Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kosov army would be threat to Serbia and region

NOVI SAD - Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic stated that Serbia sees the creation of the future army of Kosovo as a threat to its stability and the stability in the region, and added that Kosovo-Metohija (KiM) remains the biggest security threat for the country.

This is why we maintain that international forces in KiM should guard peace in the province and protect security of the minority population in keeping with their mandate, Gasic said in an interview for the latest edition of the Novi Sad-based weekly Dnevnik.

KFOR has a special role and responsibilities concerning this security risk, Gasic said and underscored that the Defence Ministry maintains good cooperation with the international forces, all with a view to preserving stability and protecting the Serb community in the province.

We are actively working on the prevention of all potential dangers, we are cautious and always willing to respond in an adequate manner, Gasic said.

Asked about potential pressures on Serbia to additionally shift its focus to NATO, especially in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, the defence minister said that he does not see any reason for such pressures.

In keeping with the foreign policy goals defined by the government, the cooperation with NATO within the Partnership for Peace Programme provides ample room and Serbia is intensively utilising the opportunities with a view to strengthening its defence capacities and contributing to peace in the world, Gasic said.

He stated that the participation of Serbia's representatives in the competition of tank drivers at the Russian Tank Biathlon from August 4 to 7 and the potential modernisation of the army with the help of Russian equipment will not impact the country's relations with NATO.

Photo Tanjug, Z. Zestic (archiv photo)
New dialogue between Italy and Albania

New dialogue between Italy and Albania
Italy will serve as an intermediate for improving the relations between Albania and Serbia. This was declared by the Foreign Minister, Federika Mogherini, during her visit in Tirana. As for Minister Ditmir Bushati, the relations between Albania and Italy should be a role model even for the relations with Greece.

"I wanted to mention the key and decisive role of Albania, as regards the stability and safety in the region. I will have the opportunity to discuss this with the Serbian Foreign MInister this Monday, in Belgrade, and I hope we will be able to reach a meeting between Italy, Albania and Serbia, in order to give a bigger significance to the stability in the region", the Italian Foreign Minister declared.

When asked by Top Channel about the interventions of Athens in Albania's internal affairs, as regards the territorial reform, Bushati expressed the government's determination to pass the law.

He also expressed the will to address to all issues of the past with the spirit of good neighboring. "The relations between Albania and Italy could be a role model for the relations with Greece, despite the differences and historic aspects", the Minister declared.

The Italian Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, whose country holds the EU presidency, met with the Albanian President, Bujar Nishani.

"This decision is only the start of a path that will require deeper and more complete reforms, so that we can accelerate the accession", the President declared.

Minister Mogherini declared that Albania's and Western Balkan's integration in the EU is a priority of the Italian presidency, and it should be a priority for all presidencies of the EU that will follow.

Minister Mogherini also met with the Parliament Speaker, Ilir Meta, with whom she valued the strategic partnership between the two countries. Meta expressed his trust that during the six months of EU Presidency, Italy will give its best efforts to support a stronger connection of Albania with the region and the EU.

The Italian Foreign Minister also met with the Deputy MInister NIko Peleshi. Peleshi updated Minister Mogherini with the government's work in these 300 days for important reforms that have been undertaken especially in the rule of law and in improving the business climate for foreign investors.

"Nobody has right to lecture Serbia on Ukraine"

BELGRADE -- Nobody has the right lecture Serbia, especially not those who "brought our own territorial integrity into question," said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
When it comes to the position of Serbia "between East and West" after the crash of a Malaysian aircraft in eastern Ukraine and the deepening of the crisis, "there have been no new request to impose sanctions against Russia and to harmonize the foreign policy of Serbia with the European Union," he told the RTS.
His comments came after some media reported earlier in the week that the country had been given "an ultimatum" to this effect.

"Serbia will direct its foreign policy towards reconciliation, taking into account its national and state interests, as do other countries, it's only that their positions are different compared to Serbia. They harmonize their differences in the decision-making process, and Serbia is not part of the decision making process and that's why there have recently been rumors about whether we have or do not have to - we do not have great disputes with the EU over that, because we are a sovereign country that looks after its national and state interests, and our position is quite clear," he was quoted as saying.

Dačić then added that Serbia joined EU's decisions "in ten cases," while when it comes to four decisions relating to Ukraine, namely sanctions against Russia, it did not.

The minister also noted that "Serbia defends the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but cannot defend it more than it defended its own territorial integrity," and that in that instance Western countries "did not come out gloriously."

Dačić further noted that those who violated Serbia's territorial integrity cannot now lecture the country on this subject, and that "we also expected that all UN member countries would react regarding our territorial integrity." His remarks concern the province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians in 2008 unilaterally declared independence which Serbia rejected, but many Western countries recognized.

Dačić then added that it was in the Serbia's national interest to develop good relations with Russia, China and other countries. He said that Serbia strongly condemns the shooting down of the passenger plane over Ukraine and advocates for an independent investigation that will find the culprits for the death of 298 people, but added:

"We on the other hand as a friend of Russia also cannot support any move that is reprehensible. Regardless of whether somebody now suspects Russia with evidence, or without it, since mostly pro-Russian forces are suspected, Serbia is requesting an independent investigation and must not be dragged into the conflict, but will be a factor in conflict resolution next year as the chair of the OSCE," Dačić concluded.

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Serbia is bridge between Russia and EU"

BELGRADE -- Special adviser to the Serbia government Franco Frattini considers Serbia's role as a bridge between the EU and Moscow to be "very important."
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
This former Italian foreign minister and former EU commissioner believes that such a role can help ease tensions related to the Ukrainian crisis.
"The fact that Serbia is a good partner of Moscow's and a candidate for membership of the EU at the same time is an opportunity for it to act as a bridge and try to explain to Moscow what more needs to be done to reduce tensions and restore relations with the EU," Frattini said in a telephone statement for Tanjug from Rome.

He recalled that Serbia's foreign policy aimed at joining the EU, but it did not mean ending good relations with Russia.

Commenting on media reports in Belgrade that when Italy's foreign minister visits here she would "demand from the Serbian authorities to align their foreign policy more with that of the EU, above all when it comes to Russia and Ukraine," Frattini said he did not know what the minister would say, but noted:

"Italy has always been very clear that there is no alternative to negotiating with Serbia and maintaining good relations with Russia. The Italian government is working to help deescalate the present complicated crisis between Russia and the EU."
Albanian nationalist historian: "Himara is not a Greek minority"
Top Channel TV

Himara is not a Greek minority
Historian Pellumb Xhufi says that the concerns of Greece about the new territorial reform are out of place.

“Venizellos intervenes as if this was about a Greek Minority. This is the real problem. Venizellos must know, because his grandfather was Prime Minister when the accession at the League of Nations was made, and the condition was to recognize the minorities, and the minorities have been recognized. Albania presented the map where the Greek and Montenegrin minorities have been recognized. A Commission of the League of Nations arrived to evaluate the situation in terrain and Himara was not part of the Greek minority in Albania. The nationality is another thing, and Himara is an Albanian community, according to the documents of the Himara citizens, and they are even noted citizens for the battles of the Albanian people for freedom”, Xhufi says.

The President of the Albanian Diplomatic Academy, Lisen Bashkurti, says that the diplomacy of every country has the duty to show interest on the minorities in order to guarantee their duties, but this is not the case.

“This is not about the treatment of rights and freedoms of minorities, which are consolidated by Constitution and law in Albania, and recognized by the international factor as such. The Greek diplomacy has almost turned into a precedent to confuse the limits and basic rights with the internal matters and reforms that will be taken frequently during our integration path. This is an intervention in the internal affairs of Albania. The government, the majority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have held a very rights stance regarding the constitutional rights. The government, the majority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have kept a very right stance regarding the constitutional rights of the government for the reforms, which have been mandated by the Albanian citizens and which are in full respect of the European Card of human Rights and of the Convent of Human Rights of Minorities”, Bashkurti declared.
More money might have been stolen from Central Bank

More money might have been stolen from Central Bank
Although the Bank of Albania employee, Ardian Bitraj, declared that he had lost all the money in gambling shops, the Prosecution suspects that he has not been sincere and that there might be other collaborators in the biggest theft at the Bank of Albania, where the defendant declared to have taken 600 million ALL.

Since the investigation is considered a state secret now, there is no official version by the Prosecution for this process. A confidential source declared that the circle of suspects has been widened, and those are employees at the Bank of Albania in Linze, whose duty was to make the inventory.

The Prosecution has listed the names of the people who will be questioned, and there is an order for seizing the footage of the security cameras.

The Police will also seize the camera footage from surrounding businesses, and their owners will be questioned, since the 45-year-old said he had lost all the money in gambling shops close to his house.

Bitraj claims that he has withdrawn the 600 million ALL in the past four years, with the knowledge of his colleague, Bruzaj.

He said he replaced the money will books, to balance the weight, and left the building after hiding the money in his clothes. Some days, he said, he left the building with 10 million hidden in his clothes.
Pappas: "Destructive to the Greeks of Northern Epirus, the new administrative division promoted by the Albanian Government"

Christos Pappas Statement for the Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos, from the prison for Himara Issue.......

Once again the inertia (actually the lack of) of the Greek Government in the field of foreign policy, has devastating effects on Hellenism abroad.

Coalition government gave its approval in order for Albania to become a candidate for EU country without having first resolved the issues concerning the Greeks of Northern Epirus and without safeguarding their rights. In fact it was a gift to the Albanians, once approved unconditionally.
Now, Albania, "retaliates" with the familiar way of the generosity of the Greek Government and proceeds in a move that equals disaster for the Greek Community of Northern Epirus. Specifically, the Government of the neighboring country lodged in Albanian Parliament plan for the administrative division of the country under which the Voreioepirotiks Municipalities joined by Muslim areas and consequently altered the identity and population composition of Greek regions.

According to the unhistorical and vicious this project, which is going to come to a vote on 31 July, the unconquered in Himara will be united with purely Albanian municipality Vranisht, who also has no geographical proximity to the villages of Himara, as it is in other side of the mountains. Furthermore, we change the limits recognized minority provinces in the area of Saranda, so some villages included in other non-minority municipalities inhabited by fanatical Muslim Chams.

It is obvious that for Albania friendly relations with Greece crossing the de-Hellenization of Northern Epirus and the satisfaction of irredentist aspirations of Chams! Only sleeping and inactive state of the Memorandum pretends that he has not realized this!

Does the responsible Minister:

From the moment that proves that the "European perspective" Albania means the end of the Northern Epirus's Hellenism, will continue the same policy of "yes to all"? Why last June did not block the accession process of Albania from the moment he had resolved leading bilateral disputes as the EEZ and the rights of our brothers in the Northern?

What steps will international and bilateral level to prevent the adoption of the plan by the Albanian parliament?

We will take steps to accept the recommendations of the Northern Epirus pooling of existing Greek (not only those who recognize Tirana, but all) communities in the area of Saranda in a municipality and those of Dropolis and Pogoniou Gjirokastra in another municipality?

It will support the mobilization of the Northern Epirus to become known in the international community as a violation of their rights?

It will finally bring institutional and effective foreign policy and will be limited to phone calls to his Albanian counterpart ended with scolded by the latter (which misery!) And are purely for domestic consumption?

Will you finally put the issue of the application of force situated International Convention Protocol of Corfu for the autonomy of Northern Epirus or let Albanians to reach grabbomg the properties in hearth of Hellenism?

Do You finally put national interests above understandings and the subordination to foreign usurers? Or would you accept a complacency equivalent to treason?

Still you will continue the good cooperation with the Albanian government as that associated with the Chams?

Athens, 07/25/2014
The questioner MP
Christos Pappas
Member of Parliament

US pulling out its Cold War-era plans over Ukraine conflict, top commander admits

Published time: July 25, 2014 16:03
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / T.J. Kirkpatrick)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / T.J. Kirkpatrick)
The United States military’s top commander said during a security summit this week that the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine has prompted the Pentagon to revisit old contingency plans unused since the days of the Cold War.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum that the US Department of Defense has been “looking inside of our own readiness models to look at things we haven’t had to look at for 20 years.”
Commenting on the latest allegations against Russia to surface in the midst of the escalating situation in Ukraine, Gen. Dempsey said that the Kremlin “has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives.”
“They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States,” Dempsey said of Putin’s government.
Hours before Dempsey delivered his address at the Aspen Security Forum, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said during a scheduled press briefing that new intelligence has surfaced suggesting Russia has been firing artillery at Ukrainian military positions from within its own borders. As RT reported at the time, however, Harf’s remarks were quickly questioned by Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee, who in turn called upon the State Dept. to present any evidence beyond the spokesperson’s otherwise unsubstantiated allegations.

“I think that it would be best for all concerned here if when you make an allegation like that you’re able to make it up with something more than just ‘because I said so,’” Lee countered Harf’s claims.
Soon after, though, Dempsey said during his Aspen speech that reports of Russia firing into Ukraine, if correct, would constitute the “first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case.” That year, Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin led the Red Army into Poland unannounced and annexed that territory and its 13.5 million citizens on behalf of the USSR.
“I think this is very clearly Putin, the man himself, with a vision for Europe, as he sees it, to what he considers to be an effort to redress grievances that were burdened upon Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and also to appeal to ethnic Russian enclaves across Eastern Europe with … a foreign policy objective, but also a domestic policy objective,” Dempsey said. “And he’s very aggressive about it, and he’s got a playbook that has worked for him now two or three times. And he will continue to [use it].”
Regardless of what the Russian president’s intentions are, Dempsey said that Putin’s forces are in his opinion hesitant to engage in the Kremlin’s current campaign as interpreted by the US government.
“I think that the Russian military is probably reluctant -- -- you know, this is risky for me to say this, and 10 of them could end up in a gulag tomorrow -- but I think that the Russian military and its leaders that I know are probably somewhat reluctant participants in this form of warfare,” he said.
Even still, Dempsey added, the results could be catastrophic.
“At a time when some folks could convince themselves that Putin would be looking for a reason to de-escalate, he’s actually taken a decision to escalate,” Dempsey said. “Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control over,” he said. “There’s a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that has been created in many ways by these Russian activities.”
“And I think that’s a real risk,” Dempsey said. “So I am maintaining an open line of communication with my counterpart, and so far, he’s doing the same with me.”
Earlier this week, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told reporters that the Defense Department was scheduled to send military advisers to Ukraine within weeks to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through subject-matter expert teams and long-term advisers.”

Himariot Lobby in USA: We are on the side of people of Himara to joint with Lukovo

The Government of Albania is planning to undertake a comprehensive administrative and territorial reform ahead of the 2015 local elections for the purpose of empowering local governments, creating new opportunities for economic development, and promoting local democracy. Currently proposed by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs is the administrative merger of the Himarra municipality with that of Lukovo to the south and Vranisht, which is located across the mountains to the east. The Himarrioton Society of America supports the union of Himarra and Lukovo, but rejects the proposed inclusion of Vranisht in such an administrative territorial alignment for a variety of self evident reasons.

Himarra and Lukovo have common interests related to geography (they are neighboring coastal areas) , tradition (they constitute the historic area of Himarra), economy (tourism oriented) and society. Vranisht on the other hand looks away from the coast, is agriculturally and pastorally oriented and has no shared traditions or historical societal ties with Himarra/Lukovo. In our opinion, the inclusion of Vranisht in this administrative unit would only create the potential for conflict and disenfranchisement for the people of both Himarra/Lukovo and Vranisht. The majority of the population of Himarra and Lukovo are united in the rejection of any proposed alignment that would include the area of Vranisht.

There has been a great deal of misinformation and mudslinging by some of the Albanian press and government officials, in attempts to dismiss the people of Himarra and Lukovo's objections. We wish to point out the Government's stated approach to this reform effort "through a participatory and transparent process building alliances consensus with the local community and all stakeholders. The process welcomes local solutions for voluntary mergers to ease decision making..and promote practical and realistic solutions." We hold the government to its word to seek realistic solutions, and urge it to consider the benefits it would reap in the economic sphere, goodwill and international public opinion that honoring the wishes of the people of Himarra/Lukovo would bring. We believe the supporters of the territorial reform effort: SIDA, USAID, Swiss Development Corporation, UNDP, OSCE, et al, would agree.

Father Kozma Karavella

President of Himariton Society

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Declaration of PASOK MP, Pyrros Dimas for the administrative division

Albanian politics must respect people verdict of Himara

"In the last three months, I watched with great interest the debate was conducted on the occasion of the new administrative division in Albania and especially in my hometown Himara.

The reason it has not placed on the matter is my belief that these issues should be resolved through dialogue and mutual understanding. Seeing the final draft that went to vote in the Albanian parliament, I realized that our attitude was not appreciated and our proposals were not taken into account. 

This proposal is unacceptable, contrary to the European acquis and every concept of international law. The only purpose it serves is the alteration of the demographic composition of the region.

All this time as an MP of PASOK had regular contact with the Foreign Minister and President of PASOK Mr. Venizelos in which he conveyed the concerns and demands of my countrymen.

Even the last time I hope that sense will prevail and we will find a solution that would satisfy both sides" noted the statement of PASOK MP Pyrros Dimas

Albanian Lion in 2014 - Joint exercise with British German troops 

Again in Himara Region the center of NATO training troops over 2000 personnel

Albanian Parliament, is to approve today the Law of "the Albanian Lion 2014"

Albanian Lion in 2014 is named joint naval exercise with British and German troops, which will run from 1 September to 31 October 2014, on several military bases Albania.

It is projected to be the largest exercise of the British Royal Navy in 2014, in which it will engage about 2000 troops of the Royal Armed Forces, a German naval units that will be part of the British forces, the fourth ship deployable military means to come to catch the boat, two military aircraft "Hawk Jet", four transport helicopters, etc., who will perform in the region defined movement exercise in question.

Since the drill will participate about 1500 - 2000 troops, is the competence of the Assembly the decision to develop training, details of which details are provided in a separate bill, recently introduced in parliament for review.

Law "On the method and procedure of placing and routing the foreign military forces on the territory of the Republic of Albania and the Albanian sending military forces abroad", establishes that the decision for the development and participation of foreign military forces in joint exercises or international events organized or led by NATO, the EU or other countries, in Albanian territory, the total number of participants over 1000 people, taken by Parliament.

Joint Training will take place in Pashaliman Naval Base, the base of Porto Palermo, Karaburun Peninsula,  Kucova Air Bases and Rinas, shooting training in areas Zall-Herr, Poshnje, Bize, as well as air passageways of the ground in these regions.

During the entry, movement and exit from the territory of the Republic of Albania, British troops and military vehicles and German will be accompanied by Albanian armed units.

Development of joint training at the specified time will be a success for Albanian least because it would demonstrate not only seriously with our partners, but also the ability and preparation of Albanians from the army in response to the challenges of the time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Russia’s accusations - setting the record straight (updated July 2014)

Fact sheet

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has led to Russia’s international isolation, including NATO’s suspension of all practical cooperation with Russia. To divert attention away from its actions, Russia has levelled a series of accusations against NATO which are based on misrepresentations of the facts and ignore the sustained effort that NATO has put into building a partnership with Russia. Russia has also made baseless attacks on the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities and has used force to seize part of Ukraine’s territory. This document sets the record straight.

Russian claims that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko was elected on 25 May with a clear majority in a vote which the OSCE characterized (report here) as showing the “clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms. ”The only areas where serious restrictions were reported were those controlled by separatists, who undertook “increasing attempts to derail the process.”
In other words, the President is legitimate, the actions of the separatists were not.
The current Ukrainian government was approved by an overwhelming majority in the Ukrainian parliament (371 votes out of 417 registered) on 27 February 2014, including members of the Party of Regions.
That parliament was elected on 28 October 2012. The Russian Foreign Ministry at the time declared that the elections were held “peacefully, without any excesses and in line with generally-accepted standards” and “confirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” The statement can be read in Russian here. The parliament which Russia called legitimate then can hardly be called illegitimate now.
Finally, Russian officials continue to allege that the Ukrainian parliament and government are dominated by “Nazis” and “fascists.” However, in the presidential elections on May 25, the candidates whom Russia labelled as “fascists” received barely 1% of the votes. Ukraine’s electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not separatism or extremism.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos holds telephone talks with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati

Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos held telephone talks from Brussels today, Wednesday, 23 July, with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati regarding the matter of the ongoing administrative restructuring of Albania, which changes the local administrative entities into regions of special importance for the Greek National Minority.

Today’s talks come as a follow-up to a letter given by Mr. Venizelos to Mr. Bushati on 10 June, as well as a number of diplomatic demarches on this issue. Mr. Venizelos stressed how critical and sensitive this issue is, and the need to move ahead to the resolution of the pending issues between the two countries, without adding new issues.

As Mr. Venizelos stressed, the guide on all issues must be European practice, particularly now that Albania, having gained the status of candidate country for accession to the EU, has additional obligations, given that the country is evaluated based on its compliance with the European acquis and the Copenhagen criteria.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos to meet with the Deputy Speaker of the Albanian Parliament and PBDNJ President Vangjel Dule (Athens, 24 July 2014)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet with the Deputy Speaker of the Albanian Parliament and President of the Union for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ), Vangjel Dule, at 12:15 on Thursday, 24 July 2014, at the Foreign Ministry.

Erdogan reveals he "no longer talks to Obama"

ANKARA -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has stopped talking to U.S. President Barack Obama on the phone.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
This comes "amid growing strains between Ankara and Washington over Syria and the Gaza conflict," according to an AFP report.
Turkey is an open supporter of "armed rebel fighters in Syria" and "felt betrayed when the United States backed away from military action against Damascus in September," the agency said.

"In the past, I was calling him directly. Because I can't get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other. And I have talked to Biden. He calls me and I call him," Erdogan told the pro-government ATV channel.

"I expect justice in this process. I couldn't imagine something like this from those who are championing justice," Erdogan "added without elaborating," AFP reported, noting the statement was "an apparent jibe at Washington."

The last phone conversation between the two leaders took place on February 20 after which the White House released a statement accusing Erdogan of misrepresenting the content of the conversation.

Erdogan has openly criticized Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip, referring to it as "state terrorism and genocide," and accusing the United States for defending Israel's "disproportionate measures."

More than 500,000 people flee fighting in Ukraine

MOSCOW -- Since April 1, more than 500,000 refugees from the war torn eastern part of Ukraine have arrived in the Russian Federation.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Russian immigration services chief Konstantin Romodanovsky explained that 80 percent of them are in the border zone between the two countries, and that the wave has not subsided.
Russian authorities have opened 400 centers for reception for refugees, mostly in Rostov-on-Don.

"Many want to return home when the conflict is over, but an increasing number of families are coming to Russia in order to stay," said Ela Pamfilova, a representative of the Department of Human Rights.

Romodanovsky did not rule out the possibility that some refugees - mostly ethnic Russians - will seek citizenship, while authorities in Moscow are considering whether to allow them this under facilitated procedure.

"Russia lacks the population and labor force. And here we have several tens of thousands of people who are close to our mentality, language and culture," said one Russian analyst.

The cost for the reception of refugees has so far been paid by regional authorities, but the government now decided to set aside EUR 74 million for this purpose.

"The government has allocated a total of RUB 4.9 billion (EUR 105 million) to help the refugees. This is a significant amount," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commented recently.

Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down as Kiev accuses Moscow of sending more arms to separatists

Two Ukrainian military fighter jets were reportedly shot down over the nation’s contested eastern region on Wednesday, even as U.S. and Ukrainian sources said Russian weaponry has been pouring in to separatists following the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane last week.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said two Sukhoi-25 fighters were shot down Wednesday afternoon over an area called Savur Mogila. The planes may have been carrying up to two crew members each, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky.
The pilots ejected from the planes but it is not known if they survived, Fox News confirms. A search party is out looking for them.
Reuters reported that Kiev blamed the latest incident on pro-Russian separatists, who are suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last Thursday, killing all 298 aboard. Although Russia has denied supplying the ethnic Russian separatists with sophisticated Buk surface-to-air missile batteries, the kind suspected of bringing down MH-17, Ukrainian defense officials say heavy weaponry is flowing into the Donetsk region that the separatists now control.
More than a dozen Russian-made multiple launch rocket systems crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border on Tuesday, according to Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman for the information center of the National Security and Defense Council. Those weapons are artillery, and built for shelling land-based targets.
The spokesman said that Russia in recent days had started supplying more sophisticated weapons to militants in eastern Ukraine, in particular, modified Grad systems.
The Grad is a mobile battery mounted on truck fitted with a bank of 40 launch tubes that can be turned away from the unprotected cab. The number of rockets that each vehicle is able to quickly bring to bear on an enemy target makes it effective, especially at shorter ranges. The system has lower precision than classical artillery and cannot be used in situations that call for pinpoint precision.
"Some 14 Grad systems today have crossed the state border. We have documented this and passed the information on to Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council,” Lysenko said.
A U.S. senior intelligence official confirmed that pro-Russian separatists are getting air defense training at a Russian training facility in Rostov, near the Ukraine border, though the official cautioned that it is still not clear who had their finger on the trigger when MH-17 was downed. Significantly, since the shoot down, the senior intelligence official said the Russians have continued to aid the pro-Russian rebels by sending tanks and rocket launchers. The official said the Russians have been deliberately providing equipment to the rebels which is also used by the Ukrainians for plausible deniability.
Lysenko added that Ukrainian servicemen had taken control of several cities occupied by separatists in eastern Ukraine and seized vehicles, ammunition and small weapons. Lysenko said the arsenal has not only Russian markings, but also the relevant documentation.
"You can see the Russian tank T-64 BV, which is not in the records of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Servicemen seized it during the terrorists' assault on a Ukrainian military unit in Artemivsk,” he said. “Now you see an APC-80, which is also a Russian-made vehicle. These are the accompanying operational documents. There is an official seal of the Russian Federation and a note explaining that this APC was put in commission and it that was received to be used in combat operations."
Moscow, meanwhile, denied supplying military equipment to Russian fighters, who have clashed with Kiev following the Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.
On Monday, Ukrainian officials charged Russian experts were present at the crash site of the Malaysian airliner. U.S. intelligence officials believe the Boeing 777 was likely shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile in the possession of Kremlin-backed fighters.
“We have confirmed there were Russian military experts disguised as civilians were at the crash site,” Ukrainian Presidential Administration deputy chief Hennadiy Zubko said on July 21 during an interview on Channel 5 TV.
Zubko said Ukrainian emergency workers were initially denied access to site, which is located in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Kremlin-backed forces. Zubko said some 350 employees of Ukraine's Emergency Ministry eventually were allowed access to the area, where they recovered 282 bodies and 87 body parts. The remains arrived on July 22 in Kharkiv, from where they will be flown to Holland for identification.
Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, on July 22 said in Kiev that wreckage from the downed plane had been “significantly altered.” international monitors told ABC News today, as remains of the victims arrived in territory held by  Bociurkiw said pieces of the front of the plane's cockpit appeared to have been cut away by power tools.
Fox News Channel's Catherine Herridge and Steve Harrigan contributed to this report

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Photo of the Day

The Himara Union  in Greece, backs all people, NGO and represents of Himara Region for the new administrative division in Albania

"Himara United only with Lukovo"

New crash between Athens and Tirana

The case of Himara the new "thorns" of Greek-Albanian relations

The threat of deterioration of demographic and thus balance of power in the streams in the planned reform that promote self-governing of Tirana, has recently added another issue to the already overcrowded agenda of Greek-Albanian relations, Himara.

Reportedly, Athens has stepped to the Government of Edi Rama, asking him to respect the views of the Greek minority and the inhabitants of Himara. At present, however, there are clear indications that there will be understanding to those requests, and Wednesday, July 23 is expected to be finalized and introduced for debate in the Albanian parliament the proposal to change the administrative boundaries within the 'Albanian Muslyms". According to estimates, the purpose is related to decisions taken by the end of July.

The problem with Himara Issue, started at the initiative of Tirana restructuring of a self map of the country. With the new system there will now only municipalities, as the provinces were to be incorporated in them. Before about two months especially, the government of Rama presented five proposals for the new map includes 61 municipalities.

As pointed out in the "Step" sources familiar with the details of the matter, the phrase "number 5" was satisfied that the Greek minority and respecting the current status quo. Provided uniting five provinces in the Municipality of Saranda and three provinces in the municipality of Gjirokastra - both basic and recognized minority areas inhabited by Greek populations.

In what respect is in Himara, which noted, is not recognized as a minority area of the Albanian government (despite international decisions), provided the combination with the province of Loukovo. It was a historically and geographically common area that will not disturb the demographic balance.

However, the government seems to prefer Rama finally 'Proposal No. 4, "which has caused strong reactions. According to the details of the proposal along with Himara and Loukovo proposed to include the province Vranitsa (with approximately 3,500 registered residents). As highlighted, this area has no relation to Himara Region, located at a great distance from it (pp. essentially on the other side of the mountain) and thanks to the demographic composition will alter the current balance both ethnically and religiously.

All these suggest the shooting element of the functionality of this combination explain diplomatic circles. It is characteristic that organizations of Chameria Party arrived in point to request changes to government proposals even for regions of Saranda and Gjirokastra which, fortunately it seems, will not thrive.

As mentioned earlier, Athens intervened in Tirana. However, irrespective of the effectiveness of this intervention, it is clear that the thorns in bilateral relations remain. This is despite the clear support to Albania from Greece, during our country performed the first half of 2014 the Presidency of the EU Council, in order to elicit status of candidate country.

Diplomatic sources estimate that the movement of this Greek side will allow Athens to maintain a leverage on issues plaguing bilateral relations. However, it is clear that despite persistent (perhaps stoic) efforts of Foreign Minister Mr. Ev. Venizelos to find solutions that will enable and unblock the question of the compatibility of the maritime zones, the government does not appear ready Rama for reciprocal steps.

A positive development could be considered the agreement on the issue of place names. In all other respects, however (like military cemeteries or status of belligerents), Albanians stalling. If indeed true information that Tirana has connected the "unfreezing" of the Agreement on maritime zones with the issue of property sequestrated (pp. going to the fortunes of Albanian nationals designated "enemy" after the outbreak of the Greek-Italian war), then developments should not rather be expected immediately.

The government seems not to Rama supplies and climate nationalism in Albanian media. This was demonstrated by the recent press after the announcement of land for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons from Athens, to which reference was made in respect of the non-maritime boundaries Greece. This course does not apply and it is characteristic that caused discomfort and the Greek ambassador in Tirana, who allegedly had intense dialogue with the Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Busatti.

Angel Athanasopoulos  /

Monday, July 21, 2014

Greek American Lobby and Albania American League, united for Cyprus resolution

The Congressman Joseph DioGuard met with Kosmas Karavellas for Himara Issue

Washington. Greek American lobby, organized last week's annual convention for the Cypriot issue, where in addition to numerous guests, was also Senators and Congressmen including Vice / U.S. President Joe Biden.

In Cypriot convention, which was formulated the declaration, was invited Congressman Joe DioGuardi, known as the representative of the Albanian lobby in USA.

Representative of Himara Society, Kosmas Karavellas, had a friendly meeting with Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, in which they talked about territorial division and especially about the issue Himara.

For the first time since the Greek American lobby, finds support from the Albanian lobby in USA, on issues such as Cyprus, or Himara, which also testifies before the draw strong picture of the Capitol Hill, among which are seen the Congressman
Joseph DioGuardi and Lobby representatives of the Greek American Congressmen Bilirakis, Sarbanis, and Kosmas Karavellas.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dule pushes Himara against territorial reform
Top Channel TV 19/07/2014

Dule pushes Hiamra against reform
Vangjel Dule and Vasil Bollano visited Himara to oppose the variant for unifying the Himara Municipality with Vranisht and Lukova.

In the meetings with the interest groups, Dule and Bollano spoke in Greek. But more than imposing the variant proposed by Vangjel Dule, the leader of the United for Human Right Party, and Bollano, from the Omonia, who refused the unification of Vranisht with Himara and Lukova, the meeting also reflected other differences.

Some of the members have opposed the unification with Lukova, while others were in favor. They connected the unification with economic and religious elements, since both areas are Christian, while Vranisht is mostly Muslim.

The UHRP leader declared that Himara cannot unite with Vranisht. “Some in Himara say there is no Greek minority. For me and many others who respect the international conventions, where everyone is allowed to express his identity, Himara has a historic Greek minority”, Dule declared.

For Dule, the unification of Vranisht with Himara has only electoral purposes. “    The creation of the new administration has only one goal, and that is electoral. They believe that through this plan they will be able to keep hostage the local authority of Himara. This cannot happen”, Dule declared.

The Omonia leader warned an escalation of the stances.

“We will escalate our stances even in the parliamentary cooperation, even with measures that are not object of Dule or Bollano, but that are object of the political structures. We will take the right decisions in the right moments”, Bollano declared.

Different from Dule and Bollano, who claim the existence f a Greek minority in Himara, other Himara citizens declared that they have not become Greek just because they took a Greek passport, same as Greeks didn’t become Albanians when they went to Greece. They claimed that Himara has its own beautiful language which is not Greek.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

 Photo of the Day 

The president of Himariot Lobby of USA Father Kozmas Karavellas with the Vice President Joe Biden, and Archbishop Demetrius of USA in their meeting last week

Friday, July 18, 2014

Archbishop of Ohrid Jovan remains in prison

SKOPJE -- The Macedonian Appellate Court confirmed the first instance ruling against Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan Vraniskovski.
He was sentenced to three years of imprisonment on charges for embezzlement of EUR 250,000.
The Appellate Court also confirmed the probation for 18 followers of Archbishop Jovan, including his mother and sister, on charges of aiding the embezzlement, Macedonian media reported on Thursday.

The second instance court previously denied the appeal by Metropolitan Jovan as unfounded and found him guilty of embezzlement of funds which he used to purchase land in Ohrid during his mandate as the bishop of the non-recognised Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC).

Reports of Macedonian media state that the decision of the Appellate Court is crucial for further talks with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on canonical recognition of MPC.

Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was sentenced in Skopje on July 2, 2013 to three years of imprisonment and he appealed the decision in November.

In keeping with the ruling of the Skopje Criminal Court, the authorities seized MKD 4.9 million from the bank account of the Association for enhancement of civil and religious freedoms in the village of Nizepolje near Bitola to the benefit of the canonically non-recognised MOC as the damaged party.

Archbishop Jovan said in the appeal that the ruling is discriminatory and was adopted for political reasons, adding that the verdict is also unclear and is not backed by a single piece of tangible evidence.

The appeal Vraniskovski filed to the Skopje Appellate Court states that the Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid is being persecuted by the (Macedonian) authorities in various ways even though 12 years have passed since its establishment, adding that the request of the Archdiocese to be entered in court registers, whereby it would become a legitimate religious organisation, has been denied to this day.

Since 2003, Macedonian authorities have arrested Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski six times, on different charges, including public disorder when he tried to conduct a baptism ceremony in a church the MPC sees as its own.

He has also been charged with "inciting ethnic and religious hatred" for having "slandered the MPC" and has spent a total of almost 18 months in prison. The Veles Basic Court then sentenced him to 2.5 years of imprisonment for alleged tax evasion in the period during his mandate as the MPC bishop.

He was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from Greece, on charges of embezzlement of EUR 250,000.

He returned to the country to request a retrial, but was arrested and taken to the Idrizovo prison near Skopje, where he is still being kept in, as his defence team says, very difficult conditions.

The MPC is canonically non-recognized, and the SPC considers it schismatic since it declared autocephaly unilaterally in 1967.

The MPC has defrocked Bishop Jovan and the SPC has appointed him as Serbian exarch in Macedonia.

The SPC believes Archbishop Jovan is a victim of rigged political trials because of his being against the schism, while Amnesty International and Freedom House have said that he is a prisoner of conscience.

Belgrade to back Serb participation in Kosovo government

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Office for Kosovo head Marko Đurić met with UNMIK Chief Farid Zarif and told him that Serbia intends to support Serbs' participation in a new Kosovo government.
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Đurić told Zarif on Friday in Kosovska Mitrovica that representatives of Serbs in Kosovo are taking an active part in the formation of the new provincial administration, new provincial government.
Strengthened with Serbs' participation in the parliament and government, Serbia will continue fighting for the interests and rights of its citizens in the southern province, Đurić said.

He underlined that the objective of Serbs' participation in the parliament and government is to resolve the backlog of problems facing them for quite long, such as the seizure of property and shady privatization deals.

“Our message to the UNMIK chief has been that we will continue fighting for each and every one of our citizens in Kosovo, each and every house, field, monument, the right to survive and live decently,” he said.

Đurić said that, in the coming months, the priorities will be the adoption of the statute and the formation of a community of Serb municipalities in line with the agreement on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština, which was reached in Brussels on April 19, 2013.

He noted that he also discussed with Zarif the current political and security situation in Kosovo, and underscored that the stability in the province is Serbia's key interest.

The meeting also addressed projects aimed at economic development in Kosovo.

Đurić voiced the confidence that Serbia, as a UN member state, can count on the support and understanding from the world organization.

“Our talks passed in the spirit of mutual understanding and desire to secure the stability in Kosovo and Metohija,” Đurić concluded.

Zarif did not address reporters after the meeting.
Territorial reform, Omonia: Dangerous deviations against the universal rights of the ethnic Hellenic minority

Reforma territoriale, OMONIA: Devijime të rrezikshme në dëm të minoritetit
TIRANE - Democratic Union of the Greek Organisation, "Omonoia", considers that the process of territorial and administrative reform are becoming dangerous deviations
against the universal rights of the ethnic Hellenic minority
In a statement distributed to the media, Omonia states that "the processes of this kind of care and attention should be directed towards vulnerable groups and communities at risk and not at the service of nationalist and racist views."

"In Paths dangerous procedure to manipulate the 2011 Census, the slide is aware of the Government's contribution to its competent institutions, the preliminary discussion on Administrative and Territorial Reform of the Albanian state. Avoiding the real essence and the need for improvements in the spirit of what prevails in Europe regarding further decentralization and independence of local government, the government is choosing which path signaling rotten show of the past and basements, in order to like fighting imaginary enemies. "- said in a statement.

"Once again the cunning ways is practicing focus on Hellenic Ethnic Minority. But not to be preoccupied with his own problems and to respect the principles of international documents on the protection of ethnic, cultural and linguistic, but to frustrate the public and in a public debate without the sense to hide other weaknesses reform attempted. There have to be slipped into this field that serves mikropolitike policies and nationalist desires! Will remain at the core, and this is that in many cases, based on the recent developments, as these statements transliretohen in public persons responsible government and parliamentary special committee, not simply ignored constitutional principles, arrangements arising European conventions, does not include any of the Hellenic Ethnic Minority positions from our side are officially filed in the competent authorities, but are warning of further deterioration. "- continues the statement.

"As Omonoia denounce these wings and manipulation. While in the country dominates a real institutionalization of local government autonomy, full respect to local communities and  their goals, and mainly applied in practice to the rights of minority, any development in sensitive terrain of the structure and functioning of local government, makes us fully interested and concerned. As omonoia, so that we are consistently not only with our principles and how we deposited specially written for such reform, but mainly to determine how those documents and European practices for minorities and the role of local government will continue to sensitize the local on these issues and conclude the violations that harm the interests of the Greek community. "

"We call direct international organizations to focus on these problems for great manipulation process, which are intended to be taken, even through these mechanisms supposedly territorial and administrative reform. The exercise by their more pressure on the Government so that the dialogue and conclude more transparency in variants that satisfy more
the Greek community.. In the process of this kind of care and attention should be directed towards vulnerable groups and communities at risk and not at the service of nationalist and racist views. "- Concludes the statement of Omonia.

Great Paradox: PJIU's proposals over territorial reform, Himara to remains within Albanian muslums

The Party for Justice, Integration and Unity presented a few days ago in the administrative-territorial special commission its proposals regarding this reform. The draft is based on three main concepts.

PJIU asks the creation of one new municipality of Konispol by adding to it the municipalities of Xarra and Markat. These areas Albanian areas where Chams live.

The representative of the working group of this party, Ardit Bido in an interview for “Albeu”, says that one of the proposals presented in the commission is the creation of over 60-70 local government units, by making possible the creation of functional units of local government. The third concept is the proposal to treat as a Sui generis the area from Konispol to Himara, because there, according to Mr. Bido are thinking of forming a dysfunctional minority municipality./

Questions over why Malaysian plane flew over Ukrainian warzone

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:48
Edited time: July 18, 2014 11:50
A man walks, on July 17, 2014, amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
A man walks, on July 17, 2014, amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
As the world tries to cope with the tragic loss of almost 300 people in the apparent downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, questions have arisen over why the civil aircraft was directed over a war zone.
MH17, carrying passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed on Thursday in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, the scene of intensive battles between Ukrainian troops and local militias defying Kiev’s rule. In the last several days the militias scored a number of successes, including the reported downing of three Ukrainian military aircraft.
Despite the violence on the ground and apparent danger to aircraft, the Malaysian airliner was directed to pass right over the warzone and was apparently shot down by a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile fired by a Buk-type launcher. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, which resulted in the largest loss of life in the Ukrainian armed conflict so far.
“There are still question to answer like why this plane was flying over that area, whether it was on the correct flight path. It was flying over a war zone where missiles have been fired. It’s a war zone, so why was it flying over there?” blogger and writer Neil Clark asked in an interview with RT.
Now airlines and regulators are declaring Ukraine a no-go zone, but before the tragedy the route over Donetsk Region was considered safe for civil aviation despite the violence on the ground. Last week Ukraine closed the airspace in its east to traffic flying at altitudes of 7,900 meters or lower, but MH17 was flying at 10,600 meters.
Militias have been using relatively simple anti-aircraft weapons like shoulder-fired SAMs, which can engage targets up to 3,500 meters high, which apparently was good enough reason for airlines and Ukrainian traffic controllers to allow high-flying planes over the restricted area.
“MAS had used this route for years and it had always been safe. Fifteen out of 16 Asean Pacific airlines and even some airlines from Europe fly that route,” Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said at a media conference on Friday. “There were no last minute instructions to change the flight path to a different route."

Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by
Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by
The carriers had good reason to fly over Ukraine, because it’s the shortest route between many European countries and large cities in Southeast Asia. Shorter fly paths means less fuel spent and larger profits from the airlines. Hundreds of flights passed Ukraine daily before the conflict there escalated, and the traffic remained quite intensive before Thursday’s tragedy.
What’s peculiar about MH17 is that the ill-fated flight was different from its usual path over Ukraine. According to data at, a website tracking civil aviation traffic, the flight on Thursday diverted about 200km north from the paths the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 had used in previous days. And it led the plane right over the war-torn Donetsk Region.
So far no official explanation has been given as to the unusual flight path. But a conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the airspace above Crimea may have played a role. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAN), a UN watchdog, considers the airspace over the region part of Ukraine’s national traffic control responsibility. Russia has contested this ever since the former Ukrainian region became part of Russia.
Amid the conflict most carriers avoid flying through Crimean airspace. Malaysian Airlines is no exception, and MH17 flights were usually routed over the Azov Sea northeast of Crimea or over the Black Sea to the south of it. If flying over the Azov Sea was not available for some reason on Thursday, the carrier could have been advised by Ukrainian traffic control to divert the flight further north.

Israel threatens to step up Gaza invasion

Palestinian death toll crosses 274 mark as Israeli tanks and troops move in to target tunnels used by Hamas fighters.

Last updated: 18 Jul 2014 16:24

Israel says it may broaden a ground assault that is says is aimed at destroying Hamas' network of cross-border tunnels, amid a land, sea and air offensive that has killed at least 274 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
For their part, diplomats have stepped up efforts to halt 11 days of bloodshed in and around Gaza while Pope Francis has demanded an immediate ceasefire in a phone call with Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas.
INTERACTIVE: Gaza Under Attack
During talks on Friday in the Egyptian capital Cairo with Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, Abbas reportedly sought French help to lobby Qatar and Turkey to pressure Hamas into accepting a truce.
In the face of Israel's military offensive, Hamas remains defiant, however, and has warned Israel it would "drown in the swamp of Gaza".
As Gaza residents spoke of a night of terror, with fierce gun battles in the south and all-night shelling in the north, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, said the operation could yet be widened, despite growing international calls to avoid harm to civilians.
"My instructions and those of the defence minister to the military ... is to prepare for the possibility of a significant broadening of the ground activity," he said in Tel Aviv.
Immediately afterwards, Netanyahu convened his security cabinet to discuss plans for a possible expansion of the campaign, which began on July 8 with the aim of stamping out cross-border rocket fire.
'Gaza under Gaza'
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said Israeli troops were targeting the tunnels which Palestinian fighters were using.
"Hamas has managed to set up a tunnel - the Gaza under Gaza - which is a new thing that didn't exist in the last conflict," she said.
Early on Friday, Israel approved the call-up of another 18,000 reservists, taking the total number approved to 65,000, the army said.
The ground operation, which began in the Gaza periphery at around 2000 GMT on Thursday, sent thousands of people fleeing west to escape the fighting along the Israeli border, a UN official told AFP news agency.
"People are fleeing from east to west, away from the border," he said indicating that so far, about 30,000 people were taking refuge in 27 UN schools and other institutions.

By mid-morning Friday, the road between Gaza City and Khan Younis was deserted, with only a single minibus, packed with passengers, heading south, its windows covered with makeshift white flags, an AFP correspondent said.
Ebaa Rezeq, a Gaza City resident, told Al Jazeera that while Israeli soldiers remained near the buffer zone, air raids and shelling were continuing to terrify civilians.
During Friday prayers, imams at Gaza's 1,400 mosques relayed a single message to the faithful: "Be patient and strong. Victory will come."
With food supplies running desperately low, the World Food Programme said had already distributed emergency food rations and food vouchers to more than 20,000 displaced people since the conflict erupted on July 8.
But with the ground operation, it was gearing up for a huge increase in the coming days, Elisabeth Byrs, a WFP spokeswoman, said in Geneva, Switzerland.
Gaza was also struggling with a 70 percent power outage after electricity lines from Israel were damaged, officials said.
"We usually receive 120 MW and now it is zero," Fathi Sheikh Khalil, head of Gaza's electricity company, told AFP.
"We asked the Israeli electricity company to repair some lines on their side but they said it's too dangerous. Now 70 percent of the Gaza Strip is without electricity."
Since midnight, 26 people have been killed across Gaza by Israeli fire, including three teenagers and a five-month-old baby, raising to 267 the total number of Palestinians killed in the past 11 days.

An Israeli civilian and a soldier have also been killed.
In one of the air raids, a building housing local media offices in Gaza City was struck by three bombs.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said the attack was "just a small example of what's been happening here across the territory all night".
Network of tunnels
Israel has said the aim of its ground operation is to destroy Hamas's network of tunnels which are used for cross-border attacks on southern Israel.
On Thursday morning, 13 heavily armed fighters managed to infiltrate southern Israel before being spotted by troops, with one killed in an air strike and the rest fleeing back underground.
Israel pulled out all of its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but within a year it became the de facto seat of Hamas after it won a landslide victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, as Palestinian President Abbas headed to Turkey to further regional ceasefire efforts, Israel said it was pulling out some of its diplomatic staff following violent protests targeting the buildings of its embassy and consulate in Ankara and Istanbul.
Overnight, hundreds attacked the Israeli consulate in Istanbul in a violent show of anger, with police firing tear gas and water cannon at the protesters, an AFP correspondent said.
A similar number of protesters sought to break into the residence of the ambassador in Ankara, but police stood by and did nothing, another correspondent said.