al-Fitr! Closing the holy month of Ramadan when devout Muslims such as Hamas and other Islamists are enjoined to love and care for their fellow Muslims. ISIS does it by slaughtering Shiites. The Syrian regime demonstrates its love and care by dropping barrel bombs on Syrian Sunnis. And Hamas enjoins Gazan civilians that it is their duty to the cause to become martyrs at the hands of the oppressors attempting to defend their own civilians from deadly rocket attacks, courtesy of Hamas.

The sanctity of holy days does not impress Islamists, evidently. After all, wasn't Israel surprised when it was attacked on the holiest of its Judaic traditional heritage religious days of Yom Kippur? And then they had the audacity to win the war against tremendous odds. That, in a nutshell, is the history of the modern Middle East. Modern in chronological date-time essence, but exceedingly backward in historical barbarity.

Israel had dispatched a number of high-profile terrorists during its Gaza incursion to halt the incessant rocket attacks against its citizens, we learn in unadorned language by Felice Friedson, whose report has been published through The Media Line, and which names terrorists just that; not namby-pamby 'fighters' or 'insurgents'. Published as is, in the National Post, how about that? Imagine, calling Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists! Even though, of course, they are named as such by the EU, Canada and the U.S. Impolite language nonetheless, albeit accurate.

So then, Salah Abu Hassanein, commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Military Media Division has been martyred, targeted by Israel in Gaza. He has polished up his last bit of propaganda aggrandizing terrorist exploits against the 'occupier', who occupies simply because he, his group and others of their ilk, terrorize Israel. Regional commanders for PIJ, who controlled the northern and central Gaza Strip sectors, have gone to meet their maker, along with Shaaban Dakdoukh, commander of Zeitoun forces known to bury long-range rockets and smuggle weapons, has also been dispatched.

Mahmoud Sinwar (how aptly named!) who directed military activities inclusive of rocket fire, involved as well in the building of attack tunnels under Israel, and the raid that captured Gilad Shalit whose eventual release also led to the release of countless murdering terrorists in his exchange, is now an honoured martyr, awaiting his letched-for virgins.

And although the Israeli command has every reason to believe heavy losses have also been inflicted on Hamas's Al-Qassam Brigades, the full extent of their martyrdom is not yet revealed since many of their mortal remains are buried beneath the tons of rubble from destroyed tunnels where they just happened to have been taking shelter. Expect the unexpected. Always.

Commander of Al-Qassam's naval force, Mohammad Shaaban, was targeted and killed with three others while in his car in Gaza City. Mr. Shaaban was known for spearheading Hamas's increasing efforts at infiltration into Israel from the sea for the purpose of conducting mass killings in Israeli coastal communities, and although his usefulness will be missed by Hamas, those Israelis living in the targeted communities will breathe a slight sigh of relief, tempered only by the fact that they know there will be someone to replace him before long.

But yet, there will be a satisfaction in the fact that an infiltration attempt was thwarted on the very day of his death, when five terrorists were handily intercepted by the Israeli army  as they emerged onto the beach at Kibbutz Zikim, where they were seen emerging by soldiers, and given their reward in Paradise. Targeted assassination scored Osama Al-Hayyah, commander of Al-Qassam forces in Shajaiah, the site of one of the first and fiercest battles of the Israeli ground operation.

Mr. Al-Hayyah has the distinction of being the eldest son of Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and founding member of Hamas, who would, then, have been known familiarly as Abu Osama. Despite these dreadful losses, Hamas courageously carries on, both on the battlefield and on the progress of its propaganda campaign, so hugely popular in the West, albeit somewhat less so in the Mideast where its tactics are so familiar.

As, for example, creating the uncertified and certain-to-horrify, much-repeated figures that over 80% of the 1,137 Palestinians who perished throughout the first two weeks of fighting represent non-combatant women and children. Israel, a trifle more meticulous about verities, speaks of the manipulated process of identifying the dead for the purpose of persuading the world that Israel is busy slaughtering innocents who have been unfortunately placed in harm's way.

A comparison study of the names of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge and the relationship between terror groups and uninvolved citizens carried out by Reuven Ehrilch of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Centre, an Israeli think-tank, reached the conclusion that out of 152 names checked, 71 were identified as terror agents, while 81 were uninvolved citizens, who had indeed been deliberately placed in harm's way as human shields.

The Gaza Interior Ministry, controlled by Hamas, has ordered social networking emanating from the Gaza Strip to speak of every Palestinian who dies as an "innocent civilian".

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Media Watchdog Asks Why WSJ Reporters Deleted Twitter Photos Implicating Hamas in War Crimes

July 29, 2014
A now removed tweet from the WSJ's Tamer El-Ghobashy, who suggested Hamas was likely responsible for a strike that hit Al Shifa Hospital. Photo: CAMERA.
A now removed tweet from the WSJ's Tamer El-Ghobashy, who suggested Hamas was likely responsible for a strike that hit Al Shifa Hospital. Photo: CAMERA

Two reporters in Gaza for The Wall Street Journal have deleted photographs that implicate Hamas in war crimes, namely using the Al Shifa hospital as a military headquarters, and media watchdog CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, on Tuesday asked them why the posts were removed? So far, CAMERA has received no answers from the reporters or from their editors, but the group said the deleted posts might be further evidence of Hamas intimidating journalists.

The Wall Street Journal’s credibility hinges on it being transparent about what information is being withheld from readers, and why,” CAMERA wrote in a note to subscribers. “If information that casts Hamas in a negative light is being censored for the safety of journalists — The Times of Israel documented such intimidation of journalists in an article today — then readers must be informed that they are only getting a partial story.”

CAMERA said, “If readers aren’t informed, or if such information is being deleted for any other reason, the newspaper does not deserve to be seen as credible.”

CAMERA published the two photographs that had been removed. The first, from the WSJ‘s Nick Casey, and already flagged by The Algemeiner, showed Mushir Al Masri, a Hamas MP and media spokesman, in front of a backdrop depicting destroyed homes, being filmed in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital.

Casey’s caption: “You have to wonder w the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.”

The second photo published by CAMERA was by the WSJ‘s Tamer El-Ghobashy, who “suggested Hamas was likely responsible for a strike that hit Al Shifa Hospital,” the group said.

The caption read: “An outside wall on the campus of Gaza’s main hospital was hit by a strike. Low level damage suggest Hamas misfire.”

CAMERA said, ”The tweet was later replaced by a very similar one in which El-Ghobashy refrained from mentioning Hamas.”

“In response to pressure on Twitter, El-Ghobashy insisted that he deleted his post because it contained speculation. But the justification is questionable,” CAMERA said. “The same reporter had no problem speculating about earlier strikes speaking on Wall Street Journal radio, where he agreed with speculation and stated that the likelihood ‘seems very very slim’ that Hamas rounds hit a UN school, and on Twitter, where he asserted as fact that Israel killed Palestinians at the school, a claim Israel challenged.”

CAMERA asked readers who were also concerned about the possible censorship to contact WSJ editors, Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker ( and Ethics Editor Neal Lipschutz (

“Ask them why Casey’s information about Hamas basing itself in Shifa Hospital, and El-Ghobashy’s educated guess that the relatively light damage of the hospital wall likely meant it was hit by a Hamas round, was censored,” CAMERA said.

CAMERA’s note was widely discussed on blogs on Tuesday. Scott Johnson, at the Powerline blog, wrote about Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who offered a warning to foreign reporters unaccustomed to how Hamas treats the press.

Johnson wrote: “Khaled Abu Toameh may be the bravest journalist I have ever met. He puts what is going on here this way in his excellent Gatestone [Institute] column, and he has the standing to make the point stick: ‘Journalists who are afraid to report the truth should not be covering a conflict like the Israeli-Arab one. They should go back to their editors and demand that they be reassigned to cover sports or the environment. As long as such journalists continue to operate in the region, Hamas will feel safe to bomb as many mosques as it wants and to kill as many Palestinians as it wants.’”

Over the past three weeks, many other journalists have taken down posts from social media to either avoid pressure from the Hamas spokesmen or the often hateful responses by supporters of Gaza’s war against Israel.

Hamas’s operations in the Al Shifa hospital was the focus of a report about French-Gazan journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga,who related his harrowing tale about his interrogation there by Hamas leaders for France’s Libération, which has now also removed the article.

In its stead, the newspaper wrote: “This article, which described the attempted intimidation of Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga, correspondent for Ouest France and formerly of Libération, was unpublished at his request.”

The Financial Times’s Jerusalem correspondent John Reed was targeted on Twitter for noting that Hamas was firing from a rocket launch site adjacent to the Al Shifa hospital, even as the wounded were being brought in for treatment. But Reed, a veteran reporter for the FT in Poland and South Africa, let his post stand.

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Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror

BAMAKO, Mali — The cash filled three suitcases: 5 million euros.
The German official charged with delivering this cargo arrived here aboard a nearly empty military plane and was whisked away to a secret meeting with the president of Mali, who had offered Europe a face-saving solution to a vexing problem.
Officially, Germany had budgeted the money as humanitarian aid for the poor, landlocked nation of Mali.
In truth, all sides understood that the cash was bound for an obscure group of Islamic extremists who were holding 32 European hostages, according to six senior diplomats directly involved in the exchange.
The suitcases were loaded onto pickup trucks and driven hundreds of miles north into the Sahara, where the bearded fighters, who would soon become an official arm of Al Qaeda, counted the money on a blanket thrown on the sand. The 2003 episode was a learning experience for both sides. Eleven years later, the handoff in Bamako has become a well-rehearsed ritual, one of dozens of such transactions repeated all over the world.
Harald Ickler in June near his home in Miesbach, Bavaria. As a captive in the desert, he thought often of his lush, green Germany. Credit Gordon Welters for The New York Times
Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.
While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.
In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.

These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.

In its early years, Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.
Put more bluntly, Europe has become an inadvertent underwriter of Al Qaeda.

The foreign ministries of Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland denied in emails or telephone interviews that they had paid the terrorists. “The French authorities have repeatedly stated that France does not pay ransoms,” said Vincent Floreani, deputy director of communication for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Several senior diplomats involved in past negotiations have described the decision to pay ransom for their countries’ citizens as an agonizing calculation: Accede to the terrorists’ demand, or allow innocent people to be killed, often in a gruesome, public way?
Yet the fact that Europe and its intermediaries continue to pay has set off a vicious cycle.
“Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.” 

And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue.
“Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.”

The stream of income generated is so significant that internal documents show that as long as five years ago, Al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan was overseeing negotiations for hostages grabbed as far afield as Africa. Moreover, the accounts of survivors held thousands of miles apart show that the three main affiliates of the terrorist group — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in northern Africa; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen; and the Shabab, in Somalia — are coordinating their efforts and abiding by a common kidnapping protocol.

To minimize the risk to their fighters, the terror affiliates have outsourced the seizing of hostages to criminal groups who work on commission. Negotiators take a reported 10 percent of the ransom, creating an incentive on both sides of the Mediterranean to increase the overall payout, according to former hostages and senior counterterrorism officials.
Their business plan includes a step-by-step process for negotiating, starting with long periods of silence aimed at creating panic back home. Hostages are then shown on videos begging their government to negotiate.

Although the kidnappers threaten to kill their victims, a review of the known cases revealed that only a small percentage of hostages held by Qaeda affiliates have been executed in the past five years, a marked turnaround from a decade ago, when videos showing beheadings of foreigners held by the group’s franchise in Iraq would regularly turn up online. Now the group has realized it can advance the cause of jihad by keeping hostages alive and trading them for prisoners and suitcases of cash.
Only a handful of countries have resisted paying, led by the United States and Britain. Although both these countries have negotiated with extremist groups — evidenced most recently by the United States’ trade of Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — they have drawn the line when it comes to ransoms.

It is a decision that has had dire consequences. While dozens of Europeans have been released unharmed, few American or British nationals have gotten out alive. A lucky few ran away or were rescued by special forces. The rest were executed or are being held indefinitely.
“The Europeans have a lot to answer for,” said Vicki Huddleston, the former United States deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, who was the ambassador to Mali in 2003 when Germany paid the first ransom. “It’s a completely two-faced policy. They pay ransoms and then deny any was paid.” She added, “The danger of this is not just that it grows the terrorist movement, but it makes all of our citizens vulnerable.”

On Feb. 23, 2003, a group of four Swiss tourists, including two 19-year-old women, woke up in their sleeping bags in southern Algeria to the shouts of armed men. The men told the young women to cover their hair with towels, then commandeered their camper van and took off with them.
Over the coming weeks, another seven tour groups traveling in the same corner of the desert vanished. European governments scrambled to find their missing citizens.

Weeks passed before a German reconnaissance plane sent to scan the desert floor returned with images of their abandoned vehicles. More weeks passed before a scout sent on foot spotted something white through his binoculars.
It was a letter left under a rock.
In messy handwriting, it laid out the demands of a little-known jihadist group calling itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.
Armed with a few hunting rifles and old AK-47s, the kidnappers succeeded in sweeping up dozens of tourists over several consecutive weeks, mostly from Germany, but also from Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. Though they planned the first few ambushes, they appear to have grabbed others by chance, like a pair of hapless 26-year-olds from Innsbruck, Austria, who were spotted because of the campfire they had lit to cook spaghetti.

Beyond the initial grab, the kidnappers did not seem to have a plan. The only food they had was the canned goods the tourists had brought with them. The only fuel was what was in each gas tank. They abandoned the cars one by one as they ran out of fuel, forcing their hostages to continue on foot.
A 47-year-old Swedish hostage, Harald Ickler, remembers being so hungry that when he found a few leftover Danish butter cookie crumbs, he carefully scooped them into the palm of his hand and then let them melt in his mouth.
2010-13 $40.4 million A state-controlled French company 4 French nationals
2010-11 $17.7 million A state-controlled French company 1 French national, 1 from Togo and 1 from Madagascar
2009 $12.4 million Switzerland 2 Swiss nationals and 1 German
2011-12 $10.8 million Could not be determined 1 Italian and 2 Spaniards
2009-10 $5.9 million Spain 3 Spaniards
2008 $3.2 million Austria 2 Austrians
2008-9 $1.1 million Could not be determined 2 Canadians

$5.1 million has been paid to the Shabab.

2011-13 $5.1 million Spain 2 Spaniards

$29.9 million has been paid to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

2012-13 $20.4 million Qatar and Oman 2 Finnish nationals, 1 Austrian and 1 Swiss national
2011 $9.5 million Could not be determined 3 French nationals
Note: Ransom amounts have been converted into U.S. dollars using the currency exchange rate from the year of the payment in cases where the payment was made in euros. The ransom amounts were then adjusted for inflation so that they are in 2014 dollars.

“Once they had us, they didn’t seem to know what to do with us,” said Reto Walther of Untersiggenthal, Switzerland, who was in one of the first groups to be grabbed. “They were improvising.”
Despite the operation’s amateur nature, the jihadists had hit a soft spot. Almost none of the hostages had resisted, simply putting up their hands when they saw the gunmen. And although the Europeans outnumbered their captors, the hostages never tried to run away during what turned into a six-month captivity for some of them, and described the foreboding desert surrounding them as an “open-air prison.”

Crucially, although the European nations had firepower superior to that of the scrappy mujahedeen, they deemed a rescue mission too dangerous.
The jihadists asked for weapons. Then for impossible-to-meet political demands, like the removal of the Algerian government. When a 45-year-old German woman died of dehydration, panicked European officials began considering a ransom concealed as an aid payment as the least-bad option.
“The Americans told us over and over not to pay a ransom. And we said to them: ‘We don’t want to pay. But we can’t lose our people,’” said a European ambassador posted in Algeria at the time, who was one of six senior Western officials with direct knowledge of the 2003 kidnapping who confirmed details for this article. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information remains classified.
“It was a very difficult situation,” he said, “but in the end we are talking about human life.”

The exploits of the band of fighters in the Sahara did not go unnoticed.
A year later, in 2004, a Qaeda operative, Abdelaziz al-Muqrin, published a how-to guide to kidnapping, in which he highlighted the successful ransom negotiation of “our brothers in Algeria.” Yet at the same time, he also praised the execution of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was grabbed in Pakistan in 2002 and beheaded nine days later by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a senior Qaeda member believed to be one of the architects of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Within a few years, there was a split within Al Qaeda, with the group’s affiliate in Iraq grabbing foreigners specifically to kill them.

In Algeria, the kidnappers of the European tourists followed a different path.
They used the €5 million as the seed money for their movement, recruiting and training fighters who staged a series of devastating attacks. They grew into a regional force and were accepted as an official branch of the Qaeda network, which baptized them Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. As kidnapping revenue became their main lifeline, they honed and perfected the process.

By Feb. 2, 2011, when their lookouts in southern Algeria spotted a 53-year-old Italian tourist, Mariasandra Mariani, admiring the rolling dunes through a pair of binoculars, they were running a sleek operation.
Her tour guide was the first to spot them, and screamed at her to run. As their cars sped toward her, she sprinted to her nearby desert bungalow and locked herself inside. She could do nothing but sit frozen on the mattress as they broke down the door. They threw her in a waiting car, handcuffing her to the dashboard. Before they sped off, they made sure to place a rolled-up blanket next to her, so that the jihadist sitting next to her would not accidentally make contact with a woman.
“Who are you?” she asked them.
“We are Al Qaeda,” they replied.
If previous kidnapping missions did not seem to have a thought-out plan, the gunmen who seized Ms. Mariani drove for days on what appeared to be a clearly delineated route. Whenever they were low on fuel, they would make their way to a spot that to her looked no different in the otherwise identical lunar landscape.
Under a thorn bush, they would find a drum full of gasoline. Or a stack of tires to replace a punctured one. They never ran out of food.
Ms. Mariani would later learn they had an infrastructure of supplies buried in the sand and marked with GPS coordinates.
One afternoon they stopped just above the lip of a dune. The fighters got down and unfastened a shovel. Then she heard the sound of a car engine. Suddenly a pickup truck roared out. They had buried an entire vehicle in the mountain of sand.
“It was then that I realized, these aren’t just normal criminals,” Ms. Mariani said.

Weeks passed before Ms. Mariani’s captors announced that they were going to allow her to make a phone call. They drove for hours until they reached a plateau, a flat white pan of dirt.
Years earlier, their strategy for broadcasting their demands had been to leave a letter under a rock. Now they had satellite phones and a list of numbers. They handed her a script and dialed the number for Al Jazeera.
“My name is Mariasandra Mariani. I am the Italian who was kidnapped,” she said. “I am still being detained by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
The Italian government scrambled to create a crisis unit, including a 24-hour hotline for the kidnappers.
During her 14-month captivity, whenever the kidnappers felt that attention had flagged, they erected a tent in the desert and forced Ms. Mariani to record a video message, showing her surrounded by her armed captors.

A total of 11 former hostages grabbed by Qaeda units in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Syria and Yemen who agreed to be interviewed for this article reported a similar set of steps in the negotiations, beginning with an imposed period of silence. Video messages and telephone calls were infrequent, often months apart. The silence appeared purposeful, intended to terrorize the families of the captives, who in turn pressured their respective governments.
Mariasandra Mariani, an Italian tourist who was kidnapped in Algeria in 2011 and held for 14 months, is surrounded by photos from earlier trips to the Sahara at her family home in San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
In the Italian village of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Ms. Mariani’s 80-year-old mother stopped sleeping in her bedroom, moving permanently to the couch in front of the television. Her aging father would burst into tears for no reason. In France, the frantic brother of a hostage held for a year in Syria developed an ulcer.
All over Europe, families rallied, pressuring governments to pay. Ms. Mariani was ultimately released, along with two Spanish hostages, for a ransom that a negotiator involved in her case said was close to €8 million.

The bulk of the kidnappings-for-ransom carried out in Al Qaeda’s name have occurred in Africa, and more recently in Syria and Yemen. These regions are thousands of miles from the terror network’s central command in Pakistan.
Yet audio messages released by the group, as well as confidential letters between commanders, indicate the organization’s senior leaders are directly involved in the negotiations.
As early as 2008, a commander holding two Canadian diplomats angered his leaders by negotiating a ransom on his own.
In a letter discovered by this reporter in buildings abandoned by the jihadists in Mali last year, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb blamed the commander, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, for securing only the “meager sum” of €700,000 — around $1 million — saying the low amount was a result of his unwillingness to follow the instructions of the group’s leadership in Pakistan.
In his last broadcast before his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden spoke at length about the case of four French citizens held by Al Qaeda in Mali, making clear that he was keeping close tabs on individual kidnappings.

Hostages held as recently as last year in Yemen say it was clear the negotiations were being handled by a distant leadership.
Atte and Leila Kaleva, a Finnish couple held for five months by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2013, deduced this from the voluminous correspondence they saw being delivered to their captors.
“There were lots of letters back and forth,” Mr. Kaleva said. “It was clear that they had a hierarchy, and they were consulting their leaders about what to do with us.”
In the dozens of kidnappings that Al Qaeda has carried out, the threat of execution has hung over each hostage, reinforced in videos showing the victim next to armed and menacing jihadist guards.
In fact, only a minority of hostages — 15 percent, according to an analysis by The Times — have been executed or have died since 2008, several of them in botched rescue operations.
The potential income hostages represent has made them too valuable to the movement. In a 2012 letter to his fellow jihadists in Africa, the man who was once Bin Laden’s personal secretary, and who is now the second in command of Al Qaeda, wrote that at least half of his budget in Yemen was funded by ransoms.
“Thanks to Allah, most of the battle costs, if not all, were paid from through the spoils,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “Almost half the spoils came from hostages.”

Mr. Kaleva realized his captors did not intend to kill him when he became ill with what he feared was a giardia infection, and his worried kidnappers immediately brought him medicine.
When Ms. Mariani fell ill from violent dysentery in the burning sands of the Malian desert, a jihadist doctor hooked her up to an IV, nursing her back to health.
Elsewhere in the Sahara, the jihadists trucked in specialized medication for a 62-year-old Frenchwoman who had breast cancer.
“It was clear to us,” Mr. Kaleva said, “that we are more valuable to them alive than dead.”

But hostages from countries that do not pay ransoms face a harsh fate.
In 2009, four tourists were returning to Niger from a music festival in Mali when kidnappers overtook their cars, shooting out their tires. The hostages included a German woman, a Swiss couple and a British man, Edwin Dyer, 61.
From the start of the negotiations, the British government made clear it would not pay for Mr. Dyer’s release. Al Qaeda’s North African branch issued a deadline, then a 15-day extension.
“The British wanted me to send a message saying one last time that they wouldn’t pay,” said a negotiator in Burkina Faso, who acted as the go-between. “I warned them, ‘Don’t do this.’ They sent the message anyway.”
Sometime after, the public information office of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb published a communiqué: “On Sunday, May 31, 2009, at half past seven p.m. local time, the British captive, Edwin Dyer, was killed,” it said. “It seems Britain gives little importance to its citizens.”

The Swiss and German nationals held alongside Mr. Dyer were released after a reported ransom of €8 million was paid, according to one of the Swiss negotiators who helped win their release. The same year, lawmakers in Bern, the Swiss capital, voted on a national budget that “suddenly had an extra line for humanitarian aid for Mali,” the official said.
Mr. Dyer was a British citizen, but he had spent the last four decades of his life in Austria, a country that pays ransoms. In his early 20s, he settled in the mountain village of Attnang-Puchheim, a one-hour drive from the home of an Austrian couple who were released in Mali a few months before Mr. Dyer was killed. Austria paid €2 million to the couple’s Qaeda captors, according to Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, a Malian parliamentarian who negotiated their release.
In England, Mr. Dyer’s grieving brother, Hans, said his brother’s citizenship had cost him his life.
Edwin Dyer, a 61-year-old Briton, was among four tourists abducted after a music festival in Mali in 2009. The British government refused to pay a ransom, and Mr. Dyer's captors later announced they had killed him. Credit IntelCenter, via Associated Press
“A U.K. passport is essentially a death certificate,” he said.

Negotiators believe that the Qaeda branches have now determined which governments pay.
Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Spain and Switzerland, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.
By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.

“For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”
Mr. Cohen, the United States under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said information gathered by the Treasury Department suggested that Al Qaeda may no longer want to kidnap Americans, a tectonic shift from a decade ago.
“We know that hostage takers looking for ransoms distinguish between those governments that pay ransoms and those that do not, and make a point of not taking hostages from those countries that do not pay,” he said in a 2012 speech to the Chatham House think tank in London. “And recent kidnapping-for-ransom trends appear to indicate that hostage takers prefer not to take U.S. or U.K. hostages, almost certainly because they understand that they will not receive ransoms.”
Western countries have signed numerous agreements calling for an end to ransom paying, including as recently as last year at a G8 summit, where some of the biggest ransom payers in Europe signed a declaration agreeing to stamp out the practice. Yet according to hostages released this year and veteran negotiators, governments in Europe — especially France, Spain and Switzerland — continue to be responsible for some of the largest payments, including a ransom of €30 million — about $40 million — paid last fall to free four Frenchmen held in Mali.

A presidential adviser in Burkina Faso who has helped secure the release of several of the Westerners held in the Sahara said he routinely dealt with aggressive Western diplomats who demanded the release of Qaeda fighters held in local prisons in an effort to win the release of their hostages, often one of the additional demands kidnappers make.
“You would not believe the pressure that the West brings to bear on African countries,” he said. “It’s you, the West, who is their lifeblood,” he said. “It’s you who finances them.”

The suitcases of cash are now no longer dropped off in the capital of the respective country, he said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, went on to describe how the money was transferred. European governments send an escort, he said, who travels with the money several hundred miles into the desert until the last safe outpost, usually leaving from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, or Niamey in Niger. The negotiator and his driver then continue driving all day, and sometimes all night, traversing a roller coaster of undulating dunes.
Once the negotiator arrives at the meeting point, he waits until his satellite phone beeps with a text message. In the message is a pair of GPS coordinates.
He drives another five to six hours until he reaches the new address in the sand and waits for the next text, containing another set of coordinates. The process is repeated a minimum of three times before the jihadists finally show themselves.
The money is counted on a blanket on which the fighters sit cross-legged, their guns at their sides, the official said. The millions are then divided into stashes, wrapped in plastic and buried in holes hundreds of miles apart, a detail he was able to glean after repeated meetings with the terrorist cell. They mark the location on their GPS, keeping track of it just as they track their buried cars and fuel drums.

The money is written off by European governments as an aid payment, or else delivered through intermediaries, like the French nuclear giant Areva, a state-controlled company that a senior negotiator said paid €12.5 million in 2011 and €30 million in 2013 to free five French citizens. (A spokesman for Areva denied in an email that a ransom had been paid.)
In Yemen, the intermediaries are Oman and Qatar, which pay the ransoms on behalf of European governments, including more than $20 million for two groups of hostages released in the past year, according to European and Yemeni officials.

Almost a year into her captivity in 2012, Mariasandra Mariani thought she could not take it anymore. Her captors were holding her in a landscape of black granite in northern Mali, which amplified the suffocating heat. When the wind blew, it felt as if someone were holding a blow dryer inches from her skin. She spent all day next to a bucket of water, sponging herself to try to keep cool.
She told her guard that her modest family, which grows olives in the hills above Florence, did not have the money, and that her government refused to pay ransoms. Her captor reassured her.
“Your governments always say they don’t pay,” he told Ms. Mariani. “When you go back, I want you to tell your people that your government does pay. They always pay.”

Robert F. Worth and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington. Sheelagh McNeill in New York contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on July 30, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror.

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