Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Security Council rejects resolution on Palestine

A UN Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Dec. 22, 2014. The Security  Council in seesion. (Photo AFP)

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected a Palestinian resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.The resolution called for negotiations to be based on the borders that existed before Israel in 1967 captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It also called for a peace deal within 12 months.
Even if the draft had received the minimum nine votes in favor, it would have been defeated by Washington's vote against it. The United States is one of the five veto-wielding permanent members.
There were eight votes in favor, including France, Russia and China, two against and five abstentions, among them Britain. Australia joined the United States in voting against the measure.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended Washington's position against the draft in a speech to the 15-nation council by saying it was not a vote against peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement," she said. "The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Egypt: young protesters against anti-law get prison sentence of two years

Yara Sallam

 An Egyptian appeals court reduced the jail terms on Sunday for 23 young activists convicted of violating a law banning protests without a permit, judicial sources said.
The arrest of the activists in June while they demonstrated against the law which tightly restricts protests was condemned by rights groups as a reflection of an increasingly repressive political climate in Egypt.
Mass protests led to the ousting of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and were used to express discontent with Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, who was toppled by the army last year.
Human rights groups have called the charges against the activists baseless and decried the case as an example of "show-trials" based on scant evidence and intended to warn citizens against defying government policies.

"Palestinians will outnumber Jews in historic Palestine in 2016"

Figures released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics on Monday suggest that Palestinians will outnumber Israeli Jews in historic Palestine within the next two years. The results of the Palestinian census, released on the occasion of the end of 2014, show a number of other surprising figures that highlight the wide-ranging changes in demography the Holy Land is experiencing.
The census estimated that at the end of 2014 the total number of Palestinians in "historical Palestine" -- meaning the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the territory where the State of Israel is located but which often referred to as '48 Palestine -- is around 6.08 million, compared to 6.10 million Jews as of the beginning of 2014. By the end of 2016, however, the census bureau estimates that at current rates the number of Palestinians will eclipse that of Jews, meeting at around 6.42 million. By 2020 the statistics show that the number of Palestinians will hit 7.14 million, while the Jewish population will have only reached around 6.87 million.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bahrain detains leader of oppositional Wefaq party

Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman speaks to Reuters at the party's headquarters in Bilad Al Qadeem, west of Manama, October 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Sheikh Ali Salman. (Photo: Reuters)

Bahraini authorities on Sunday detained the head of the main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group after he was summoned for questioning over unspecified violations. Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was among several prominent figures who led a rally near the capital Manama on Friday staged to protest against last month's general elections, which the opposition boycotted.
The Interior Ministry said Sheikh Salman - one of the most prominent figures in the Western-allied country - had been summoned for questioning by the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation.
"Legal procedures are now being finalised ahead of referring the case to the Public Prosecution," it said in a statement, without elaborating.
A lawyer who represents al-Wefaq said the charges include incitement against the government, calling for its overthrow by force and inciting the youth to revolt, al-Wasat newspaper reported.
Al-Wefaq described Sheikh Salman's detention as "a dangerous and uncalculated adventure that complicates the political and security scene in Bahrain".
The island kingdom, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has been gripped by tension since 2011 protests led by majority Shi'ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-led country.

''Islamic State executed almost 2.000 people in six months''

The Islamic State militant group has killed 1,878 people in Syria during the past six months, the majority of them civilians, a British-based Syrian monitoring organization said on Sunday.Islamic State also killed 120 of its own members, most of them foreign fighters trying to return home, in the last two months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The group has fought the Syrian and Iraqi governments, other insurgents and Kurdish forces since June.
Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian monitoring group, told Reuters that Islamic State killed 1,175 civilians, including eight women and four children.
He said 930 of the civilians were members of the Sheitaat, a Sunni Muslim tribe from eastern Syria which fought Islamic State for control of two oilfields in August.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Egypt arrested 10.000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014''

 supporters of Egypt
 Arrest of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The photo (by AP) is from  October 2013.

The Egyptian police arrested 10,000 alleged saboteurs, rioters, and terrorists in 2014, assistant interior minister Abdel-Fattah Osman was quoted as saying on Saturday by state-run news agency MENA. The police also arrested 119 Facebook page admins responsible for inciting against state institutions and security personnel, and four people charged with recording “hostile videos," he said. The Muslim Brotherhood is now facing its “final struggle,”  the Egyptian interior ministry said.
"The terrorist Brotherhood has terrorised people on the one hand and promoted an environment of discontent on the other, whether by blowing up electricity pylons or by obstructing transportation," Osman stated, adding that security forces have managed to thwart all such "satanic plans."
Following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, his Muslim Brotherhood group was designated a terrorist organisation and banned. Morsi and other leaders were arrested and are facing a number of charges including espionage and inciting violence.

Jordan revives death penalty, executes 11 citizens

Jordan executed 11 citizens on Sunday, ending an eight-year moratorium on capital punishment, judicial sources said.
The hanged men were among 120 Jordanians convicted of capital crimes in the last 10 years, according to the sources.
Jordan halted executions in 2006, but a recent rise in violent crime has resulted in calls to reimpose capital punishment.
The kingdom has in the past been sensitive to international concerns on human rights and civil liberties because it relies greatly on Western aid.
Jordan amended its penal code in 2006 in response to concerns expressed by the U.N. Human Rights Council over the number of offences punishable by death.
"With these executions, Jordan loses its standing as a rare progressive voice on the death penalty in the region,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. “Reviving this inherently cruel form of punishment is another way Jordan is backsliding on human rights.”
Most of those executed in Jordan in recent decades have been common criminals, while al Qaeda-inspired Islamist detainees handed death sentences in terrorism-related security trials usually saw their convictions commuted to life imprisonment.

Monday, December 8, 2014

TV host colludes with Egyptian police in raid on visitors of bathhouse presumed to be gay

 Arrested men from the Bab el-Bahr hammam being herded into a Central Security truck, December 7, 2014. The woman with a camera to the R may be Mona Iraqi.
Almost naked men got arrested. The woman filming with her phone at the right is Mona Iraqi.

The Egyptian police carried out a massive raid on a hammam (bathhouse) in the Ramsis area of Cairo on Sunday night, not far from the main railway station, and arrested dozens of men. They were almost naked driven to the trucks. Someone living nearby who watched the assault wrote on social media that “police together with Central Security forces attacked the bath.” (Central Security, Amn el-Merkezi, is an army force mainly composed of raw recruits. it takes over many policing duties in an increasingly militarized Egypt.) “Some 40 people were arrested. Some were beaten up in the baths, and they were all arrested with no clothes.” He said “a female journalist and a cameraman” arrived “before they attacked the baths. She tried to enter and film inside, and she was kicked out by the owner. Immediately this was reported [to the police], and the baths were attacked. People say there were informers from the police inside the baths before that.”

Israeli airstrikes near Damascus, Israeli cooperation with Syrian rebels near Quneitra

 View image on Twitter
The Syrian government accused Israel of launching a series of airstrikes on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday, as a UN report documented strong ties between Israel and militant groups fighting in Syria.
"This afternoon, the Israeli enemy targeted two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the al-Dimas area and the outskirts of Damascus International Airport.''  the general command of the Syrian army said in a statement. It said the strikes caused material damage.
Both civilian and military aircraft operate at the airport, which lies southeast of Damascus near flashpoint areas including eastern Ghouta, large parts of which are in rebel hands.
A resident in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, close to al-Dimas, said the agricultural airport in al-Dimas was hit. Al-Dimas is in a mountainous area to the northwest of the capital which is under government control and close to several military installations.
An Israeli army spokesman said he would not comment on the "foreign reports,” but the Syrian army reiterated its claim that Israel is helping rebels fighting the Syrian government."This direct aggression by Israel was carried out to help the terrorists in Syria, after our armed forces secured important victories in Deir Ezzor, Aleppo and elsewhere," the Syrian army command said.

Thirteen killed in failed US rescue attempt in Yemen

Luke Somers in een filmpje dat AQAP vorige weekuitbracht

A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when U.S.-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday.
U.S. special forces raided the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen, shortly after midnight on Saturday, killing several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
American journalist Luke Somers, 33, and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, 56, were shot and killed by their captors during the raid intended to free them, U.S. officials said.  As special forces battled al Qaeda militants in the house, kidnappers in another building nearby shot the two hostages, a local man who identified himself as Jamal said.NBC reported that a dog may have alerted the kidnappers that the operation  by the Navy Seals was under way.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Iranian official confirms airstrikes on IS in Iraq

A senior Iranian official has confirmed his country carried out air strikes in neighboring Iraq against Islamic State fighters at the request of Iraqi authorities, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.
It quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour as saying the strikes were not coordinated with the United States, which is also waging an air campaign against the radical Sunni Muslim militants who control large parts of north and west Iraq
The purpose of the strikes was "the defense of the interests of our friends in Iraq", the newspaper quoted Rahimpour as saying in an interview in London.
"We did not have any coordination with the Americans. We have coordinated only with the Iraqi government," he said. "In general, every military operation to help the Iraqi government is according to their requests."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Radwa Ashour 1946-2014

Radwa Ashour with her husband, Mourid el-Barghouti. Barghouti and Ashour met as students at Cairo University in the 1960s, and he writes about the beginnings of their relationship in his second memoir, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, trans. Humphrey Davies.

Egyptian writer and academic Radwa Ashour died late on Sunday at the age of 68 after suffering from health troubles over the past few months. Ashour, born 26 May 1946 in Cairo, studied English literature at Cairo University and earned her MA in comparative literature in 1972.  She is best known for her Granada Trilogy, Ashour was married to the Palestinian poet Mourid El-Barghouti and is the mother of the poet Tamim El-Barghouti. In 1977, El-Barghouti was deported from Egypt; she and her son spent a great deal of their lives visiting him in Hungary.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Two people killed in protest after Egyptian court dropped all cases against Mubarak

Two people died and nine were injured on Saturday night when security forces dispersed hundreds of demonstrators near Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the health minstry said.
Around three thousand protesters had gathered after a court dropped all charges against ousted president Hosni Mubarak in connection with the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising.
At 8:30pm, security forces fired water cannons at protesters then teargas and birdshot, according to an Ahram Online reporter at the scene.
Tanks also rushed the protesters who were gathered in Abdel-Moneim Riad square near Tahrir.
The Director of Security for Cairo governorate told Aswat Masriya that police arrested 85 protesters.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Egyptian court drops case against Mubarak and his minister of the Interior for killing protesters in 2011

Embedded image permalink
Fareed al-Deeb, Mubarak's lawyer, is happy. (through Twitter)

I don't know if there were still people who needed proof of the wicked character of the new Egyptian regime of ex-field marshall El-Sisi, or of the corrupt state of the Egyptian judiciary. But here is today's news about the trial of ex-president Mubarak and his minister of the Interior al-Adly and some aides, in the case about who was responsible for the death of protesters during the revolt of 2011:

An Egyptian court on Saturday dropped its case against ousted President Hosni Mubarak, his interior minister and six aides on charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt that removed him from power. The court also acquitted on Saturday Mubarak's Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and four of his aides on charges of inciting and aiding the killing of 238 protesters during the 18-day January 2011 uprising which toppled his regime. The acquitted aides are; Ahmed Ramzy, Adly Fayed, Hassan Abdel Rahman and Ismail al-Shaer.
The five defendants, alongside other aides Osama al-Marasi and Omar Afifi, were also acquitted of the charge of harming their work-place.
The court has also acquitted Mubarak and Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem of the graft charges related to the exportation of gas to Israel. Salem is being tried in absentia.
Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal were accused of exploiting their influence in Salem's favour after the latter granted them five villas in the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The judge heading the trial, Mahmoud al-Rashidi said that the statute of limitations in this case has expired, and therefore the court lacks jurisdiction to rule on it.
The court also cleared Mubarak and a former oil minister of graft charges related to gas exports to Israel. In a separate corruption case, charges were dropped against Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal, with Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi saying too much time had elapsed since the alleged crime took place for the court to rule on the matter.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Amnesty condems demolitions in Rafah by Egypt

 More than 800 houses were demolished in Rafah (Photos MEE).

Amnesty International condemned Thursday Egypt's demolition of hundreds of homes and called for a halt to its "unlawful evictions" of residents to create a buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.
Egypt started work on the zone at the end of October with the aim of stemming jihadists reportedly infiltrating Egypt's Sinai peninsula from across the border.
Jihadists have stepped up deadly attacks against Egyptian troops inside the Sinai since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Essebsi wins first round in Tunisian elections

Tunisian secularist leader Beji Caid Essebsi has narrowly beaten incumbent President Moncef Marzouki in the first round of a landmark presidential election, but the two frontrunners must meet again in a December run-off. Essebsi, from the secular Nidaa Tounes party, got 39.46 percent in Sunday's vote, short of the needed overall majority but ahead of Marzouki, who got 33.4 percent, according to early results released on Thursday by election authorities.

Marzouki, a rights activist, says the revival of officials from Ben Ali's one-party rule would erode the revolution that ended his regime. But Marzouki's critics tie him to the crisis over Ennahda's Islamist-led government he joined after 2011.
Both candidates will now seek support from the range of Islamist, liberal and left-wing parties who fielded candidates. Key will be who wins votes from supporters of Ennahda and the left-leaning Popular Front, both well-organized movements.The hunt for votes for the second round - expected on Dec. 14, 21 or 28 depending on challenges to first-round results - will be determined by parties positioning themselves for the new government.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tunisia votes in presidential election

Beji Caid Essebsi

Polls opened Sunday in Tunisia's first presidential election since the 2011 revolution that ousted former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a ballot set to round off the transition to democracy. Twenty seven candidates are vying for the post and the favorite is former premier Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old veteran whose anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party won the parliamentary elections last month.
Other candidates include outgoing President Moncef Marzouki, left-winger Hamma Hammami, several ministers who served Ben Ali, business magnate Slim Riahi and a lone woman, magistrate Kalthoum Kannou.
Some 5.3 million people are eligible to vote, with tens of thousands of police and troops deployed to guarantee security amid fears Islamist militants might seek to disrupt polling day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bahrain to the urns in election boycotted by the opposition

Bahraini protestors hold signs calling for a boycott of the parliamentary elections, during a rally in the Shiite village of Diraz, west of Manama on November 21, 2014
Protesters against the elections in the Shi'ite village of Diraz, west of Manama (Photo AFP)

Bahrainis voted on Saturday in the first parliamentary elections since 2011 when large crowds, most Shi'ites,  took to the streets demanding more democracy. Some 419 candidates are running, 266 for parliament and 153 for municipal councils in the kingdom. But the elections were boycotted by the Shi'ite Muslim opposition over accusations that constituency changes would still favor the Sunni Muslim minority which is represented by the royal family of Al-Khalifa.
The opposition maintains that the new parliament will not have enough power and that voting districts still favor Sunnis despite some recent electoral changes. The opposition wants a "real" constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister independent from the Al-Khalifa family. But the Saudi-backed Sunni dynasty that rules over the majority Shiite kingdom has rejected the demand.

70th beheading of this year in S-Arabia

Saudi Arabia beheaded on Thursday a Turkish man convicted of drug trafficking in Riyadh, the interior ministry said, in the latest execution in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom.
Ali Agridas was convicted of receiving a "large amount of drugs," the ministry said in a statement.
His execution brings to 70 the number of Saudis and foreigners beheaded in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP count, compared with 78 people in all of 2013.
Rape, murder, apostasy, drug trafficking and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.
Moreover, Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences down to five pro-democracy advocates, including prominent activist and cleric Nimr al-Nimr, for their part in protests.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eight Egyptians missing, five wounded after attack on navy vessel

Eight Egyptian navy personnel are missing following an attack by militants on an armed forces boat in the Mediterranean, the army has said. Five injured navy personnel have been transferred to hospital, while searches are ongoing to locate another eight, a military spokesman said late on Wednesday.
Military forces destroyed four boats used by the assailants and arrested 32 suspects, he added.
A military naval boat was performing a combat exercise in the Mediterranean, 40 nautical miles north of Damietta port, when a number of boats fired at it on Wednesday.
This is the first attack on naval forces.
No information has been released on the identity of the assailants.
The army has been combating a decade-long jihadist insurgency in Sinai, with attacks increasing over the past year and expanding into Cairo and the Nile Delta. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed, while the army says it has killed and arrested hundreds of jihadists. Civilians have also been caught in the violence.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Yemen gets new cabinet, president ousted from his party

The new prime minister Khaled Bahah

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted as leader of his own political party, the group said on Saturday, according tot Reuters. The General People's Congress (GPC) accused Hadi of backing U.N. sanctions against its influential former chief, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 33 years before resigning in 2012 following mass street protests.
Hadi's dismissal as party chief came the day after he moved to end Yemen's latest political crisis by naming a new power-sharing government in the country. It is a 36-member government, which was formed  under a peace deal agreed when Shiite Huthi rebels, who seized the capital on September 21.

The new government includes four women, one of whom takes the information and culture portfolio. Four members of the outgoing cabinet were reappointed and three more changed portfolios.
On November 1, the main political parties signed a new agreement, sponsored by UN envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, for the formation of a government of technocrats. Under the accord, representatives of the rebels and their rivals, the Sunni Al-Islah (Reform) Islamic party, mandated President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to form a government and committed to support it.
On October 31, the Houthis -- also known as Ansarullah -- increased pressure on Hadi by giving him 10 days to form a new government or face the creation of a "national salvation council". With the exception of the October 13 appointment of Khalid Bahah as premier, the September 21 deal with the rebels had remained a dead letter. Under the accord, the Houthis were to withdraw from Sanaa and disarm once a neutral prime minister is named.
The ousting of president Hadi from his own party was preceded on Friday by a protest march of thousands of supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Shiite rebels against the threat of UN sanctions against Saleh and insurgent chiefs. Saleh, who stepped down in early 2012 after a year of Arab Spring-inspired protests, is seen as the main backer of the rebels. His General People's Congress (GPC) party called for the protests, warning that any sanctions would exacerbate the crisis in Yemen.
The UN Security Council was set to endorse a US-drafted proposal to slap a visa ban and assets freeze on Saleh and two of his allies, Shiite Houthi rebel commanders Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim.The ousting of Hadi robs him of an important power base and makes the situation in Yemen even more volatile.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gunmen kill well-known Yemeni politician

Unknown gunmen assassinated a senior Yemeni politician, rights activist and author, Dr. Mohammed Abdulmalik Al-Mutawakil, on Sunday in downtown Sanaa. The authorities said two gunmen carried out the shooting, using a motorbike in Al-Adl Street.
The incident happened as the Houthi Militant Group are continuing its control of the capital and other provinces. Al-Mutawakil was a supporter of the Houthis but against violence and attempts to incite chaos by force. Al-Mutawakil held several posts within Yemeni governments, including minister of supplies in 1976. He furthermore worked as a college professor, was a founder of the Nasserite Party and established and participated in several human rights, democratic and freedom organizations.
Yemen has been facing a series of targeted killings mostly against military and security commanders, politicians and activists since 2011. Most incident have been carried out by motorbike attackers most of whom are still at large.

Israel adopts new law that prohibits exchange of prisoners convicted of murder

Israel's parliament has passed a law that could block the release in any future peace negotiations of Palestinian prisoners convicted of murder, a spokesman said Tuesday. The 120-member Knesset voted late Monday 35 to 15 in favour of the bill, which was initiated by a far-right politician and approved by the cabinet in June, a parliament spokesman told AFP.
The law gives judges the power to convict murderers under a new category of "extraordinarily severe circumstances" which would prevent the government from releasing them in any future deals.
Israel freed 78 Palestinian prisoners during failed US-backed peace talks between July 2013 and April, including many who had been convicted for murdering Israeli civilians. In 2011 it released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who had been held for five years by the Palestinian  group Hamas.
The releases angered hardliners such as Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party who initiated the new law earlier this year. But left-leaning politicians have said the law would tie Israel's hands in future talks, with Zehava Gal-On of the Meretz party accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "capitulating to the extreme right and supporting a demagogic law."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Cairo court: three years for eight men who took part in ''gay-wedding''

Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court on Saturday sentenced eight men to three years in prison on charges of "debauchery", and to three years probation after their release.The men convicted were shown appearing to take part in a Nile boat wedding celebration featuring two men as the celebrants. The video went viral on social media sites.
A man who said he was one of those who appeared in the video denied the allegations in an interview with privately-owned Rotana Masriya television channel in early September. He said he was holding a birthday party for his friend and got him a silver ring as a birthday gift. Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat watched the video and confirmed that the footage was of two men getting married, a statement from the prosecution said. The defendants have been detained since early September as per an order from Egypt's prosecutor-general to investigate charges of debauchery and spreading acts that violate public decency.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Egypt's El-Sisi cracks down on university students
Riot police in actionm at the Azhar university in Cairo (March 2014)

A good story by Reuters press agency: 
Hundreds of police surround its walls, patrolling in armoured vehicles with sirens blaring, while muscle-bound security guards man metal detectors, searching all who enter.
But this is not a military barracks or police station, it is Cairo University, where the government has tightened security as it seeks to avert another year of unrest on university campuses, among the last bastions of protest and dissent in Egypt.
The government has cracked down on critics since July 2013, when then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was banned, thousands of its supporters were locked up and hundreds were killed when police broke up two protest camps last year. The net has since widened to include secular activists who played a leading role in the 2011 uprising that toppled long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak and ignited hopes for deeper change.
As the noose tightened around activists and the government banned unlicensed demonstrations, Egypt's state universities emerged as one of the few remaining spaces to express dissent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Egypt creating buffer zone along border with Gaza

October 26, 2014
Egyptian border seen from Rafah.

Egyptian authorities are set to create a buffer zone along the shared border with Gaza following an attack that killed 30 soldiers on Saturday. Egyptian military sources told Ma'an that all houses and farmland 500 meters deep along the 13-kilometer (eight-mile) border will be evacuated, with the exception of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.
AP reported that the buffer zone, which will include water-filled trenches to thwart tunnel diggers, will be 500 meters wide and extended along the 13 kilometer border. Army officers spoke to the affected residents in person and initially gave them a 48-hour ultimatum to l eave, but put that on hold after they protested, officials said. Residents groups are now negotiating with local officials to see if they can extend the deadline.
Ma'an says that the decision was taken by the Egyptian Defense Council and all work will likely be completed by the end of 2014.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Egyptian judge orders te re-arrest Alaa Abdel Fattah and 19 others

The Cairo Criminal Court has ordered the detention of 20 defendants in the Shura Council case, including activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, until the next trial date of November 11. Monday’s court session was the first since the judge presiding over the case stepped down in September and released Abd El-Fattah and two other defendants from prison on bail.
The defendants face charges of organizing an unauthorized protest last November outside the Shura Council. They are also accsued of having attacked a police officer, stolen a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, having blocked the road adn crowded in a public place plus the destruction of public property.
My release is a ‘conspiracy’: Alaa Abdel Fattah (AFP File Photo) Last June, the 25 defendants were sentenced to 15 years jail in absentia and a LE100,000 fine. However,Abd El Fattah, Mohamed Noubi and Wael Metwally were arrested outside the Police Academy at Tora prison on the morning of the trial.Twenty-one defendants demanded a retrial, two were sentenced in absentia and the remaining two did not file for a retrial. With the exception of Metwally, all of the defendants were present during Monday’s court session along with their lawyers and family members.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Three years for 23 Egyptian activistst who demonstrated against anti-democratic anti-protest law

The 23 convicted protestres . Sana Seif and Yara Allam are the second and third fro the left on the top row. (Ahram Online)

An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced 23 pro-democracy activists to three years in jail for organising illegal protests, the latest in several verdicts against political activists in recent months. They included activist Sana Seif, sister of prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, rights activist and lawyer Yara Sallam, photojournalist Abdel-Rahman Mohamed of Al-Badil news website and photographer Rania El-Sheikh.
The 23 have also been fined LE10,000 (approximately $1,390) and will be placed under police surveillance for three years after having served their jail time.
The 23 were arrested on 21 June during a demonstration calling for the appeal of the protest law which bans demonstrations without police authorisation and punishes violators with imprisonment.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Egyptian president El-Sisi ''foreign hands behind attacks in the Sinai''

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi amidst generals of the SCAF during his tv-speech (Photo AP) 

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said in comments aired on state TV on Saturday that "foreign hands lie behind Friday's attacks" on army soldiers in Sinai that killed 31 troops and injured 30. Surrounded by top military generals, El-Sisi's comments came immediately following an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Saturday morning.
At meeting the SCAF tasked a group of its senior leaders with studying the circumstances of the attacks. The president also on Friday evening declared a three-months state of emergency in parts of North Sinai.
Addressing his remarks to the nation, El-Sisi said that it is important that the Egyptian people know that foreign forces ''aim to defeat the will of the military and of all Egyptians''.
 In a sublime example of old fashioned typical Egyptian paranoia the president said that:  "We must know that this terrorist attack was supported by foreign hands to defeat the military that has been protecting the Egyptian people and their will." and that he "even before 3 July 2013" knew that all these attacks would take place. (The date he mentioned was the date on which he committed a coup against president Mohamed Morsi opf the Muslim Brotherhood, which - by his words - in retrospect all of a sudden appeared to have been more justified  than ever before. It seems it was really about saving Egypt from disappearing from the map altogether).
"We had a choice - either the people or the army had to confront terror. We chose that the army carry out the mission," El-Sisi said, adding that this was about an "existential war"., in which, as he said the ''real danger'' was that ''foreign hands wanted to intervene between the armed forces and the (ordinary) Egyptians''. The Egyptians, he said, ''must realise how broad the conspiracy against us is."
Personally I would like to add the comment that it is unfortunate that El-Sisi failed to name of the perpetrators of the conspiracy. But maybe he will make up for that the next time a bomb explodes in the Sinai.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

At least 31 Egyptian soldiers killed in attacks in Sinai
Egyptian checkpoint in the North Sinai.

Updated. At least 31 Egyptian soldiers have been killed on Friday in two attacks in the Sinai. Twenty-eight were killed and another 30 injured when a car bomb exploded at the Karm Alkwadis security checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid. An just hours later three security personal died when militants opened fire at a checkpoint in nearby Al-Arish.
The death toll in Sheikh Zuweid was the largest number of soldiers to die in a single attack in the region.
The injured were transferred to the military and general hospitals in Al-Arish, the biggest city in North Sinai. Medical teams were sent to Al-Arish military hospital, said Health Minister Adel El-Adawi. Al-Arish general hospital called on local residents to donate blood.

Tunisian army kills 6 belonging to Islamist group, among them 5 women

Tunisian military standing outside the house in Oued Ellil where the clash took place.  (Photo Fadel Senna/AFP)

Tunisian security forces on Friday killed six people, including five women, after a standoff with an Islamist militant group on the outskirts of Tunis two days before a parliamentary election, authorities said.
The raid on the house in Oued Ellil, west of Tunis, was the latest operation in Tunisia's crackdown on Islamist militants authorities say threaten the country's transition to democracy following the 2011 fall of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
A number of militants including women had been holed up in a house since Thursday after clashes in which one police officer was killed when troops surrounded the building, according to security officials.
Authorities said one man and five women were killed when troops stormed the house on Friday. Officials said two children were also rescued from the house.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leading Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz banned from travel

mahfouzAsmaa Mahfouz, a prominent activist, member of the 6 April Movement and one of the leaders of the Egyptian 25 January Revolution of 2011,  was prevented from leaving the country on Tuesday, Ahram OnLine reports. Mahfouz was boarding a flight to Bangkok when security officials at Cairo Airport told her she was on a travel ban compiled by the prosecutor-general.
No reasons have been given by the authorities and Mahfouz has not commented on the matter. Last year she was deported from Kuwait, where her husband works as a doctor, for unspecified reasons.  Since her return to Cairo, she has kept a low profile compared to other activists, despite being attacked in the media by those oppose the January 25 revolution. Mahfouz was among the recipients of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded for contributions to the so-called Arab spring.

Two more death sentences against protesters in Saudi district of Qatif

 Saudi protesters rally in Qatif during a demonstration against the detention of Shia cleric Sheikh Nemr al-Nemr. (File photo)
Demonstration in Qatif after the arrest of Sheikh Nimr in July 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced two more people to death in connection with pro-democracy protests that began three years ago in the Qatif district of eastern Saudi Arabia, the official Saudi Press Agency SPA reported on Tuesday. A third person was jailed for 12 years. Last week the court issued a death sentence against the prominent cleric and pro-rights advocate Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a driving force behind the peaceful demonstrations in Qatif.

SPA did not name the accused, who were tried on charges including "participating in protests and marches that caused riots" in the Eastern Province community of Awamiya. They were also accused of "chanting slogans hostile to the state,” the “intent to overthrow the regime," “attacking” security forces, and stealing medical supplies from a pharmacy to treat people injured during protests. The sentences were issued by the Specialized Criminal Court, that Human Rights Watch deemed as “flawed” and repeatedly urged Saudi authorities to abolish.
The Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of the dictatorship’s oil reserves lie and where the majority of the population is Shi'ite,  was one of the regions that had joined the “Arab Spring” in 2011, to demand its political rights, and end the injustice and discrimination its people suffer at the hands of the sectarian and oppressive Saudi regime. The protests started when activist in the province demanded the release of nine prisoners, known as “the forgotten prisoners,” who had been at the time detained for 16 years.
The Saudi regime responded forcefully to the peaceful protests, killing more than 20 people and wounding at least 58 others between 2011 and August 2012. The number of people detained in Saudi prisons exceeded 1042, of whom 280 remain in prison, including 24 children and 5 who were sentenced to death for “using violence against the police.”

Tension rose further in July 2012 when security forces arrested the Nimr, who was shot and wounded.

Earlier this year two other men involved in the protests were sentenced to death, including Ali al-Nimr, the son of Mohammed al-Nimr, who was a minor at the time of the demonstrations.
Several others have received multi-year jail sentences. The Saudi government denies charges of discrimination but according to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, Shia citizens in Saudi Arabia "face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Israel is going to supply Egypt with natural gas.

The pipeline that used to supply Egyptian gas to Israel and Jordan has been sabotaged at least 20 times. (Photo EPA)

An Israeli firm will supply Egypt with natural gas, more than two years after sabotage halted the flow of Egyptian gas to Israel. On Sunday the Israeli owners of the Tamar offshore gas field informed the Tel Aviv stock exchange they had struck a deal to export natural gas to the Egyptian firm Dolphinus Holdings.
A statement said Tamar was in "exclusive negotiations" with Dolphinus Holdings to provide it with up to 2.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) over a seven-year span.Experts estimate the deal to be worth over $4 billion (3.13 billion euros).
Dolphinus Holdings "represents a consortium of large non-governmental industrial and commercial Egyptian gas customers," according to Tamar. Tamar holds 250 bcm of natural gas, and lies 80 kilometers west of the port city of Haifa.

Egypt received Sudan's Al-Bashir, a wanted criminal

Posted Image
Al- Bashir
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Egypt on Saturday for a two-day visit at the invitation from President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Al Ahram Online reported. Bilateral relations, investment opportunities, agreements and regional affairs were part of the talks between the two leaders. Sisi visited Khartoum in June and the meeting was a continuation of what was then discussed. The visit follows a meeting between the Egyptian, Sudanese and Ethiopian irrigation and water ministers where they discussed the latter’s construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which has been a subject of controversy between the three African Union members.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court. The ICC issued arrest warrants against him in 2009 and 2010 for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. On 15 October the ICC officially requested Egypt to arrest Al-Bashir should he enter Egyptian territory. Egypt is a signatory to the Statute of Rome whereby the ICC was established. However it never ratified the treaty.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Houthis continue advance in South Yemen and clash with Al-Qaeda

Shi'ite Houthi rebels ride a patrol truck in Sanaa in this October 9, 2014 file photo. REUTERS-Khaled Abdullah-Files
Houthi fighters (Photo Reuters)

Fierce battles between Al-Qaeda and Houthi militants erupted in Yemen's Baidha province on Thursday,  the Yemen Post reported. Local sources said that it was the second day of fighting since Houthi militants arrived in the town of Radda. The Houthis closed several roads leading to Radda in what appeared to be a plan to besiege the town and then raid it from all directions, one of the sources said.
Houthis arrived in Baidha as they continued to seize cities in other parts of the republic including the cultural capital of Taiz on Wednesday. Sources in Taiz said commander of the provincial Air Force Base Faisal Al-Subaihi has rendered his resignation after Houthis took control of Taiz Airport and some military camps.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yemen: Houthis seize port of Hodeida, southern rebels raise demands

Hodeida port

Houthi militants have seized the western port city of Hodeida where Yemen's key seaport and oil export terminal are based in a move that has raised fears about the fate of the transition process. Locals in Hodeida said on Tuesday Houthis have now seized almost all public facilities including the Hodeida port and the Ras Isa terminal for oil exports. There are also reports that the Houthis are seeking to control the Bab El-Mandab Strait between the Taiz and Hodeida governorates. "Houthi militants have spread in all areas and more of them are expected to arrive in the city in next days to form popular committees that will replace the provincial authorities," a citizen in Hodeida said by telephone.
Houthi militants seized on Monday a military base in the Bajil town, Hodeida, and have been looting ammunitions and weapons which were stored in it, according to military sources. "Today, Houthis continued to loot the base, taking around five trucks and ten pick-ups with many weapons and ammunitions onboard," a provincial military source said.

Death sentence for one of the leaders of the Shi´ite minority in Saudi Arabia

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr  (Photo Al-Akhbar)
A Saudi judge on Wednesday sentenced to death an outspoken Shi'ite Muslim cleric whose arrest two years ago prompted deadly protests, the cleric's brother said on his Twitter account. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was detained in July 2012 after backing mass protests that erupted in February 2011 in the Qatif district of eastern Saudi Arabia, which is home to many of the country's Shi'ite minority.
During these peaceful protests in Qatif and Awaymeh the Saudi regime between February 2011 and August 2012 killed more than 20 people, and wounded more than 58 people.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Turkey bombs positions of PKK

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 14, 2014. REUTERS-Umit Bektas
Smoke from bombardments rises above the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani. (Photo: Reuters) 

Turkish air force bombed Kurdish fighters of the PKK who were furious over Ankara's refusal to help protect their kin in Syria on Tuesday, Reuters reprioted. The PKK accused Ankara of violating a two-year-old cease-fire with the air strikes, on the eve of a deadline set by the group's jailed leader to salvage a peace process aimed at halting a three-decades-long insurgency.
The Hürriyet daily reported Tuesday that the PKK had been attacking a military outpost in the Dağlıca region. The air operation was the most comprehensive one since the government launched what it calls the settlement process aimed at solving the decades-old Kurdish issue, the daily said. It added that the air strikes caused "major damage" to the PKK.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Suicide bomber kills at least 43 Houthi supporters in Yemeni capital Sanaa

 Man carry a man injured in a suicide bomb attack in Yemen's capital, Sanaa (9 October 2014)
A powerful bomb in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Thursday killed at least 43 people in an attack on supporters of Shiite Houthi insurgents who have overrun the city. Witnesses said a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt at a checkpoint at the entrance to the protest site, leaving steel balls strewn at the scene. Medics said dozens were also wounded in the blast. It was the largest bomb attack in the capital since a May 2012 Qaeda attack on an army parade killed around 100 people.
The explosion struck Sanaa's Al-Tahrir square as supporters of the Houthis were preparing to stage a protest, rebel sources said.  Supporters of the Houthis gathered after the explosion chanting slogans demanding the fall of President Abed Rabuh Mansur Hadi. The president infuriated the rebels earlier this week by naming his chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, as prime minister following a UN-brokered peace deal under which the insurgents would withdraw from Sanaa.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ansar Bayt a-Maqdis kill 4 Egyptians in Sinai

Still from video of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

The Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis released Sunday a video showing the confessions of three Egyptians it claims to have executed in North Sinai for "cooperating with the Egyptian Army and the Israeli Mossad".The video, uploaded on Youtube and a jihadist forum, also shows a fourth person who was shot and his house destroyed.
Islamic State (IS) spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani is featured in the video, where he speaks about jihad and fighting the "infidels". Also the Egyptian army was accused of "besieging Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and joining the Jews in their war against Jihadists" in a speech attribued to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis leading member Abu Osama al-Masry.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A good Yom al-Adha or Eid Kippur

I wish my Muslim and Jewish friends a good Yom al-Adha and Eid Kippur.
It does not happen often that muslims bring in goats as remembrance of the sacrifice of Ibrahim on the same day that Jews fast and in the synagogue listen to the story of the scapegoat that was sent into the desert.
Eid said weKhatima tova.
(The picture was taken in 2008 in Rafah (Gaza) by Reuters).

Egyptian ''hanging'' judge judge who issued more than 1.200 death sentences removed from criminal court

The Egyptian judge who oversaw mass death sentence cases against Islamist supporters of the country's ousted president, drawing strong international criticism, has been removed from his criminal court, officials and the judge himself told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Judge Said Youssef Sabri
The removal of Judge Said Youssef, taken by a top appeals court, signals a possible shift in Egypt after an extensive crackdown on backers of toppled President Mohammed Morsi and an attempt by judges to begin to repair the damage done by judge's heavy handed rulings.
Youssef, who led the two high-profile death penalty cases in southern city of Minya, told the AP he was notified Sunday that he was removed from the "criminal judiciary" to the "civilian judiciary." His final day in criminal court was Tuesday.

Amnesty: More than 2.500 refugees drowned this year in the Mediterranean

 A rubber dinghy full of refugees
“More than 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean on their way from North Africa since the start of the year. Europe cannot ignore the tragedy unfolding on its doorstep. Amnesty International says in a new report. ''More search and rescue vessels in the central Mediterranean, with the clear mandate of saving lives in the high seas and resources adequate to the task – that’s what the EU and its members must urgently provide.”
The report Lives adrift: Refugees and migrants in peril in the central Mediterranean, details the findings of recent visits to Italy and Malta, including a research trip on an Italian Navy vessel. Interviews with survivors of shipwrecks, experts and authorities expose the reality of the dangers faced by those fleeing war, persecution and poverty, and the pitiful response of most European states.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

UN-report: ''IS committed staggering violations in Iraq''

Islamic State flags flutter on the Mullah Abdullah bridge in southern Kirkuk September 29, 2014. REUTERS/Ako RasheedIslamic State road bloc on the Mullah Abdullah bridge in Kirkuk. (Photo Reuters)

Islamic State insurgents in Iraq have carried out mass executions, abducted women and girls as sex slaves, and used children as fighters in systematic violations that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In a report based on 500 interviews, it also said Iraqi government air strikes on the Sunni Muslim militants had caused "significant civilian deaths" by hitting villages, a school and hospitals in violation of international law.
At least 9,347 civilians had been killed and 17,386 wounded so far through September, well over half of them since the Islamic insurgents also known as ISIL and ISIS began seizing large parts of northern Iraq in early June, the report said.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mubarak verdict postponed

The Cairo Criminal Court postponed the verdict in the Mubarak trial, originally scheduled for today, to November 29, giving the court more time to finish the paperwork necessary for the ruling.
In an anticlimactic court session, Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidy said he based his decision on Article 172 of the procedure law, saying the court is done with writing 60 to 70 percent of its reasoning behind the verdict and needs more time to conclude it.  
Mubarak, his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six former Interior Ministry officials are being retried on charges of orchestrating the deaths of at least 846 unarmed demonstrators during the January 25, 2011 protests that led to the Mubarak administration’s downfall.
Mubarak, his sons Galal and Alaa, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem also face accusations of abuse of power and financial corruption in the same case.
The judge also ordered the continued detention of Adly.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Algerian islamist group executes French hostage

Execution: ISIS-linked militants in Algeria have beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel after he was captured at the weekend. The group earlier made threats to kill Mr Gourdel if France did not stop bombing targets in IraqThe Algerian group Jund al-Khilafa (soldiers of the caliph, a group ) have followed up on their threat and on Wednesday decapitated their French hostage Hervé Gourdel (55). A video of the execution was posted on the internet. Gourdel, a mountain guide and father of two was on a holiday in Algeria. He was captured on Sunday by the group which is aligned with the Islamic State, while hitchhiking near the Djurdura mountain in the province of Tizi Ouzou (Kabylia). 
Jund al-Khilafa, which is led by Abdelmalek Gouri, alias Khaled Abou Souleimane, earlier gave France a 24 hour ultimatum to halt its aerial bombardments of the Islamic State.

IS executes human rights activist in Mosul

Samira Saleh al-Naimi
Samira al-Naimi
The Islamic State (IS) captured and executed lawyer and human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi in the city of Mosul, Iraq, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported. The centre received reports that on the evening of 22 September 2014, a group of masked armed men who belong to IS opened fire and killed her in a public square in the very heart of Mosul. She was kidnapped by IS from her home last week after she described as “barbaric” the widespread damage that IS inflicted on ancient features of her city.
Samira Saleh Al-Naimi was a prominent lawyer and human rights defender and famous for her activities that include defending detainees and supporting the disadvantaged families in the city.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shana tova

I wish my Jewish readers a good, sweet and hopefully somewhat more peaceful 5775,
שנה טובה
(Tashlich is a ritual that is performed between Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), nearby open water. Jewish believers rid themselves thereby symbolically from sins of the past year which are thrown into the water as it were. My choice for the tashlich-theme was, of course,  inspired by the events of the past year in Gaza). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

US and allies kill tens of IS and Nusra militants in bombing raids in Syria

The United States and its Arab allies early Tuesday launched bombing raids against Islamic State militants in Syria, opening up a new front in the battle against the jihadist group after more than a month of US air strikes in Iraq. Military officials have said the US would target militants’ command and control centres, re-supply facilities, training camps and other key logistical sites.
The strikes were aimed at the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa as well as near the Iraq border, with targets including weapons supplies and buildings used by the group, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, tens of ISIL fighters were killed or wounded in the strikes on Raqqa and surrounding areas.  "More than 20 members of ISIL were killed in strikes on two of the organisation's positions in Raqqa province. The strikes completely destroyed the two positions as well as vehicles stationed there," the monitoring group said.
Airstrikes were also carried out against positions of al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, the observatory said, adding that multiple attacks targeted an area in western Aleppo province, killing at least seven people, both fighters and civilians.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two killed in explosion outside Egyptian Foreign ministry

A bomb exploded near the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in downtown Cairo on Sunday morning, killing two ieutenant colonels of rthe police and injuring five police personnel and one civilian, Egyptian state television reported.
The explosion, in the Boulaq Abu El-Ela district, was reportedly caused by an improvised explosive device placed beneath a tree outside Gate 3 of the ministry, which is located near the Maspero state television building. Boulaq Abu El-Ela is a working-class district located between two of Cairo's main downtown squares – Tahrir and Ramsis.
Explosions have repeatedly targeted police sites and personnel over the past year, following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. In June, ahead of the 30 June protests anniversary, three explosions struck near the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Heliopolis area of Cairo, killing two policemen. Four explosions struck in Greater Cairo – most notably at the Cairo Security Directorate – killing six people, on the eve of the 2011 uprising anniversary.

Houthis and Yemeni government sign agreement after four days of fighting in Sanaa.

Smoke rises from residential buildings near the army's First Armoured Division which came under attack from Shi'ite Houthi militants, in Sanaa September 20, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
Residential buildings near the barracks of the First Armored Division in Sanaa are burning after attacks by the Houthis. (Photo Reuters).

A UN-brokered peace deal between Houthi rebels and Yemen's government has been signed while the Houthis have taken control of government buildings and a state radio and TV station in the capital, Sanaa.
Sunday's deal called for the current government to rule in a caretaker role until a new government is formed next month.
The most important point is the cessation of hostilities which flared up in the capital four days ago, but the deal is "still short on details". Yemen's president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi urged all sides in the crisis to abide by the deal. The agreement was aimed at getting the Houthis to leave the capital.. However, the annex, which was not signed by the Houthis, stipulated that they were to withdraw from Sanaa, Jawf and Amran within 45 days. Reports were coming in that clashes were still ongoing in other parts of the country, including Marib, east of the capital.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kurds flee in the thousands to Turkey after ISIS captured area around

Thousands of Kurds massed on the Turkish border after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured around 20 villages in northern Syria’s Kobane region. AA Photo
Fleeing Kurds at the Turkish border.  (Photo AA).

 Turkish authorities opened the border with Syria on Sept. 19, allowing hundreds of Kurds fleeing from brutal attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to cross into Turkey.
“We will take in our brothers fleeing to Anatolia from Syria or any other place, without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during a visit to Azerbaijan after the government was forced to act by refugees streaming to the border and locals in Turkey converging on the area, demanding that their ethnic kin be permitted to cross.
He said he personally ordered the borders opened for the refugees who had gathered along the wire fences separating the two countries since Sept. 16, amid escalating clashes. “The entries have started now,” Davutoğlu said at the press conference.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Houthis push into Yemeni capital after clashing at suburbs

Supporters of the Shia Houthi movement erect a tent blocking the airport road in Sanaa, 7 September
One of many protest tents that the Houthis erected in and around Sanaa in recent weeks. (Photo EPA)

Armed Shi'ite rebels pushed into Yemen's capital Sanaa after clashing with the army in the city's northwest outskirts on Thursday, security sources and residents said, in an escalation of weeks of fighting and protests.
Residents of northwest al-Shamlan district told Reuters the Shi'ite Houthi gunmen were now advancing along Thalatheen Street, a major route into the western edge of the city.
A military source said Houthi gunmen had also attacked an army camp on the southern entrance of the capital, but soldiers repelled the assault.
The Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shi'ite Islam, have been involved in a decade-long conflict with the Sunni-dominated government, fighting for more control and territory in the north. n recent weeks, Houthi protesters have been blocking the main road to Sanaa's airport and holding sit-ins at ministries calling for the ousting of the government and the restoration of subsidies cut by the state in July as part of economic reforms.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ahmed Maher of April 6 Movement joins hungerstrike of Egyptian political detainees

Ahmed Maher, the jailed former head of the April 6 Youth Movement, has joined a growing hunger strike movement. Maher, who founded the now-banned movement, stopped eating on 15 September, April 6 member Zizo Abdou said.
The hunger strike has been gaining momentum with activists, journalists and supporters inside and outside of jail joining to denounce a restrictive protest law and to call for the release of political detainees.
Ahmed Maher
a Facebook page called "We've had it up to here," which tracks the number of hunger strikers, said that 60 detainees were participating, along with nearly 100 supporters outside of jail. A number of political parties have also expressed solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah released on bail

Alaa Abdel-Fattah on the shoulders. The photo is from March of this year, when he was also briefly released from prison. (Photo AP).  

The Cairo Criminal Court unexpectedly released Alaa Abd El Fattah, along with two other defendants, on LE5,000 bail in the ongoing Shura Council case on Monday. The judge presiding over the case also stepped down. Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed Abdel-Rahman aka Noubi and Wael Metwally were sentenced to 15-years in prison and fined LE100,000 on charges of organising an illegal protest, rioting, destruction of public property and using violence against security forces.
The judge recused himself from the trial due to an incident which occurred during the trial's last session on Wednesday, said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Cairo-based al-Haqanya human rights centre and one of the lawyers representing the defendants.

What Israel did after the ceasefire

It is not often that I just copy other people's blog entries. This time I cannot resist the temptation. This is what the Angry Arab As'ad Abu Khalil wrote on 14 September:
"On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following:

1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
 2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
 3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
 4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
 5. Detained six fishermen
 6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
 7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
 8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalisation
 9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad – and tear-gassed their mother
 11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison

Saturday, September 13, 2014

HRW: Israeli attacks on Gaza schools were war crimes

US slams Israel over deadly airstike on UN school in Gaza
The attack on the school in Jabaliya. Palestinians are looking for body parts in a damaged classroom. (Photo AP, 30 July 2014)

Three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a report publihe on Thursday. In the first in-depth documentation of the violations, Human Rights Watch investigated the three attacks, which occurred on July 24 and 30, and August 3, 2014, and killed 45 people, including 17 children.
“The Israeli military carried out attacks on or near three well-marked schools where it knew hundreds of people were taking shelter, killing and wounding scores of civilians,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage.”
Two of the three attacks Human Rights Watch investigated – in Beit Hanoun and Jabalya – did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate. The third attack in Rafah was unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate. Unlawful attacks carried out willfully – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.