Monday, February 18, 2019

Sisi wil probably Egypt's president for another 12 years

Egypt's parliament has overwhelmingly voted to approve draft constitutional changes that could extend President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's time in office by another 12 years. Sisi (64) at present is due to stand down in 2022 when his second four-year term ends. But 485 of the country's 596 lawmakers which overwhelmely are supporters of the president, voted on Thursday to lengthen the presidential terms to six years and let Mr al-Sisi serve another two of these terms.
Several Egyptian human rights groups have spoken out against the decision.
The changes, first proposed earlier this month, will now be drafted into legislation and put to another parliamentary vote. If approved again, Egypt will then hold a referendum.
Article 140 of Egypt's constitution, approved in a referendum in 2014, currently states that the president serves four-year terms and may only be re-elected once. But under proposed changes, the  leader would be allowed to stay in power until 2034.

Yemen: agreement on gradual withdrawal from Hodeida

The two sides at war in Yemen have agreed on the first phase of a pullback of forces from the city of Hodeidah. The United Nations described the agreement as "important progress".
Hodeidah, on Yemen's western coast,  provides access to the Bab al-Mandeb Strait - the fourth busiest waterway in the world. It has been in possession of the Houthi's since these in 2014 started to take over large parts of Yemen.
The move prompted the military intervention of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and allies the following year on behalf of the so called 'official' government. It was the begin of  one of the world' worst humanitarian crises.
The deal about the pullback was concluded after two days of talks. The government and Houthis concluded a deal on the first phase of the pullback and agreed in principle on the second phase, a UN statement said on Sunday.
"After lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces," the UN statement said.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Israel confirms it attacked Iranians in Syria

A missile over Damascus (Youssef Badawi/EPA)

The Israeli military carried out overnight attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, while Syrian state media reported the country's air defences shot down "hostile targets".
Russia's defence control centre was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying Syrian military air defences destroyed more than 30 Israeli cruise missiles and guided bombs during the raids.
An attack targeting an airport in southeastern Damascus killed four Syrian soldiers and wounded six, the military centre was quoted by RIA news agency as saying on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, said the toll of the raids was 11 people
."We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory. We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory," Israel's military said in a statement in the early hours of Monday. The Israeli military's confirmation that it was striking targets inside Syria as the operation was ongoing was "highly unusual".

Monday, December 31, 2018

Ten years for activist in UAE

An United Arab Emirates (UAE) appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against prominent pro-democracy activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticising the government on social media, Amnesty International reported. The father of four was also handed a fine of one million dirham (270.000 dollar). 
Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet, was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi's Federal Appeals Court for "defaming the UAE through social media channels".
Mansoor was among five activists convicted and later pardoned for insulting the UAE's rulers in 2011.He was arrested again in March 2017 at his home in Ajman. The charges were publishing false information and rumours, and promoting a sectarian and hate-incited agenda.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Egyptian forces kill 40 'militants' after bombing of tourist bus

 The damaged bus with Vietnamese tourists. (Photo VNExpress/Vietnam)

Egyptian security forces have killed 40 suspected militants in three separate incidents in North Sinai and Giza, the ministry of interior said on Saturday, a day after a deadly bombing on a Vietnamese tourist bus in Giza killed four people.
The ministry did not say whether the suspected militants were connected to Friday’s attack, but said its forces killed 30 people during raids on their hideouts in Giza where it said “terrorist elements” were planning a series of attacks targeting state institutions and the tourism industry.
Security forces also killed 10 suspected militants in North Sinai, where the country is fighting an insurgency led by Islamic State.
State news agency MENA said that the suspects were killed in a gun battle.
The ministry did not give any details about the suspects’ identity or whether there had been any casualties or injuries among the security forces. The statement said the three raids took place simultaneously.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Protest in Tunisia after self immolation of journalist

Protests erupted in Tunisia after the death of a journalist who set himself on fire to protest against economic hardship in the North African nation, prompting clashes with police.Abderrazak Zorgui, a 32-year-old journalist, posted a video online before his self-immolation in the city of Kasserine, describing his desperation for a revolution over poor living condition and corruption.
He expressed his frustration at unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia's 2011 Arab Spring revolution.
Authorities said Zorgui died of his injuries on Monday soon after being taken to hospital.
His action triggered a protest on Monday night in Kasserine that degenerated into violence, with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds blocking the main street, setting tyres ablaze and throwing stones at police.
Interior ministry spokesperson Sofiane Zaag said on Tuesday that six police officers were injured and several people arrested in the protest.

Israeli aiplanes attack Syria, first time after Trump announced withdrawal

Missiles above Daamscuis (Photo AP/Al Jazeera)

Syrian state media says government air defences have intercepted missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets near the capital, Damascus.
The reported raid on Tuesday hit an arms depot and wounded three soldiers, Syria's state-run news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying.
"Our air defences confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli warplanes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets," the military source said.
Russia's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel "directly endangered" two civilian flights. The ministry also said Syrian air defenses destroyed 14 out of 16 Israeli missiles. 
 Israel has in the past carried out dozens of air raids in neighbouring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them south of Damascus.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Egypt: 32 executions and nearly 600 death sentences in 2018

Over 30 people were executed and nearly 600 death sentences were issued in Egypt in the first 11 months of 2018, according to a report issued on Sunday by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
In the absence of an official toll, the figures help document the stark rise in the use of the death penalty in Egypt over the last several years. The report represents the number of cases EIPR researchers were able to verify through media reports or through relatives of defendants.
The report shows that, between January and November 2018, at least 32 defendants were executed in 8 civilian cases and 11 military cases. At least 581 defendants were issued death sentences in 174 civilian cases and 9 military cases over the same period.
The figures, which are broken down by month in a series of infographics, indicate that September saw the highest number of death sentences issued, with 151 defendants sentenced to death in 31 civilian cases. March saw the highest number of executions, with 12 defendants executed in three civilian cases and one military case.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Protetsts in Sudan continue

 Protests in Atbara (Photo Reuters)

Protests in parts of Sudan continued for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday, as doctors prepared to strike over the rising cost of bread and fuel.  
At least 10 people have been killed since the demonstrations began on Wednesday after the government hiked the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (about $0.02 to $0.06). 
Protesters are calling for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to step down. 
On Sunday, residents in Um Rawaba, 200km southwest of the capital Khartoum, told AFP news agency that some 600 people gathered in the market chanting, "the people want the fall of the regime".
Protesters burnt tyres and branches in the streets and attempted to storm a government building before being rebuffed by security officials, witnesses said.
In Atabara, 300km northeast of the capital, riot police and plain-clothed operatives deployed tear gas against hundreds of protesters, a witness said.

Friday, December 14, 2018

US Senate votes to stop American support for war in Yemen and declares MbS guilty of Khashoggi murder

The US Senate voted on Thursday to approve a resolution calling for an end to United States involvement in the Saudi-UAE-led military campaign in Yemen, setting the stage for a potential showdown next year between Congress and President Donald Trump over US military support for Saudi Arabia.
The Senate also approved a resolution saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, is responsible for the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 
US politicians have grown increasingly outraged as the number of civilians killed in Yemen by Saudi and UAE air attacks using US-made weapons has risen dramatically in the past two years. The Saudi-UAE coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign targeting Houthi rebels. 
The final vote of the Yemen resolution was 56-41, with seven Republicans breaking with their party to vote in support of the measure. The Yemen resolution had been tabled by the Senate in a 55-44 vote on March 20, but after the October 2 killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, widespread anger in Washington prompted politicians to bring the Yemen measure forward.
Trump administration officials had urged Congress not to undermine the Pentagon's ability to support Saudi Arabia.

Monday, December 3, 2018

''Almost all of UNRWA's buildings in camps Yarmouk and Dera'a in Syria have to be rebuilt

Yarmouk camp

After conducting a damage assessment of its installations in the unofficial camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, as well as the Dera’a Palestinian camp in the South of Syria, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has concluded that almost all of its installation in the two camps were severely damaged or destroyed in the five-year long Syria civil war.
“The Agency has 23 premises including 16 schools in Yarmouk. Almost all UNRWA premises need major repairs, 75% need to be completely rebuilt and all three of the Agency’s health centers in Yarmouk are completely destroyed. In Dera’a camp, only one distribution center has been left untouched. The other 6 installations, including three school buildings and a clinic will need substantial repairs,” said UNRWA on Saturday.
People have already slowly started to return to Dera’a camp, despite the huge damage and lack of basic infrastructure, it said.
Dera’a camp was home to 10,000 Palestine refugees before 2011. So far, 400 families have returned since the government retook control in July 2018.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Egypt creates new human rights watchdog - to protect itself

Egypt has created a new high-powered human rights watchdog agency, but its primary mission isn’t to protect Egyptians from violations. Instead, the body is foremost aimed at protecting the government from allegations of rights abuses and defending it on the international stage.
The new body reflects an attitude of the state under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that sees criticism over human rights as intended to undermine the government and cause instability at a time when it is facing militant threats and trying to rebuild a battered economy.
Officials have already started a campaign against “false rumors” and “fake news” and have in some cases detained those who speak out. At the same time, the government has sought to redefine or broaden human rights, declaring new “rights” to fight terrorism and protect the state. Critics see that as an attempt to legitimize and draw international attention away from alleged abuses by security forces.
“Human rights cannot be divided, nor can some be given priorities over others,” said Nasser Amin, a prominent rights lawyer.
The High Permanent Commission for Human rights does not include any rights activists. Its main members are representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the military, the intelligence agencies and the Interior Ministry, which oversees a police force accused of torture and forced disappearances, claims that are categorically denied by the government.