Friday, November 29, 2013

Extremely severe sentences for women protesters in Alexandria

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt(Photo AP)
A court in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Thursday handed out extreme severe punishments to 21 girls and women who demonstrated in October for the reinstatement of former president Mohammed Morsi. The court convicted 14 of them to 11 years and one month in jail for destruction of private property, attacking security forces and stirring violence. It ordered seven minors to be placed in a detention centre until they reach the age of majority. These girls range from 15 to 17 years. The 21 women were arrested in late October during clashes with residents following a demonstration.
The Alexandria ruling is being seen as part of the wide crackdown led by Egyptian authorities against Islamists since Morsi's ouster. More than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members have been detained on charges of inciting violence, including the group's top leaders.
Earlier in November, a court sentenced 12 university students to 17 years in prison over riots at Al-Azhar Institution, also stiring criticism over the harshness of the sentence. The students were found guilty of attempting to storm the headquarters of the institution, inciting riots and attacking Al-Azhar employees and security personnel, as well as sabotaging public and private property. They were ordered to pay a fine of LE64,000 each.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Protest against new anti-demonstration law in Egypt is spreading

An Egyptian prosecutor has ordered the arrest of two prominent activists for inciting protests, including one whose group helped lead the revolt that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, a source in the prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah
Ahmed Maher
Ahmed Maher
The arrests of Ahmed Maher, leader of the April 6 youth movement, and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah were ordered after they took part in demonstrations outside the Shura Council and the Press Syndicate on Tuesday that defied a new law restricting demonstrations. Prosecutors have also ordered the detention of 24 activists for four days after they were arrested at the same unauthorised demonstration against military trials of civilians and the new anti-demonstration law. The authorities originally arrested 52 persons, llater they said the number was 28. Twenty-six arrested women were released on a desert road later on Tuesday, activists said via Twitter. A number of journalists were also released. Teargas and water cannon were used to disperse the hundreds of protesters at the Shura Council, and at a separate protest outside the press syndicate to commemorate the earlier killing of a protester by police.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Egyptian interim president issues extremely restrictive law on holding public meetings

Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour on Sunday issued a new law on holding protest demonstrations, in spite of earlier promises, by deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa El Din among others, that the law would be discussed by the - yet to be elected - parliament.The new law, which consists of 25 articles, which outline in detail the conditions that must be met before a protest, political meeting or march is held, is extremely restrictive. It gives the police, i.c. the authorities, the right to ban all public meetings.
Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt, tweeted that a
''3-day advance notification to MOI (is) now required for any public meeting of more than 10 ppl in a public place including election-related.''
She added cynically that the good news in the last version of the law is that birthday parties are allowed without prior consent by the Ministery of the Interior, as the law only deals with public meetings. Also in the new version of the law, contrary to the earlier version, weddings and funerals are allowed in places of worship.
The law is a new sign that the most conservative forces in Egypt (the military, the deep state) are the ones that are effectively in control.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Six and Iran conclude interim deal, Israel is angry

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (3rd L) delivers a statement during a ceremony next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L-R) at the United Nations in Geneva November 24, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse(L - R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (Reuters)

Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough deal early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in what could be the first sign of an emerging rapprochement between the Islamic state and the West.
Aimed at ending a dangerous standoff, the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was clinched after more than four days of tortuous negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva.
 Halting Iran's most sensitive nuclear work, it was designed as a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades of tensions and confrontation and banish the specter of a Middle East war over Tehran's nuclear aspirations.
Israel denounced it as a "bad deal" and said it would not be bound by it.
"This is a bad agreement that gives Iran what it wanted: the partial lifting of sanctions while maintaining an essential part of its nuclear programme," said a statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The specifics of the deal have yet to be released, but negotiators indicated the broad outlines:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Egypt expels Turkish ambassador

Ambassador Hüseyin Avni Botsalı was expelled on Nov. 23. AA photo
Turkish ambassador Hüseyin Avni Botsalı
Egypt has expelled Turkey’s Ambassador to Cairo on Nov. 23, declaring him “persona non grata,” in a new peak of tension between the two countries, which has escalated since the military takeover that toppled Mohamed Morsi.
“We are downgrading our diplomatic relations with Turkey,” a spokesperson of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said, adding that the decision had been taken after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his sympathy with Morsi in remarks made on Nov. 21. “We have asked the Turkish ambassador to leave the country.”
Egypt’s envoy to Turkey, who has been recalled for consultations in August, will not be sent back to Ankara, Badr Abdelatty said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara will announce measures to reciprocate Egypt’s move.
Before his departure to Russia on Nov. 21, Erdoğan criticized once again the interim rule for putting Morsi in trial. “I applaud Morsi’s conduct at the court. I respect him, but I have no respect for those who put him on trial,” Erdoğan said.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Six Islamist factions in Syria form united front

Syrian commanders and members of Aleppo's most important rebel unit, the Liwa al-Tawhid brigade, gather for a daily meeting in their headquarters in Izaa neighborhood of Aleppo on September 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO/MIGUEL MEDINA
Commandrss of Liawa al0-Tawhid gather in Aleppo.

Six Islamist groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria joined forces on Friday, a spokesman for Aleppo's biggest rebel force said. "Thank God, the complete merger of the major military factions fighting in Syria has been announced," Liwa al-Tawhid spokesman Abu Firas said in a posting on Facebook.
 The creation of the joint force -- which has been dubbed the Islamic Front -- came after major regime advances on key battlegrounds around Damascus and Aleppo in northern Syria. Opposition sources and experts have attributed the regime's successes in part to rebel disunity. The groups merged days after the death of Liwa al-Tawhid's charismatic military chief Abdel Qader Saleh, who had reportedly made calls for such a rebel alliance.
According to Abu Firas, the groups merging their troops were Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, the Army of Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Liwa al-Haq and the Ansar al-Sham battalions. (The forces that did not join were the Jebhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). All the groups are Islamist and merged "under the banner of 'There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet'", said Abu Firas, citing the Islamic profession of faith.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Militias from Misrata leave Tripoli, but others remain

Soldiers were stationed along the cornische in Tripoli after the militias from Misrata left. (AFP) 

Militias from Misrata, including parts of the so-called Libya Shield Force and the Gharghour Brigades, withdrew from Tripoli on Monday, said Saleh Jouda, a member of the national security committee in the country's assembly. More than 40 people were killed in street battles between rival militias in Tripoli last week, highlighting Libya's struggle to curb fighters and hardline Islamists who refuse to disarm two years after helping NATO oust Gaddafi.
Tripoli was calm with many stores, schools and universities closed in support of a strike called by the city's leaders to demand the militia gunmen leave.
"They have to understand that we want an army, police and rule of law," said Hisham Alwendy, an activist. "All militias should leave the city, even those who are from Tripoli itself."
That may be a tough task. Tripoli, like other regions, remains a dangerous patchwork of rival militia territories controlled by Islamist, secular and tribal gunmen. The withdrawal of one powerful set of fighters, though, may leave Libya's fragile government to face more competition among the militia groups that remain in the city.
Even the official armed forces, and defense and interior ministries, rely on former fighters for security under a program to employ the militiamen.
The prime minister was himself briefly abducted last month from the a five-star Tripoli hotel by gunmen nominally on the government payroll.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Floods in Saudi Arabia kill 15

This is not a picture that we immediately would associate with Saudi Arabia. The photo was taken in Jeddah, however. It's an annual feature of Saudi Arabia, particularly the Hejaz, these floods in the autumn as a consequence of heavy rains. This time it is also in Riyadh and other parts of the kingdom. According to the newspaper Arab News 15 people were killed.    

Important Syrian oppostion fighter killed

Abdel Qader Saleh
In a serious setback for the Syrian opposition fighters, a prominent rebel leader on Sunday died in a Turkish hospital of wounds he earlier suffered in an air raid. Abdelqader Saleh, head of the Qatar-backed Sunni Islamist al-Tawhid Brigades, had been working on regrouping fighters in Aleppo before he was killed. Saleh was wounded when the Syrian regime bombed a meeting of Liwaa al-Tawhid leaders. A number of the leaders were killed 
duri ng that attack, the top leaders, Abd al-Qader al-Saleh and Abd Aziz Salameh were both injured. 
Aron Lund writes on the blog Syria Comment: 
''Abdel Qader Saleh’s death is big news. He was one of the founders of the Tawhid Brigade in July 2012, when the group came together from a constellation of local units in the northern Syrian countryside to charge into Aleppo. The core of the group was a number of commanders from Anadan (including Abdelaziz Salame and Abu Tawfiq). Many, including Saleh, had a background as participants in the peaceful protests against Assad, but by the time of Tawhid’s creation all of them had grown into important local military leaders. Politically he was an Islamist, who made no bones about seeking sharia law in Syria. But he was clearly not part of the radical fundamentalist camp.''
Lund writes that the Tawhid Brigade remains the most important group in the Aleppo region, and by virtue of Aleppo’s importance, is certainly one of the most important rebel factions in Syria. After some reorganizations, it consists of around 30 “divisions”, and claims to control a total manpower well above 10,000 soldiers. But as it is a kind of umbrella movement formed out of regional militias, Saleh’s death could endanger Tawhid's cohesion. The group might end up losing subunits and fighters to other groups, supposedly more hardline Islamist factions.

At least 25 killed in attack on Iranian embassy in Beirut

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs Tuesday morning, killing at least 25 people and wounding about 150, in a brazen attack claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group.Al Mayadeen TV said that security cameras showed the first suicide bomber charge the embassy on a motorcycle and blow himself up to clear the way for a second bomber, who detonated a car packed with explosives.
Iran's ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi told the Beirut-based station that no one was killed inside the embassy, located in the densely populated neighborhood of Bir Hassan. But he later announced that Iran's cultural attaché, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ansari, who was on his way to work, was killed in the attack. All other victims appeared to be passers-by. Security sources said among the 25 victims were also an Iranian civilian and a Lebanese who was employed at the embassy. Five Iranians, including embassy guards and a nurse were wounded in the bombings, according to the sources who spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Israel and Saudi Arabia together against Iran?
F-15 Strike Eagle
The Sunday Times reports:
ONCE they were sworn enemies. Now Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran if its nuclear programme is not significantly curbed in a deal that could be signed in Geneva this week.
Both the Israeli and Saudi governments are convinced that the international talks to place limits on Tehran’s military nuclear development amount to appeasement and will do little to slow its development of a nuclear warhead.
As part of the growing co-operation, Riyadh is understood already to have given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack on Iran. (For more details see also Haaretz)
(I have to add that the question Iran is not the only thing whereupon the views of the two countries converge. Think about the possible emergence of a Palestinian state. Or demcoracy in the Arab world, for that matter... )

According to Marsha Cohen (Lobelog) the Sunday Times ....
.. has once again recycled its periodic claim that Israel and Saudi Arabia are about to join forces for an attack on Iran. According to Uzi Mahnaimi, Israel’s external intelligence service, the Mossad, is formulating contingency plans with Saudi officials if Iran’s nuclear program “is not significantly curbed” in the agreement that may be signed this week in Geneva.  
Mahnaimi produced simailar scoops in 2009 and 2010, she says.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Syrian army retakes strategic places near Aleppo

 Joshua Landis (Syria Comment) about the recent advance of the Syrian army in the north:
The Syrian Army has gone on the offensive, retaking a key town - al-Sfireh – on the south-east of Aleppo. On Monday, the town of Tal Aran, on the Safira-Aleppo road, also fell. The army then secured the area around the city’s airport and retook a strategically important base nearby, named Base 80, a large military position which rebels had held since February. Analysts claim that the base will help regime troops move on opposition-held areas of Aleppo. (....)
Within a few days, The Syrian Army killed a number of the leaders of Aleppo’s largest militia – Liwaa al-Tawhid. Its top leaders, Abd al-Qader al-Saleh & Abd Aziz Salehmeh were both injured, but are in good condition. The unit commander Youssef al-Abbas was killed. The regime bombed a meeting of Liwaa al-Tawhid leaders, suggesting it has improved its intelligence operations. Liwaa la-Tawhid has about 25-30 unit commanders joined at the top by Saleh/Salame, the majority stationed in the Aleppo region.

Liwaa al-Tawhid leader Abdel Aziz al Salameh in his hospital bed.

Dozens killed in Tripoli (Libya) after militiamen open fire

People carry a man who was injured when Libyan militiamen opened fire into a crowd of protesters in Tripoli November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
An injured man is carried away (Reuters). 

At least 32 people were killed and almost 400 wounded in gun battles between Libyan militiamen and armed residents in Tripoli on Friday in the worst street fighting for months to test the shaky central government.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is struggling to control rival militias, Islamist militants and other former fighters who refuse to surrender their arms two years after helping to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed revolt.
After Friday's violence, Zeidan demanded that all militias "without exception" leave Tripoli, but the clashes underscored how little his fledging military can do to curb ex-rebels, who have also shut down Libya's oil exports for months.
Friday's bloodshed, the worst in Tripoli for many months, began when militiamen from the city of Misrata fired at about 500 protesters demanding their eviction from the capital after they had fought rivals for control of city districts.
Demonstrators fled but then returned, heavily armed, to attack the compound, where the militiamen remained holed up past nightfall as fighting continued. Dozens of soldiers in trucks tried to separate the sides, and sealed off roads to stop more people joining the clashes. Heavy smoke could be seen rising from the scene in the Gharghur district, where many of Gaddafi's closest collaborators used to live before the uprising.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pleyel stops manufacturing pianos

Chopins Pleyel
Chopin's Pleyel
Sad news on France 24:
Pleyel, France’s most famous piano brand, is bowing out two centuries after its founding. Treasured and touted by the likes of Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, Edvard Grieg, Maurice Ravel and others, Pleyel pianos will no longer be made, the company confirmed on Tuesday. Company president Bernard Roques told French media that its workshop in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis, which employs 14 people, was shutting its doors after “repeated financial losses and a very low level of production”.
 “A first effort to maintain at least part of our production was unsuccessful. Given our level of stocks of finished products, sales will continue. New efforts [to keep the brand alive] will be looked into,” Roques said in a statement.
According to Jean-Jacques Trinques, author of a book on the history of Pleyel pianos, the closing of the remaining workshop is the latest, sad chapter in the long Pleyel drama. The company went down in the early 1930s following the infamous Black Tuesday stock market crash in 1929. It was later revived by investors, whom Trinques said were always more interested in claiming royalties from the illustrious name than improving the quality of its instruments.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Survey among Jews in Europe: One third considers non-Jews who criticize Israel an anti-Semite

Nearly a third of respondents to a survey on anti-Semitism in Europe said they “seriously considered emigrating” because of perceived anti-Semitism.
 In the survey among 5,847 Jews from nine European Union member states, 29 percent of all respondents said that they considered emigrating in recent years because they did “not feel safe” living in their countries as Jews, according to Morten Kjaerum, the director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights which conducted the research among Jews from Sweden, France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Latvia. 
 The figure for Jews contemplating emigration was particularly high in Hungary, France and Belgium with 48, 46 and 40 percent respectively, according to the report which Kjaerum presented Friday at a press conference in Vilnius.
However, asked about their definition of an anti-Semite, 34 percent of all respondents indicated that it applied to “a non-Jewish person if he or she criticizes Israel.” In Sweden, only 21 percent of 703 respondents said non-Jewish critics of Israel were anti-Semitic compared to 42 percent of 1,137 French respondents. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that people who did not consider Jewish citizens of their country as compatriots were anti-Semitic.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Syrian National Coalition now agrees to go to Geneva under conditions

Khaled Saleh
The Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), agreed Monday to attend the Geneva peace conference but set as conditions the creation of humanitarian corridors and the release of detained rebels, Xinhua reports.  The SNC reached the agreement in a vote early Monday morning after two days of meeting attended by more than 100 key members in Istanbul, according to a statement.
 The statement insisted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down in any future transitional government. "Assad will have no role in the transitional period and the future of Syria." The coalition is also expected to approve a list of ministers presented by its interim Prime Minister, Ahmad Toumeh, who was elected in September.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Egypt's human rights organisations warn that new counter-terrorism law will reinstate police state

Twenty Egyptian human rights organisations published a joint statement on Thursday that claims that the counter-terrorism law, drafted by the interior ministry in September, would "serve as the legal basis for the re-establishment of the police state", like the one that controlled the country before the January 2011 popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Among the signatories of Thursday's statement were the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), The Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights information.
According to the statement, the current bill broadens the definition of ''terrorist acts'' in a dangerous way. It is going to include activities like "disrupting the authorities from carrying out some of their activities," "acts which seek to hinder the implementation of the constitution or the law" and "preventing educational institutions from carrying out their work." An "act of terrorism," as defined by the proposed bill, also extends to "any behavior which damages the communications or information systems, the financial systems, or the national economy," the statement adds.
Such broad provisions could open the way to harassment of "peaceful political opposition members, human rights activists, and a broad range of groups working to defend democracy and human rights," the human rights organisations stated.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Yemen fears serious consequences of Saudi expulsion of foreign workers

The Yemeni newspaper Yemen Post reports that thousands of Yemenis have been forcibly returned to Yemen under police escort, as its neighbour Saudi.Arabia is enforcing a newly adopted labour law. Under the law foreign workers have to have their legal status reviewed. But Yemen’s Consul in Jeddah told the press earlier this week, says the Yemen Post,  that an estimated 150,000 Yemeni nationals had already been issued a final exit visa as they were unable to rectify their status.
There are about 800,000 Yemenis living and working in Saudi Arabia which represents over $2 billion in remittance. The return of 150,000 Yemenis will mean a loss in revenues of tens of millions of dollars, notwithstanding the loss in businesses it will generate back in Yemen as expatriates have been supporting many local businesses back home through remittances.
Photo Arab News
The Saudi newspaper Arab News reported on Thursday that the Saudi police is conducting razzia's on foreign workers. The Kingdom’s police and security agencies, it wrote,  arrested 11,756 violators of residency and labor laws on the third day of the clampdown on illegal workers across the country. The arrests were made in Makkah, Jeddah, Al-Jouf, Northern Border Province, Renia, Dhahran Al-Janoub and Sajer.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Truce in north of Yemen did not hold

The small town of Dammaj in Northern Yemen

Less than a day after UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar confirmed at a press conference in Sana’a, the capital, that a truce between the Houthis and the Salafis had eventually been brokered, the warring parties returned to their guns, bent on destroying each other.
The Houthis (Shiite tribal faction led by Abdel Malek al-Houthi) resumed its shelling of Dammaj Salafi Islamic Centre on Monday evening confirmed Surour al-Wadii, a spokesman for the Salafis.“There were massive Houthi attacks throughout the night against Dar al-Hadith academy and student dormitories …The death toll have risen to at least 100.”
The Salafis have accused the Houthis of targeting its foreign students in Dammaj in a bid to force the Sunni sect out of the region as to remain the only religious reference in the area. The Houthis have justified their aggression on Dammaj by accusing the Salafis of recruiting and training Jihadists in view of a regional takeover. The Salafis, by the way, are aidee by Saudi-Arabia.
The sectarian nature of the conflict has had officials back in Sana’a sitting nervously on their seats as they realised that such religious in-fighting could be the undoing of the National Dialogue Conference. Already burdened by al-Harak (Southern Secessionist Movement) ongoing calls for secession, Yemen coalition government does not want to be in the situation where further instability will unravel its past months’ efforts and draw factions to renege on previous negotiations. To make things worse, the Yemen Popst reports that the unrest has spread also to the northern district Hasaba, of the capital Sana´a. Residents confirmed on Tuesday that armed clashes took place across the district, between tribesmen linked to the powerful al-Ahmar family and others. Hasaba falls under the direct command of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, prominent tribal leader and high ranking leader of al-Islah party. It has has witnessed much violence and unrest over the past few weeks.
In remarks aired by state TV, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi denounced "sectarian fighting that does not serve the security or stability of the nation."

Rebels kill prosecutor and driver in south-east of Iran

Gunmen shot dead a public prosecutor and his driver in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media said, less than two weeks after militants killed 14 Iranian border guards nearby and Tehran retaliated by hanging 16 prisoners.The killings, in the city of Zabol, near to where the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet, come at a time of heightened tension in the region as separatist Sunni Islamist militants step up attacks on officially Shi'ite Iran. Heavily armed drug smugglers are also active in the region.
Following Iran's 2010 execution of the leader of the Baluchi separatist Sunni Muslim group Jundollah, analysts say there has been a radicalization of armed insurgents in the majority Sunni region, with militants advocating a noticeably more al Qaeda-style international 'jihad' or holy war.

US and Russia fail to agree on date for Syria conference

The United States and Russia failed on Tuesday to agree on a date for a Syrian peace conference, remaining divided over what role Iran might play in talks to end the civil war and over who would represent Syria's opposition.
"We were hoping that we would be in a position to announce a date today; unfortunately we are not," said U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who chaired the meeting at the United Nations in Geneva. "But we are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year."
Brahimi conferred with senior U.S. and Russian officials before widening the talks to include representatives from Britain, France and China, as well as Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and the Arab League.
Brahimi said he would bring Russian and U.S. officials together again on November 25 and hoped that opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would have agreed on delegates to represent them some days before that.

"The opposition has a very, very difficult time," he said. "They are divided. It is no secret for anybody. They are facing all types of problems and they are not ready."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The return of a general who was a confidant of Mubarak

The blog Novelles d'Orient, which is the blog of the French paper Le monde diplomatique, put a few recent developments in Egypt together under the headline 'Chronique d'une contra-révolution'. They vary from the recent arrest of Essam Arian, one of the last leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who was still at large, through the way the the satirist Bassem Youssef was stopped by his tv-company just one week after he was back for a new season, to the adoption of a law that severely restrains the right to demonstrate, and the  re-installment of a general who is known as one of the biggest foes of the Muslim Brotherhood and a man that kept the corruption practices of Mubarak and his cronies out of the wind. The New York Times wrote the follwing about this man:
A year after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, the man responsible for rooting out government corruption, Gen. Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, faced a very public barrage of allegations that he had deliberately covered up years of cronyism and self-dealing.
 President Mohamed Morsi promptly fired the general, prosecutors opened an investigation, the news filled the papers and his career appeared to end in disgrace. But now the general is back, and more powerful than ever. His protégé and friend, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, ousted Mr. Morsi about four months ago, and virtually the first move by the new government was to rehabilitate General Tohamy and place him in charge of the general intelligence service, one of the most powerful positions in Egypt.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Human Rights Watch: Egypt does not investigate killings of protesters

Egypt´s authorities have yet to announce any move to investigate security force killings of protesters on October 6, 2013. Almost four weeks after police used lethal force to break up protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the authorities have not said they have questioned, or intend to question, security forces about their use of firearms that day, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on 2 November. The clashes left 57 people dead throughout Egypt, according to the Health Ministry, with no police deaths reported.
Throughout the past three months, in spite of over 1,300 people killed during demonstrations, the authorities have not established a fact-finding committee or attempted to rein in security services. However, when it comes to violence by protesters prosecutors have arrested, investigated, and prosecuted protesters for assault and use of violence. The government should prosecute its agents who injure or kill people while using unjustifiable levels of force, Human Rights Watch said.

Morsi trial adjourned

Mada Masr
The trial of ousted President Mohamed Morsi was temporarily adjourned shortly after it began on Monday after the defendants caused a ruckus in the courtroom by chanting from inside the dock, state media reported.
Morsi had arrived in a helicopter early Monday morning to the Police Academy where the first hearing in the case of the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace clashes last December is being held, a police source told the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm. 
Morsi alongside another 14 defendants who also reached the court early Monday, according to Ossama al-Sagheer, the head of the Cairo Security Directorate, are accused of inciting murder during the December 5 violence near the presidential palace, which left 11 people dead and scores injured. The other defendants include Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy and Essam al-Erian as well as Abdel Rahman Ezz and Ahmad al-Mogheer, of the movement's youth. Among the defendants are also Assaad al-Sheikha, Ayman Hodhod and Ahmad Abdel Aty, who worked as part of Morsi's presidential team. The defendants also include radical preacher Wagdi Ghoneim as well as  Gamal Saber, a leader in the Hazemoun movement that was born around Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abou Ismail.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Truce in north of Yemen after at least 100 were killed in three days of fighting

A Yemeni military official confirmed on Saturday that a truce had been brokered in Dammaj (northern province of Sa’ada) in between the Houthis (Shiite group) and Salafi militants (Sunni radicals) following over three days of heavy fighting.
Yehia Mansour, member of the presidential committee tasked with negotiating a truce told reporters on Saturday that Sana’a had dispatched two army battalions to keep the peace and ensure that the terms of the negotiated truce will be upheld by both parties.
Serour al-Wadie, a spokesman for the Sunni Salafi movement, confirmed that over 100 of its fighters had died since Wednesday. According to several local reports also many civilians have died since Wednesday.
The fighting started on Wedensdfay. Ansar Allah, the Houthis’ political arm issued a statement that day that the Salafis had transformed their religious centre in Dammaj into a Jihadist stronghold. Ansar Allah warned it would not tolerate this at the heart of its dominion.
Thousands of Sunni Salafist Islamists demonstrated in Sana’a on Saturday in support of their fellow militants, calling on the government to restore peace and protect their people’ religious freedom.
Also last month a reported 42 people died in similar clashed in the northern province of Amran and the central province of Ibb where the Houthis have established strong networks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Israeli airforce strikes in Latakia (Syria)

Syria Israeli airstrike
 Syrian handout showing the damage of an Israeli strike in May (AFP/Getty)

Israeli aircraft have carried out a strike near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, a US official says.
The official said the strike targeted Russian-made missiles intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Latakia is a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, where his Alawite community is concentrated.
This is believed to be sixth Israeli attack in Syria this year. Israel does not comment on specific operations.
Israeli officials have repeatedly said it would act if it felt Syrian weapons, conventional or chemical, were being transferred to militant groups in the region, especially Hezbollah.
A US official said the Israeli strike took place overnight from Wednesday into Thursday.
Reports circulated on Thursday of explosions near Latakia, but the cause was not clear.
"Several explosions were heard in an air defence base in the Snubar Jableh area," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist network.
Neither Israel nor Syria have commented on the reports. Earlier this year, Mr Assad had promised to respond to any future strikes by Israel.
One unnamed US official told the Associated Press that the missiles targeted by Israel were Russian-made SA-125s.
It's the fifth time this year that Isarel carries out airstrikes at targets (presumbaly weapons) in Syria. Th eralier one took successively place in Jnauari, May (2x) and July.  

Fighting flares again in the north of Yemen


Houthi rebels in the north of Yemen, with the help of tanks, launched a fresh attack on Friday on a town held by their Sunni Muslim Salafi rivals.The fighting erupted on Wednesday despite government mediation efforts to shore up a ceasefire in the Saada province, which has long been outside the control of the central Yemeni authorities. Salafi spokesman Abu Ismail al-Hajouri told Reuters there were 40 dead and at least 200 wounded. All the casualties were Salafis, he said.
The offensive was against the town of Dammaj, which lies near Saada, a Houthi-controlled city near the Saudi border 130 km (80 miles) north of the capital Sanaa.
Saada province is the base for a long-running Houthi rebellion against the Yemeni government. Saudi Arabia's military intervened in 2009 before a ceasefire took hold the year after. The province has since fallen openly into Houthi hands with a Houthi-imposed governor.
Hajouri said Dammaj had been besieged by Houthi rebels for weeks and accused them of shelling the city with rockets that set on fire dormitories for students at a religious school. Houthi officials could not be reached for comment. There was no independent account of the clashes and no immediate report of any Houthi casualties.

Apart from the Salafi-Houthi conflict, Yemen is struggling with southern secessionists and militants of al Qaeda.