Saturday, May 23, 2015

Suicide bomber kills 21 in Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia

Chaos in the Imam Ali mosque in Qadeeh after the attack. (Reuters)

A suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers on Friday in a packed Shi'ite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia, residents and the health minister said, the first attack in the kingdom to be claimed by Islamic State militants.
It was one of the deadliest assaults in recent years in this part of Saudi Arabia. More than 150 people were praying when the huge explosion ripped through the Imam Ali mosque in the village of al-Qadeeh, witnesses said. A video posted online showed a hall filled with smoke and dust, with bloodied people moaning with pain as they lay on the floor littered with concrete and glass. More than 90 people were wounded, the Saudi health minister told state television.

Islamic State said in a statement that one of its suicide bombers, identified as Abu 'Ammar al-Najdi, carried out the attack using an explosives-laden belt that killed or wounded 250 people, U.S.-based monitoring group SITE said on its Twitter account. It said it would not rest until Shi'ites, which the group views as heretics, were driven from the Arabian peninsula.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Death sentence for ousted Egyptian president Morsi

Egypt court issues preliminary death sentence to Morsi in
Morsi in the courtroom (Reuters)
The Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced the former Egyptian presidnet Mohamme Morsi to death in the case of the 2011 Wadi Natroun prison outbreak, along with Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, his deputy Mahmoud Ezzat, former prliamentary speaker and guidance bureau members Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian and Saad al-Husseiny, in addition to over one hundred other defendants.

The court referred referred the papers of of the case of Morsi and the other leading Muslim Brotherhood figures to the Grand Mufti for review.
 The case had to do with the mass escape that occurred at Wadi Natroun prison during the security void in the early days of the 2011 revolution, enabling several Muslim Brotherhood leaders to escape from prison, among hundreds of other prisoners, including members of the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah, according to the prosecution.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

King Salman of Saudi Arabia safeguards the powerful position of his own family branch

Mohammed bin Nayef
Mohamed bin Nayef, the new crown pince
King Salman bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia has removed his half-brother Muqrin as crown prince, replacing him with his nephew prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Also he elevated his son, Mohammed bin Salman, to the position of deputy crown prince.It is the most important repositioning of power among the royal family since King Salman assumed the throne in January. The appointments, announced in a decree from the royal court, thrust a new generation of Saudi princes into the line of succession.
The reshuffling means that the ''Sudairi'' family branch again has safeguarded its leading position within the Saudi royal familiy.
The Sudairi's were originally called the ''Sudairi seven'' after the seven sons that the first king and founder of Saudi Arabia, Abdel Aziz bin Saud, had with his favorite wife, Hassa al-Sudairi. Among the seven were king Fahd, and the once powerful princes Sultan, Turki, and Nayef, the father ofthe new crown prince, who all died in the recent past. The Sudairi branch was always considered to be the most powerful branch of the family, but under the previous king, Abdallah who belonged to a different branch, it lost this position. Temporarily as it appears now, because with the accession of king Salman, also a Sudairi, to the throne in January, it was back in business. And with the recent appointments it can be sure to retain its powerful position for decades to come.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

US Congress moves to make BDS illegal en put pressure on EU

The finance committees of the U.S. House and Senate have approved amendments to a trade bill that equate boycotts of West Bank settlement products with boycotts of Israel, strengthening efforts by the Israeli right to silence opponents of West Bank settlements. Both committees approved the amendments unanimously. Each committee then approved its version of the trade bill on a split vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats divided for and against.
The nearly identical amendments require U.S. trade negotiators to “discourage politically motivated actions” by foreign countries and international organizations that aim to “penalize or otherwise limit” commercial relations with Israel or “persons doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel.” The Senate Finance Committee took its action on Wednesday evening and the House Ways and Means Committee

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hezbollah keep silent about Israeli attack at Syrian-Lebanese border

Source: YNet
Apart from the reported Isareli attack at depots belonging to Hezbollah at the Lebanese -Syrian border, Israeli papers reported that Israeli troops on Sunday killed four men who tried to plant a bomb along the border between Syria and the Syrian Golan Heights annexed by Israel.

Hezbollah refused to comment Sunday on reports that Israel targeted its interests on the Syria-Lebanon border over the weekend.News outlets reported Saturday that Israeli fighter jets hit Syrian and Hezbollah targets on the Syria-Lebanon border overnight Friday. When contacted by The Daily Star, a Hezbollah spokesman refused to confirm or deny the reports.
According to sources quoted by Al-Jazeera, the attack in the Syrian region of Qalamoun targeted the 155th and 65th Brigades of the Syrian Army, which deal with strategic weapons and long-range missiles. The sources reported several explosions in the Syrian towns of Al-Qutayfa, Yabroud and Qara on the outskirts of Damascus.
Al-Arabiya news channel reported that the attack targeted Syrian weapons depots, and that Wednesday Israel allegedly attacked two weapons convoys, reportedly killing one person.
Sources confirmed to Lebanese news site Elnashra Saturday that Israel had attacked Syrian posts near Qara.
The Israeli Army declined to respond to the reports. Syrian regime-affiliated media and Hezbollah-affiliated media have not reported the attack so far.
Sources told Israel’s Ynet that the Israeli air force has carried out several raids against targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah, since the conflict there started four years ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saudi coalition announce a new phase of the military activities against Yemen

A portrait of the Saudi king Salman amidst debris of the Saudi Cultural Centre in Sanaa, caused by an Saudi airstrike on a nearby weapons depot (Photo Reuters, 21 April 2015)

The Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen for almost a month announced on Tuesday the end to its military operation, but a Saudi spokesman said forces would continue to target the Iran-allied Houthi movement as necessary.
"Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals...(including) removing the threat to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries especially in terms of heavy weapons," said a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA.
"With its end, the new Operation Restoring Hope begins with the following goals: continuing to protect civilians, continuing to fight terrorism and continuing to facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and to intensify relief and medical assistance to the Yemeni people."

Egyptian ex-president Morsi and other Ikhwan-leaders get 20 years for 2012 Ettihadiya-riots

Mohamed Morsi
Cairo's Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced 15 defendants, including ex-president Mohamed Morsi and prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures Essam al-Erian and Mohamed al-Beltagy, to 20 years in maximum security prison and a five-year parole on Tuesday in the so-called Ettihadiya case.clashes in 2012.  The 15 defendants were convicted of inciting violence against protesters. They were found not guilty of premeditated murder and the possession of unlicensed weapons.
Two other defendants, Gamal Saber and Abdel Hakeem Ismail, were sentenced to 10 years in maximum security prison. It was he first verdict issued against Morsi, who is standing trial in four other cases.

ISIS kills 35 in Iraq and about 30 in Libya

 Thirty Ethiopian Christians appear to have been beheaded and shot by ISIS in a sickening new propaganda video. Above, at least 16 men are marched down a beach in Libya by militants before they are killed
Ethiopian Christians are marched on a Libyan beach to be decapitated  by ISIS (Photo AP, see also below)

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has killed at least 35 people in two separate mass killings in Iraq, according to local sources. The sources told Al Jazeera that the armed group, which controls large swathes of territory in western and northern Iraq, killed 24 of its Sunni critics in Kirkuk province, including seven elders from several different tribes. The men were said to be vocal opponents of the armed group, but were not allied to the government in Baghdad.
In a separate incident, the armed group posted pictures online on Monday purporting to show the killings of 11 men believed to be Shia fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Forces that formed after a call by Shia leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIL.

Dozens killed in Sanaa after bombardment of missile base

Residents said the explosions sent shockwaves across the city with civilians fleeing from their homes in the aftermath.
At least 46 people have been killed in the Yemeni capital after Saudi-led air strikes targeted a suspected weapons base held by Houthi fighters.
Health officials told Al Jazeera on Monday that more than 300 people were wounded when warplanes reportedly struck a Scud missile base in Faj Attan, a district in western Sanaa, that sparked a series of explosions.
Thick black smoke billowed into the sky as scores of nearby houses and vehicles were destroyed leaving the streets littered with debris.
"It was like the doors of hell opened,'' resident Mohammed Sarhan told the Associated Press news agency.
"I felt the house lift up and fall," he said.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to understand the slow violence against the Palestinians

Settler occupied Gawi house in Sheik Jarrah, January 19, 2010
The house of the Gawi family in Sheikh Jarrah (Jerusalem) taken over by settlers. (The picture is from 2010)

Teju Cole in The Guardian:
Not all violence is hot. There’s cold violence too, which takes its time and finally gets its way. Children going to school and coming home are exposed to it. Fathers and mothers listen to politicians on television calling for their extermination. Grandmothers have no expectation that even their aged bodies are safe: any young man may lay a hand on them with no consequence. The police could arrive at night and drag a family out into the street. Putting a people into deep uncertainty about the fundamentals of life, over years and decades, is a form of cold violence. Through an accumulation of laws rather than by military means, a particular misery is intensified and entrenched. This slow violence, this cold violence, no less than the other kind, ought to be looked at and understood.
Near the slopes of Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem is the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Most of the people who live here are Palestinian Arabs, and the area itself has an ancient history that features both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are in a special legal category under modern Israeli law. Most of them are not Israeli citizens, nor are they classified the same way as people in Gaza or the West Bank; they are permanent residents. There are old Palestinian families here, but in a neighbourhood like Sheikh Jarrah many of the people are refugees who were settled here after the nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948. They left their original homes behind, fleeing places such as Haifa and Sarafand al-Amar, and they came to Sheikh Jarrah, which then became their home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Security Council imposes arms embargo on Yemeni Houthis

Saudi artillerie firing towards Houthi positions in north Yemen.(Photo Reuters)

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo Tuesday on the leaders of Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son.The resolution, approved in a 14-0 vote, is aimed at ending the Houthi military action against supporters of current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia.The resolution also demands that the rebels end their military campaign.
Russia, which had insisted on an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, abstained.
The resolution imposes the weapons embargo on five men: Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, second-in-command Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, military commander Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi, Saleh and the former president's eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The council called on all countries, especially Yemen's neighbors, to inspect cargo headed to Yemen if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe it contains weapons.In addition, the council imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on the Houthi leader and Saleh's son. The same sanctions had already been imposed on the other three men last November.The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties,especially the Houthis, end violence and quickly resume UN-brokered negotiations aimed at a political transition.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Casualties mount and humanitarian crisis worsens in Yemen

Smoke billows from a Saudi-led airstrike on Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Insurgents seem to have protected many of their weapons stockpiles from bombardments.
Smoke from an Saudi airstrike on Sanaa last Wednesday (Photo AP)

The United Nations called, Friday, for an immediate “humanitarian pause” of at least a few hours each day in Yemen to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to reach conflict-affected areas in the country.
Two aircrafts carrying medical aid provided by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross landed Friday, in Sana’a. This aid is the first batch to reach the Yemeni capital Sana’a since the start of Saudi-led airstrikes against Yemen in late March. However, relief agencies warned that there is an urgent need for more aid.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that it sent a load of aid to Aden along with a team of five Doctors, earlier this week.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Johannes Van der Klaauw, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said that basic services suffer from collapse, pointing out the lack of food and fuel added to a sharp rise in the basic commodities’ prices.