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.