Middle East Monitor - Creating New Perspectives Bringing you the latest and up-to-date news from the Middle East. We go one step further, facilitating a better understanding of the issues facing the Middle East. https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/component/content/frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 20:55:48 +0000 MEMO en-gb The week in pictures https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/in-pictures/19661-the-week-in-pictures https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/in-pictures/19661-the-week-in-pictures The last 7 days in pictures.

JERUSALEM: A Palestinian boy beats a drum as Sufi Muslims perform during the holy month of Ramadan.

ELAZIG, TURKEY: Seven students succeeded in making an electric car which they called "Force" using their savings and scientific and technological research from the Turkish governmental institution TUBITAK. Engineer on the project, Yunus Emre Akay, said the team's goal was to create an economical car that everyone can use, noting that other electric vehicles are expensive and unsuitable for Turkish road conditions.

TEHRAN, IRAN: A view of the Anti-Daesh cartoon exhibition in Tehran's Palestine Museum of Contemporary Art on June 28, 2015. One hundred fifty artworks choosen amongst one thousand seventy two works from 72 countries are on display in Iranian capital Tehran until July 14.

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK: A group of Palestinian release sky lanterns as they gather in front of the Ofer prison to hold a rally demanding the release of Islamic Jihad Movement leading member Khader Adnan prisoned in Israeli jails in Ramallah.

JERUSALEM: Muslims perform the third Friday prayer of the Islam's holy fasting month of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque on July 03, 2015 in the Old City of Jerusalem. Only Palestinians over the age of 40 and children are allowed to cross the Qalandia checkpoint, the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:10:33 +0000
Egypt detains 63 Muslim Brotherhood members https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19660-egypt-detains-63-muslim-brotherhood-members https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19660-egypt-detains-63-muslim-brotherhood-members Egyptian flagsEgyptian security forces have detained 63 members of Muslim Brotherhood in separate security sweeps, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

In a statement, the ministry said the individuals had been detained for committing and inciting acts violence.

The latest spate of arrests comes only a few days after Egyptian security forces shot nine Brotherhood members dead in an apartment west of Cairo.

The arrests also follow separate militant attacks that left the country's top prosecutor and 17 soldiers dead.

Egypt has been dogged by turmoil since the military overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in mid-2013.

Since Morsi's ouster, Egyptian authorities have waged a relentless crackdown on political dissent – largely targeting Morsi supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood group – which has seen hundreds killed and thousands thrown behind bars.

The Muslim Brotherhood was designated a "terrorist organisation" by the Egyptian government in late 2013. The Brotherhood, for its part, insists it is committed to purely peaceful activism.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 15:58:16 +0000
Tunisian imams to appeal government move to close mosques https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19659-tunisian-imams-to-appeal-government-move-to-close-mosques https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19659-tunisian-imams-to-appeal-government-move-to-close-mosques Muslim man prayingMuslim clerics in the Tunisian city of Sfax on Saturday said they planned to appeal a recent government decision to close 80 of the nation's mosques in the wake of last month's deadly attack on foreign tourists.

At a conference at the Al-Lakhmi Mosque attended by dozens of imams and clerics – along with some 2,000 other attendees – Imam Reda Al-Jawada said the city's imams planned to appeal the decision in court.

Al-Jawada described the measure as "unjust" while also denouncing last month's deadly attack, which, he asserted, "bore no relation to Islam."

On June 26, a gunman opened fire on a crowed beach in Sousse, killing at least 38 foreign tourists – mostly British nationals – before being shot dead by police.

In the wake of the attack, Tunisia's Council of Ministers adopted a raft of security measures, including the closure of 80 "illegal" mosques.

On Saturday, President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a 30-day countrywide state of emergency.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 15:43:50 +0000
Israel killed 23 Palestinians since start of 2015: PLO https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19658-israel-killed-23-palestinians-since-start-of-2015-plo https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19658-israel-killed-23-palestinians-since-start-of-2015-plo File photo of an Israeli occupation soldier taking aim at protestors against the construction of the illegal Israeli settlement near Al-Jalzoo, West BankAt least 23 Palestinians have been killed and another 2,156 detained by the Israeli military since January 1, 2015, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said in a report issued Sunday.

In its report, the PLO added that 131 Palestinian homes had been destroyed in armed operations carried out by the Israeli army in the first half of this year alone.

The report noted that the Israeli army killed at least 42 Palestinians in the same period of 2014.

In July and August of last year, more than 2,150 Palestinians were killed and 11,000 injured - mostly women and children - during a 51-day Israeli military onslaught against the blockaded Gaza Strip.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 15:20:11 +0000
Yemen: 858 civilians in Aden killed in 102 days of clashes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19657-yemen-858-civilians-in-aden-killed-in-102-days-of-clashes https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19657-yemen-858-civilians-in-aden-killed-in-102-days-of-clashes Abed Rabbu Hadi MansourAt least 585 Yemeni civilians were killed, including 259 children, and 6,879 others were injured in the 102-day conflict in Aden city, health officials said late on Friday.

Dr Khedir Lesour, head of the Public Health and Population office in Aden, said in a statement that part of the death toll was caused by "diseases and epidemics that infected 6,214 people, including 256 cases that died."

The ongoing conflict in Aden forced two of the largest hospitals to be closed, in addition to a number of medical centres, Lesour added.

Aden, the trade and economic capital of Yemen, has been witnessing fierce battles for the past three months between Houthi militias and the Popular Resistance Committees, who are loyal to ousted President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 15:15:58 +0000
Unequal Justice https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19656-unequal-justice https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19656-unequal-justice Tariq Abu KhdeirJust over a year ago, 16 year old Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir went missing. Police brought in Mohammed's family for questioning, planting a rumour that he had been murdered by the family in an honour killing. However, it was three Israel settlers that had taken Mohammed from the front steps of his house.

His badly charred body was discovered on 2nd July 2014. They had beat him, forced him to drink gasoline and burned him alive.

For days after his funeral, protestors rioted on the streets of East Jerusalem calling for justice and change. Just days later Israel began its military offensive over Gaza. The outbreak of "Operation Protective Edge" led to what some described as the strongest and most sustained uprising by the city's Palestinian residents in a decade.

From Mohammed's abduction until the Gaza ceasefire was brokered some 56 days later, around 727 people from East Jerusalem had been arrested and it is believed 260 of them were under 18- most are accused of throwing stones and partaking in the protests. One of these was Mohammed's cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian-American teenager from Florida. He was beaten and arrested, all of which was captured on camera, sparking international outcry.

East Jerusalem, supposedly the capital of a Palestinian state, was annexed by Israel and declared its undivided capital in 1980. They constructed a wall around it and enforced a strict system of permits, blocking access for many West Bank Palestinians.

Since then the Israeli government has embarked on a "Judaisation" project, demolishing endless Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a growing number of Israeli settlers- a bid to stamp the city as the capital of Israel and rid it of its Palestinian identity. Frustrations are always simmering and frequent clashes between Palestinian youths and heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers are turning the holy city into a battleground.

To mark the one year anniversary of Mohammed's death, hundreds took to the streets in East Jerusalem once again. Israeli soldiers injured eleven Palestinians as they suppressed the march. Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed's father, called the murder trial of his son's three alleged killers as a public relations stunt and "farce" in a statement outside Jerusalem District Court.

Yousef Ben David, 30, and two teenagers who cannot be named as they are underaged – face trial for the kidnap and murder of Mohammed. The two teenagers told the court on June 3 that Ben David had pressured them into carrying out a hate crime in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank weeks earlier.

Last year, Ben David, a resident of the West Bank settlement Adam, admitted to setting Mohammed alight in a police interview. This year, however, he refused to testify in court and his legal team has argued that he is insane and unfit for trial.

In contrast, the two men accused of killing the three Israeli teens, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, have faced a different kind of treatment. While they were still just suspects, the Israel Defense Forces demolished their homes in the middle of the night. They were then killed in an apparent shootout. The Shin Bet said that the two suspects, were hiding in a house in the West Bank. Israeli forces approached the house with an excavator vehicle and fired a rocket at the house, according to Palestinian reports.

While Mohammed's killers have been afforded a trial to determine their guilt or innocence, and their houses remain intact, the killers of the three Israeli teens have had their family homes demolished and been killed before even making it to court. The treatment of these two incredibly tragic cases once again highlights the dual standards of justice for Israeli's and Palestinians.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jessica Purkiss) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 14:54:05 +0000
Combatant Sisi arrives in Sinai while the Defence Minister is absent https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19655-combatant-sisi-arrives-in-sinai-while-the-defence-minister-is-absent https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19655-combatant-sisi-arrives-in-sinai-while-the-defence-minister-is-absent President Sisi visits troops in SinaiEgyptian Defence Minister Sudqi Subhi did not join coup leader Abdel Al-Fattah Al-Sisi on his visit to northern Sinai on Saturday. Instead, he was accompanied by Gen. Mahmoud Hijazi, who in turn did accompany Subhi during a previous visit to those wounded in the Sinai attacks on Thursday while Sisi stayed away.

Observers have said that the separate visits by Sisi and Subhi to Sinai or the wounded in hospitals, and the absence of Sisi from the meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Wednesday - a meeting that was headed by Subi, are quite unusual and out of the ordinary. Until recently, and since the 3 July 2013 coup the two men always appeared side by side.

They pointed out that the appearance of Sisi in military fatigue for the first time since he was nominated for the presidency in March 2014 reinforces the belief that a deep rift exists between the two men as part of the struggle between them over control of the army and its resources.

They added that the real authority within the army is effectively in the hands of the defence minister. However, Sisi controls the media and the Department of Morale Affairs. This explains why the press has focused on him and his activities, which are given front page coverage whereas the defence minister and his undertakings are ignored or just briefly reported in the inside pages of newspapers.

However, a significant development happened recently. A newspaper closely linked to the Egyptian Intelligence Services described Subhi as a combatant. It lavishly praised his directives and international visits. This is hardly an innocent glorification by a newspaper that is supposed to be a mouthpiece for the top-level circles.

Sisi appeared in military fatigue in one of the hide outs in northern Sinai on Saturday morning. He visited the Operations Centre of the Armed Forces in region where he inspected the weapons seized during the battles of Al-Sheikh Zuwayyid. He was keen to deliver a talk in which he said: "I have come to salute the heroes of the Armed Forces in appreciation of their work."

Some press reports have said that Sisi tried to bring down Subhi by persuading him to relinquish his position voluntarily in exchange for a senior advisory position in Egypt. However, Subi was smarter than Sisi when he rejected all the offers made to him regarding the other positions. He held fast to his position as defence minister, the post he seems to be determined to stay in until he leaves for the Al-Ittihadiyah Presidential Palace as did Sisi before him.

The 'combatant' defence minister

In an unprecedented practice, Vito newspaper, which is close to the Intelligence Services, published a report on Friday under the headline "Sudqi Subhi, a defence minister with the rank of combatant" in which it hailed his military and political record.

The newspaper said: "Lt. Gen. Sudqi Subhi, the defence minister, held numerous talks and participated in several exercises. He also signed cooperation protocols with a number of states in order to bolster Egypt's military strength, which is the real guarantor of the country's internal and external security."

It went on to say: "The Chief of Staff has been keen since the day he first undertook the task to assert Egyptian military prestige and to equip the armed forces so as to be ready for defending this homeland and for protecting its children."

It added: "The Chief of Staff affirms, by means of the official statements issued by the military establishment, that the armed forces are keen to provide all resources needed for developing the capabilities and talents of its sons so as to face up to stands and challenges in accordance with the highest levels of know how and modernisation in all defence and combat systems within educations institutions."

It also said: "The Chief of Staff conducted many discussions whether internally or externally, including with Italy, China, Russia, Pakistan, Greece, China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia."

It also noted that those visits made by the Chief of Staff were aimed at the exchange of expertise in various fields and that he exchanged opinions regarding what the region is witnessing of changes and the impact of these changes on the regional and international arenas as well as agreement on the aspects of mutual cooperation in the fields of defence, the exchange of military expertise and joint exercises between the armed forces and those countries.

It went on to say: "As part of the contribution of the Armed forces and upon the directives of the Chief of Staff, the strategic and mobilisation exercise Badr 2014 was conducted."

Mysterious and disciplined

Subhi is the 45th Defence Minister in Egypt's modern history. He is known among army officers and troops for his "firm discipline". Local Egyptian newspapers that are opposed to the military coup published reports asserting that he is more brutal and blood thirsty than the leader of the coup himself. He was in charge of the forceful storming and disbanding of Rabia (protest camp in Cairo) despite expectations that thousands would be killed in the process.

He is also quoted as expressing more extreme views regarding reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and that he has been warning against giving the Islamists any opportunity to return and integrate once more into political life.

The Egyptian media reported that he dispatched envoys and sent message to a number of leaders of influential countries in the region, as well as to the Muslim Brotherhood itself, to gauge opinions as to whether he himself could be part of any future solution for the current crisis in Egypt. This has occurred amid talk about a growing state of restlessness and discontent within the ranks of the army due to the situation Sisi has led the country into.

Lt. Gen. Sudqi Subhi Sayyid Ahmad was born in 1955 in the city of Manouf, in the governorate of Manoufia. He occupies today the position of Chief of Staff of the Egyptian armed forces and the minister of defence and military industry as a successor to Field Marshall Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi who resigned from his post in order to stand for the presidential elections.

Upon assuming the position of Chief of Staff of the armed forces, one of the most important concerns for Sudqi was to improve the combat competence and physical fitness in order to build the fighting individual who is capable of performing the tasks assigned to him under various circumstances.

In July 2013, he took part in the coup undertaken by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that topled the elected President Morsi.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Arabi21) frontpage Sun, 05 Jul 2015 14:47:56 +0000
A month in Palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19654-a-month-in-palestine https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19654-a-month-in-palestine Tom BlanxThis May, I travelled to the West Bank in occupied Palestine.

I had a fairly good idea of the kind of things I would see when I went, but wanted to take a closer look at what I think is an unfair and asymmetrical situation. I don't stand against Jews or Israelis. I stand against racism, violence, oppression and ignorance, and all of those things, I think, are here.

During my time in the West Bank, I lived and worked with a Palestinian farmer who runs a Permaculture Project in a small village called Marda. I wanted to see for myself what life was like for Palestinians living under occupation and how Permaculture could help.

Knowledge is everything and with that in mind I'm sharing everything I saw, heard, thought and felt in the time I was there.

Below are excerpts from Tom Blanx's blog. Read the full blog here.

Getting in

For those who haven't been, Israel's not the easiest of places to get in and out of. And if you plan on checking out the occupied territories you'll need to be a bit creative with the truth. Despite my polite passport note from the queen, I decided not to reveal how freely I would be passing while on my travels as it would have most likely landed me straight back on British soil. This had happened to previous volunteers so the NGO I had organised the trip with had suggested that I lie.

With the help of Murad, my Palestinian friend and his friend, an Israeli who will remain anonymous, I pretended I was traveling to help and learn on a farm in the south. I probably could have said I was there for a beach holiday or Christian visit too, but a bag full of work boots and full length clothing might have been a giveaway. Murad told me to just remain calm and answer all questions confidently but it was a nerve racking and intimidating experience. Much more than I remember it being when I was 18 coming here. In the end I think I got in through by inadvertently playing dumb.

Getting into the West Bank was more straight forward. I got on a bus from Tel Aviv bus station all the way to Ari'el (An illegal settlement, next to Marda). There are no stops or checkpoints for settlers (on the way in) so all I had to do was get off before the bus turned into the settlement where Murad was waiting for me and I was in. A better understanding of his instructions, some Hebrew and useful geographical knowledge and I probably wouldn't have ended up bang in the middle of the Ari'el in the isolating situation of looking for a Palestinian village. I haphazardly navigated my way out of on foot and was an hour late – not the look I was going for, but I guess he was going to find out what I'm about sooner or later.

Marda

Marda is in the Salfit district which is biggest producer of olive oil in Palestine. The village is effectively a ghetto, with reinforced steel gates at each end for when the army want to shut it down and a high metal fence and barbed wire around it, although some of these had been damaged and removed. There used to be resistance here, but like in lots of the rest of Palestine, occupation has become normalized. These days the village is quiet and peaceful. People work and children go to school, cats wonder around the place looking for food and donkeys everywhere sound like they're dying. The village sits directly under the hilltop Ari'el settlement, the 4th biggest in the West Bank. Murad said he used to play there with his friends when he was young before Zionists confiscated and destroyed 9000 dunams of it, in the late 70s to build luxury homes, streets and a university for Israelis and Jewish immigrants. The juxtaposition of the two towns, is a powerful thing to see and its something that you can't help but see, every day.

As I arrived in Marda another volunteer was leaving. Her name was Judy, a 60 year old American woman from Australia travelling by herself. I wouldn't normally mention someones age or circumstances but I think its significant as many people think the West Bank is too dangerous to travel to and that women could be more vulnerable here. Neither are true. It was her 5th visit to Marda so I wanted to get as much information out of her as I could in the 30 minutes she had left. She gave me the dos and donts about living in Marda, how to be with Murad and told me to explore as much as I could of Palestine "You can't charaterise Palestine on what you see in just Marda as much as you can't charaterise the US on what you see in Miami"

Murad

Straight away I felt at ease with Murad. From our first Skype conversation, to meeting him an hour late getting lost, I felt welcome and at home. Chilled and pragmatic, straight talking and funny are the best words I can think of to describe him. Everywhere we went there was banter. Banter with friends, banter with strangers. Sometimes he sounds like he is angry when he's talking in arabic but then he laughs and I know he's not. Judy said his bark is worse than his bite and I now know what she means. "C'mon man!... what you doing man?!"... "Why you sayin sorry all the time man" still echo round my head.

Murads family have lived in Marda for generations spanning centuries. His wider family numbers in the 100s. His immediate family is his his wife, Ghada, daughters Sara, Halla and Tooleen, his youngest – son Khalid, his Mother, Twin brother, older brother, three sisters and their families.. I think I can count the number of people in my family with my fingers!

The old house he grew up in has itself been in the family for 300 years. His Mother and twin, Hazim live there now and on my first night, he took me to meet them. We ate dinner, looked at our phones (Theres no escaping it!!!) and then I helped Murad download a Lionel Richie "hello" ringtone he wanted for when Ghada called him. I asked him what other music he liked and he said "none". "But you like Lionel Richie though?" No. just that song." Then I reconfigured his answer and decline buttons so he could, in his words, hang up in peoples face.

When violence broke out in the second intifada (literally translated as uprising), Murad decided to leave Palestine. With his Palestinian passport, he traveled to America and spent time working in Chicago and Tennessee. In 2006, he returned to inherit his Father's land and with some basic knowledge of permaculture from a previous project, he started Marda Permaculture farm.

The Permaculture farm

The farm is 2 1/4 dunams in size. A duman is about 1 square km. The farm has Bees and produces large quantities of honey each year, 5 kilos of which is exported to customers in Qatar. He has chickens and pigeons (with their own cob-built houses) for eggs and meat and and plans on getting some goats and a cow.

The farm is Murads livelihood, but its more than that. The farm is his way of fighting the occupation. By growing his own food and providing his own income, he doesn't need to buy expensive food and water or look for work abroad or in Israel. Permaculuture gives him good health, independence and empowerment.

The farm is a centre for students, activists and volunteers and Murad hopes his model will raise awareness of Permaculture in Palestine and begin to change local peoples attitudes towards farming.

Getting around

I did most of my exploring with Murad. I only did my own thing a couple of times. Once when I went to Jerusalem with Gaie (another volunteer who helped at the farm for a few days) and another time when we split up in Rammalah and I went to see qalandia. But we always left Marda together. Murad wasnt into the idea of me travelling by myself in case I got mistaken for a settler or deported for being a friend of Palestine. They're weren't any bus stops in Marda so unless you hail a passing taxi or sherut you hitch a ride to somewhere you can get a bus. The nearest place to us was Zattara Junction (Tappuah junction for Israelis). From here you can go in three directions north to nablus, east to jericho and south to Rammalah. It used to be checkpoint but some of these have eased off in recent years. Theres still a large miltary presence here though. Lots of Israelis use the junction so cars are still stopped, ids are still checked and people are still harassed. We saw one guy in his early 20s being checked out by two soldiers wanting to know where he had been, where he was going, and why he needed to go there.

As we make our way to the bus stop to Rammalah we have to go through the rigmarole of crossing the side of the road we need to the central reservation to avoiding Israeli only bus stop which Palestinans are not allowed to be near, to then cross back 50m further along where the anybody else bus stop is. You keep your head down here as you feel the eyes of soldiers and settlers weigh down on you. You're at the mercy of the army here, they have done and can do anything they want to you here. This a cold violence that all Palestinans have to go through on a daily basis.

Nablus and Tulkarem

This was the first place outside Marda that I explored. It used to be an important junction on the Old Silk Road and was a strong resistance town in the years following the occupation. Nowadays, its very normalised – the occupation. Like the rest of the country, people are just trying to make enough money to survive. Food and drinks, shops and markets are everywhere. Women are covered up, some even more than in Marda wearing full burkhas which you can see also see displayed in shop windows. Lots of women whiten their faces here too. Looks really strange sometimes. On the hilltop behind the city is the largest refugee camp in Palestine – 30,000 refugees packed into ¼ of a sq km. Like the one outside Rammalah they resemble Rio's hillside favelas. Beautiful backdrop and ugly consequence all at the same time. As we ate a shrawma outside we saw men putting flags up in the main square and cars driving round honking their horns. They were celebrating the release of a young man who had been put in jail by the Israelis. I dont know who he was or what he had been jailed for but Im guessing it was for a while and his release was a small victory.

A little bit further on is Tulkarem This is where we met Murad's friend Fayez, and where I saw the wall for the first time. Like Murad, Fayez also runs a farm in a village just outside Tulkarem called Irtah. His story is amazing: resilience and steadfastness in effect. In a nutshell... Occupation forces tried to confiscate his land to use as a military post; some of the first sections of the segregation wall were built across 20 dunams of his land; he resisted the land confiscation and repeated attacks on him and his crops and was imprisoned, leaving his wife Muna, to manage the farm; 12 chemical factories considered hazardous to Israeli public health were relocated to the other side of the wall, one right next to his farm*; he thus grew more aware of the health impacts of fertilisers and pesticides and made the switch to organic production. Now his and Muna's farm, famous for popular resistance attracts solidarity activists and volunteers from all over the world.

*Factory chimneys are turned on when the wind blows east into Palestine, and off when into Israel.

At his home we sat and drank zamzam with his family. Zam zam is holy water welled from the zam zam well in Mecca. They told me the story of zamzam, debating over the specifics but Im struggling to makes sense of my notes so heres a simple kids version of the origin of zamzam I found online:

"This is the story of the ZamZam water. The water well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca. It was a miraculously generated source of water from Allah, which began thousands of years ago when prophet Ismael (PBUH) the son of prophet Abraham and Hajar (the wife of prophet Abraham, May Allah be pleased with her) were thirsty and alone in the dessert.In this area there is very little water if any at all in some places. According to our tradition, Hajar (May Allah be pleased with her) was a very devout mother and wife. When she was separated from her Husband prophet Abraham (PBUH), she was left alone in the dessert, by herself with her small son Ishmael (PBUH). Prophet Abraham made a prayer for his young family as he left them behind and Allah provided the means of sustenance for them. Hagar (May Allah be pleased with her) ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwah, in desperation because her son cried as it was very hot and they did not have even a drop of water to drink. Allah provided a Miracle and the ZamZam well was born."

Fayez's son "carried" 20L of this water back from his hajj pilgrimage so it goes without sayng that I felt really honoured be offered it. Its meant to contain healing powers so you drink it in 3 sips and wish for good health. I drank mine to my Mum.

Jerusalem

Tony Blair has a multi million penthouse apartment that he rents for free in East Jerusalem. I saw it – Murads not even allowed to come to Jerusalem. No one who lives in the West Bank is, unless they own one of the hard to get permits I mentioned earlier. Its like me needing permission to visit london.

Jerusalem (East) is as you would expect it to be – tourists, religious places of interest, sight seeing, crap selling blah. The tourism and globalism here makes it more relaxed in its attitudes to drinking and clothing, despite the religious significance of the city. In the old town/holy basin which is a busy Palestinian neighbourhood, Israeli settlers live in homes above the market taken from Palestinians now flagged up and fenced off. Below mesh is in place to stop settlers throwing waste down on the Palestinians. markets there are Israeli homes.

We tried to get to the Al Aqsa mosque and dome on the rock but it was muslims only after 4pm and being white and non muslim looking we were turned away by Israeli police. They control who goes in and out here. It was interesting and maybe kind of nice to see israelis help enforce the Muslim only after 4pm rule. Was also good to see some soldiers and locals getting on. Saw another soldier help a blind man into the square too which was nice. In the rush to cry dehumanization you can easily find yourself guilty of doing the same thing.

Jenin

Jenin was the furthest town I visited. We had to time our trip around the weather as it gets hotter here. Its in the agricultural north and took about an hour and a half of mountainous driving from Marda to get there although Jenin itself is mostly flat. Didn't really get a chance to explore Jenin properly it was more of a meet this guy here meet that guy there day but one thing that was noticeable was the absence of anything Israel.

Unlike all the other places Id been to there was no army, no flags, no settlements. This might be because of its unbroken horizontalness as I'm pretty sure most settlements are built strategically on hilltops. Outside the hustling bustling town of markets shops and car-shop after car-shop after car-shop is industrial landscape with factories and fields growing tobacco fruits and vegetables. More mass production than organic production here.

Environment

Despite a deep connection with the land, it gets treated badly by many Palestinians,Israelis too. In many parts of the West Bank, streets and fields are scattered with rubbish. Theres refuse collection once a week in Marda but thats just to collect landfill waste from peoples houses. Outside though, pedestrians, drivers, kids playing, even farmers, just chuck their empty packets on the ground. Many animals are treated badly: birds caged in small spaces to be sold as meat; donkeys toiling in the insane heat carrying people and heavy loads; dead puppies (clearly not treated well) left next to bins in the street, I could go on. On our way to the farm one day we saw that one donkey had given birth. Murad helped the new donkey to its feet and pushed her closer towards her mother so was tied up to a nearby tree but just out of reach. The next day we saw the same donkey, working, but not the infant. As another mouth to feed and a distraction to his working donkey, the owner, an old guy, chucked the new jenny away. This upset Murad, more out of waste than sentiment, but Murad cares. He understands the imposrtant roles animals have. I learnt this early on when some children visited us at the farm and one of them was trying to squash a bug. Murad stopped him and while I could'nt hear what he actually said, it was clear Murad was telling the by that he needed those bugs.

Then theres Israel, the self titled environmentalists, chucking all kind of restrictions and protection laws onto Palestinians in the name of preservation whilst committing all kinds of environmental rights violations: sucking Palestinian land dry of water and selling it back to them at full price; allowing settlements to dump huge quantities of sewage into neighbouring Palestinian fields and villages, damaging buildings, soil and water supplies; poisoning waterways and soil with toxic chemicals; uprooting 1000s of olive trees, trees that are peoples livelihood, trees that have stood since the Romans were here!; building over ancient springs and vital sources of water, affecting eco systems and land irrigation; and then the walls and border gates affecting the migration patterns of an array of species.

Culture

I'd never been to a Muslim country before so my head naturally started to fill itself with assumptions and preconceptions of how things were or would be. I knew from the advice the volunteer program gave me, that Marda was a conservative village: No shorts, no singlets (LOL), no drinking, no drugs, and no approaching strange women romantically. I paraphrase but these were all suggested guidelines – Who's been coming here??

Marda is a conservative village, traditional too – women cover themselves in public and sometimes socialise separately but everyone was friendly and interactive. If my arabic spanned further than the "Hello? How are you? Im fine, thank you." at its peak, I may have broken down even more social barriers. Word to the wise: Don;t go in for a handshake with women you've just met as you'll be left hanging.

Despite the occupation and the harassment and intimidation that comes with it, everybody seemed upbeat. There's a real togetherness here and its so much more chill than it looks and sounds from in the west. There's lots of joking. Murad likes to take the piss out of people especially people that he likes. There's one old guy we used to see and Murad always tries to tickle him.

It sounds like a stupid and obvious thing to say but Palestinians really love their children, especially young ones, almost as if preserving their innocence is everything. From about 7-12 boys go through a seen but not heard phase then at 13+ they're targets for playful clips round the ear and downsizing banter. They have a lot of freedom in Marda. Children as young as 6 walk to and from school through the village, they go to the shops to buy groceries and play outside unsupervised. On paper it sounds like slack parenting but its not. The community polices itself. Everyone knows everyone and when children step out of line or get cheeky the nearest adult will call them up on it. I'd describe it as a golden age if the circumstances didn't make it sound so ridiculous.

Politics

Murads not the type to push agendas. I wanted a Palestinan perspective on Israel, the occupation, and all the other things that go with it, so I was going to have to ask. Judy ,who I met briefly when I arrived in Marda told me "Don't ask questions unless youre ready to accept the context." I wasn't completely sure what this meant but I bided my time and began to write down some questions for Murad which I could ask him when we'd got to know each other better. In my spare time I started to plan a positive article about cooperating through collaborating. This had stemmed from seeing how Murad and his Israeli friend had been working together to sneak volunteers into Marda, but with one question my idea, or at least, my inspiration, was blown out of the water. "Do lots of Israelis come here to help?"

"Yes, but I don't like it. It makes me look bad." Murad doesn't pull punches, he tells it as he sees it and when a group of Israeli peace activists came to work on the farm and found this out. He told me how they had asked him what they could do to help the Palestinian cause and in one word, he said, "leave".. "It sounds harsh, but this is a man who has been fired at, arrested, imprisoned, watched as his family's land was turned into a lavish city for Israelis and jewish immigrants, which has brought violence right to his door.

"These people say they are for peace but if they really were they would leave Israel. Who built your house?" he asked them. "The person who built your house is living in a tent and you talk about peace?"

Talk leads onto the testimonies of soldiers in, 'Breaking the silence'. "Breaking the Silence are bastards! They kill innocent men women and children and then feel bad and say sorry? Fuck you're sorry!" None of this is said in a raised or angry tone of voice. Murad is like lots of other Palestinians think that they have been sold out. Sold out by Israel, sold out by America, sold out by Britain, sold out by Arab states and sold out by their own leaders. I try to explain that propaganda can make people do the worst kind of things but it sounds empty as I say it.

"The world doesn't care. If it did, Palestinians would have justice."

The Army

In the whole time I was in Palestine and Israel the only times I ever felt threatened, nervous or insecure was near Israeli police and soldiers. 15 years ago I was in Tower Records in Tel Aviv and 2 young soldiers stood next to me looking through cds while on duty. It was strange then and it is strange now. In Israel, everywhere soldiers are on the move. Its like scouts but with guns. It like something out of the Paul Verhoven film, Starship Troopers. Beautiful, fresh faced, young men and women, IDF issue Tavor assault rifle in one hand and smartphones in the other, all "doing their part!, knowing their foe!, guaranteeing citizenship!" because at the end of the day, "its us or them"

The idea that an 18 year old with a gun has the power to harass and disrespect civilians often much older and wiser than them leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

For me military service here is more about protecting a lie than protecting citizens. Imagine a reality where young men and women are indoctrinated with the idea that they are defending their country when all they're really doing is supporting a decades long colonisation project. It almost doesn't seem real. Almost.

Pigs

About 5 days in, I was smoking a cigarette on the roof when I heard a gravel moving noise coming from the hill behind my house. The street lights made it dificult to see what it was but I could just about make out a group of large figures making their way down this track. It looked like humans, big humans, on all fours, coming down the hill!! I was scared! The settlement was just up the hill and I'd heard stories of past incursions and still new to this unfamiliar and relatively (to me) troubled place, my imagination and stupidity got the better of me. Reality checked eventually and I concluded they weren't humans. I still didn't know what they were though, so I didnt move or make a sound and just watched as these night monsters marched on by.

The next morning I tell murad what happened... And in his most blasé voice tells me, "That's the pigs man....They come and destroy everything in a few minutes!"

So I looked it up. It's not just in marda. Apparently all over the West Bank wild pigs have been wrecking crops and trees and sometimes attacking people, all since around 2004. People claim they were introduced after the last intifada. One guy even told me he heard a ruck loads of them had been seen being unloaded in some fields. It's a wild claim, but in a place where pollution is directed towards specific communities, raw seage is dumped into village's water supply and Settler children are marched through villages abusing locals, it becomes more believable. I can only speculate as why pigs. Agitation? Disrespect? One guy joked that Islam should introduce a temporary fatwah so that people could eat the pigs and turn the problem in to a solution.

"In 2004 there were no pigs in Palestine! Now there are pigs! They don't fly in!"

Murad showed me some of the damage they had done to his corn field. To protect his farm he put up a barbed wire fence but it was only when he attached tyres to the fence that they stopped getting in.

I became obsessed by this thing! I really wanted to see the pigs again, I set my alarm to wake me up at all hours, but I never saw them. There were some near encounters. We just missed them on the way to work one day when some builders sent the running down the hill throwing stones at them

A law was passed to protect the pigs so farmers are not allowed to kill them. It would take a bullet to the head to do it apparently which would be pretty hard as you're not allowed weapons of any description in Palestine.

Getting out

On the way back its the same bus back to Tel aviv. After speaking to other internationals I was prepping myself for a grilling at the airport. I wasn't expecting to be removed from the bus by armed officers in plain clothes. And I wasn't prepared to explain why I was in the West Bank on a settler bus and not where I said I would be in Israel proper. People told me to smasher questions confidently, honestly and vaguely. A lot of officials I dealt with had a mediocre knowledge of place names so this helps with the vague answering. You might get through that but you've probably been flagged for more security checks. And if you have its a tough run in til the fight home. At check in and security your bags will be emptied, their contents swabbed and analysed, your body searched and scanned and your skill at answering repetitive questions tested.

And when you collect your bag from gatwick airport luggage hall you'll even find a courtesy note inside explaining that someone's had another good look through your gear and put everything back as they found it. 'Come back anytime' aint the vibe Im getting.

I plan on going back for olive harvest this year but won't hold my breath on getting in. If one trip is that suspicious, another is probably smoking gun territory.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Tom Blanx) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:48:00 +0000
Lions transferred from Gaza to African game reserve https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19653-lions-transferred-from-gaza-to-african-game-reserve https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19653-lions-transferred-from-gaza-to-african-game-reserve Saad Al-Deen Al-Jamal, owner of the Lion cubs, seen here with them on March 20, 2015IMAGES

An Austrian organisation called Four Paws International has overseen the transfer of two lions from the Gaza Strip to a game reserve in Africa, Felesteen newspaper has reported.

The lion Alex and lioness Muna were put in two separate cages and taken through the Eretz Crossing into Israel under the supervision of three veterinary surgeons.

Jamal Al-Jamal, one of the family who brought the lions up since they were cubs, said that they accepted the arrangement in the belief that they would have a better quality of life. "We became unable to take care of them when they got too big and dangerous," he said. The family took the cubs from a zoo when it could no longer afford to keep them but they too are now unable to look after them properly.

Following last summer's Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, two other lions were taken to Jordan to have psychological treatment after the zoo where they were kept was attacked by a missile fired from an Israeli F16 jet.

Images from felesteen.ps.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:16:38 +0000
Sectarian conflict in the Middle East https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19652-sectarian-conflict-in-the-middle-east https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19652-sectarian-conflict-in-the-middle-east File photo from the Shia mosque bombing last Friday in KuwaitSectarianism has become the framework for understanding a range of conflicts in the Middle East, going even beyond the sphere of Syria and Iraq where the sectarian narrative has most potency in media and academic discourse. Policy makers and international relations experts in Turkey and beyond assume that solutions to regional problems must lie in non-sectarianism since it is through the prism of "sect" that they understand issues in the first place. The Sunni-Shia binary is the paradigm par excellance, applied wherever possible, and behind which the Iranian-Saudi proxy war must be lurking. But just how accurate is this framing? What do we mean by sect and sectarianism? Are we favouring sectarianism by using it as the prism du jour for understanding the Middle East?

If we take Syria, the Assad government has come to be described in media and academic discussion of the Syrian civil war as Alawi (Nusayri), a sectarian regime. There are different groups fighting the Assad regime including the Free Syrian Army, Al-Qaeida-based groups such as the Nusra Front and ISIS. Is it correct to use the rather wide and undefined category "Sunni" to identify them all? For a start, are those fighters who came from Europe "Sunni" in the sense that the word might be understand in various parts of Syria or Iraq? Is Sunni a sectarian form of identification in the way that Alawi or Shia is? I would argue that it is not.

Sunni is sometimes applied to refer to areas where there are no Shia, or, in Turkey, it might be assumed as a term relevant for all Arabs because of the view that Shiaism equals Iran. For those claiming to represent Sunnism or Shiaism, these terms serve to strengthen their sense of identity vis-à-vis the other.

In theological terms, Sunnism is a tradition that includes different internal divisions, but the most salient I would argue are in fact those of jurisprudence and theology. The legal schools regulate relations between family and state, from marriage to tax, and include the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafii and the Hanbali. The theological trends try to explain philosophical and ethical issues of Islam, from conceptualisations of God to notions of the universe and our place in it. In the main these schools are the Ash'ari and Maturidi. In other words, Sunnism is a general term which includes all these structures; rarely are any of them referred to as "sect" yet they are critical in the Sunni Islamic tradition.

Up to the 19th century, Sunnism was clearly understood in these terms. They were not political forms of identification, more correctly they were what we might call epistemic groups. Sectarianism turns on the issue of takfir – the sectarian identification implies, if it does not state it bluntly as in the Salafi case, that the Other is not part of Islam at all due to the absolutism nature of sectarian claims. Takfir was not a major theme of Sunni traditions at all; quite the opposite. The theological majority view held that no Muslim could be declared kafir (infidel/unbeliever) for their sins. The Sunni tradition was broad and inclusive.

Sunnism began to shift with the Muslim revivalist movements of the 19th century. These intellectuals began to think across the traditional jurisprudential and theological categories, leading to a more rigid conceptualisation of what Sunni means. Ultimately it led to the situation we have today whereby Sunnism has come to mean in analytical discussion "non-Shia" and Shiaism is rendered as non-Sunni. Almost no group among the conflicting parties in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf today refer to the classical "sects" of legalism and theology. There is no group fighting in Syria that champions Maturidism or Hanafism. But this brings us to the question of Salafism, which does claim to fight in the name of a jurisprudence (Hanbali, filtered often through Wahhabism) and the Salafi theology, which diverges from the Ash'ari while rejecting the Maturidi.

Salafism came to be considered a sect or trend within Sunnism from the late 19th century. Salafism as a term appears to have entered with Wahhabism, the puritanical Saudi-sponsored movement that emerged in central Arabia in the 18th century, into the Middle East. The Ottoman religious scholars recognised Wahhabism as a movement based on Ibn Taymiyya's ideas, but considered it a political sect outside the bounds of normative Sunni discourse. But with the occupation of the Muslim holy places, Mecca and Medina, Wahhabism came to make its mark.

This reduction and streamlining of the Sunni tradition has been effected over the past century through structuring organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e Islami, but a qualitative leap took place in the evolution and promotion of Salafi thought with the Afghan jihad in the 1980s. The centres of Islamic education of the Islamic world today, from Medina to Islamabad and Cairo to Istanbul, are as likely to be suffused in Salafism as concerned with traditional questions of law and theology.

Modern jihadists do not simply fall from the sky. They emerge from a set of strongly held, developed beliefs: how were they radicalised? In what sense was it "sect" that caused this radicalisation? "Sunnism" is not an ideology that helps us explain this. Sunnism is an umbrella concept, not a political ideology. Sunni sects are epistemic communities. If we want to defeat radicalism we need to investigate the difference between Salafism and Sunnism. Salafist ideology is the most powerful force in mainstream Islamic education today. ISIS and other groups like al-Qa'ida feed from Salafi religious ideology. This ideology has evolved over a century and is embedded in a range of groups engaging charity work, social support networks and religious education.

So while Middle East conflicts may be partly motivated by sectarian concerns, the ongoing conflict is better understood as a struggle for power between two diverse coalitions, both of which incorporate a wide range of Salafi and Shi'ite elements. Today the ascendant actors in the regional chaos are not sects. Sunnism per se does not have the charismatic religious leaders and religious centres to be a political actor in the Middle East. The real crisis in the Middle East is the collapse of the traditional centres of Sunnism, of which the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was a part, and the emergence of political ideological movements such as revolutionary Iran and the Saudi Salafi nexus in their place. Moreover, the Western powers have no plan to reconstruct the Sunni centre and that in some ways makes difficult to stabilise the region. New ideologies, intersecting with new state entities, have helped reformulate our notions of what Sunni Islam even is.

Prof. Dr. at the Faculty of Divinity, Hitit University, Turkey.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Prof Hilmi Demir) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:08:06 +0000
Two rockets launched from Sinai to southern Israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19651-two-rockets-launched-from-sinai-to-southern-israel https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19651-two-rockets-launched-from-sinai-to-southern-israel File photo of a Grad rocket being launchedIsraeli military sources said on Friday that two rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula towards southern Israel, near the Gaza Strip. They exploded in open space and caused no damage or loss of life, Israeli media reported.

Officials immediately blamed ISIS-affiliated groups in Sinai for attempting to drag Israel into a war with them in the wake of a series of attacks on Egyptian troops. According to the Times of Israel, ISIS released a statement in which it claimed responsibility for the rockets. "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine," said the statement on Twitter.

The launch of the rockets, the Israeli newspaper revealed, set off "Colour Red" warning sirens in Eshkol Regional Council, which is located next to the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula.

Two days ago, "ISIS in Sinai" launched a series of attacks on Egyptian army bases, killing and wounding dozens. The army hit back and announced early on Friday that it had regained full control over Sinai after killing, wounding and arresting dozens of people who it claimed are terrorists.

The army also arrested and later killed 13 Muslim Brotherhood leaders in October Sixth City, near Cairo, on the pretext that they were behind the attacks.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:57:41 +0000
If we are really serious about destroying ISIS, why is our policy so misguided? https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/19650-if-we-are-really-serious-about-destroying-isis-why-is-our-policy-so-misguided https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/19650-if-we-are-really-serious-about-destroying-isis-why-is-our-policy-so-misguided British MuslimsI have been watching a bit more television than usual, certainly more than I expected to in this blessed month of Ramadan. I was gripped, in part due to the never-ending conversations about Islam; partly because I despair at the rhetorical belligerence of neo-cons like Douglas Murray; and also, I confess, to watch the performance of a friend on BBC Question Time. A variety of channels have had a veritable media-fest on Islam.

This is to be expected, given the shock of the terrorist attack in Tunisia, which coincided with the re-launch of the British government's Prevent strategy, as well as the rather revealing quarrel between the BBC and the prime minister about what to call the "Islamic State". It's all been happening this week.

In programme after programme, the confusion and sheer lack of knowledge about Islam and ISIS has been obvious. One of the striking features was the misplaced conflation - or should that be cynical exploitation - of the tragedy in Tunisia with the government's controversial strategy to tackle extremism and radicalisation in Britain, called "Prevent".

I felt that Muslims in the UK are being made to feel responsible for the murder of thirty of their fellow Brits. Suspicion had already been set in the public mindset by David Cameron's ill-advised slur against Britain's two and half million Muslims with his claim that they – we - are "quietly condoning" ISIS. With such rhetoric from the prime minister exploded out of proportion by a compliant media it would have been easy to think that what took place in Sousse was actually an atrocity committed on British soil by a British citizen.

The murderous attack in Tunisia, by a Tunisian citizen, remember, looked like the government's trump card to disarm critics of Prevent. It was, though, both disingenuous and blatant political opportunism to suggest that the Prevent strategy would have made any difference to the terrorist attack in Sousse.

Not only was the killer not a British citizen, but he was also trained in Libya, a failed state that is now over-run by ISIS wannabes who were created by failed Western interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. They have been armed by regimes in the region which are themselves armed by countries in the West, including Britain.

It behoves David Cameron, as the Prime Minister, to provide clarity over the sources and causes of terrorism. He has to explain exactly how "making life hard for Muslims" in Britain through Prevent is the solution for terrorism carried out abroad, notwithstanding the relatively insignificant number of British Muslims in the ranks of ISIS. He has failed miserably to do so.

The prime minister and his government are in denial that it was Britain and its allies which invaded two countries in the region, toppling the regimes in the process, and that this has probably done more for ISIS recruitment and the incubation of terrorism than anything else (apart from Cameron's "staunch" support for Israel's brutality against the Palestinians). It is we in the West who have left Muslim countries with unstable governments and prey to terrorists and yet we are to swallow the lie that "making life hard" for British Muslims is the solution? How misguided is that?

We can only defeat terrorism by promoting the "British values" of "peace, democracy, tolerance and freedom," insists Cameron. "We must be more intolerant of intolerance and reject anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative and create the conditions for it to flourish. We must strengthen our institutions that put our values into practice: our democracy, our rule of law, the rights of minorities, our free media, and our law enforcements – all the things the terrorists hate."

This is a throwback to George W Bush's claim that the terrorists "hate our way of life", as if US exceptionalism and Western military interventions have anything to do with democracy and the rule of law, never mind the West's support of Israel as it treats international law with contempt. Now I don't really want to accuse the prime minister and the mainstream media of lacking serious intent in the desire to target ISIS at its roots, but what other conclusion can we draw from the fact that they have consistently overlooked the main agencies in the creation of ISIS and still blame British Muslims for "not doing enough"? Do they not see that British Muslims have had no role in the rise of ISIS and nor do we have the capabilities to undermine ISIS beyond our condemnation? Muslims in the west cannot perform miracles; they cannot push the water backwards when it is their own governments, with the support of despotic regimes in the region, which have opened the floodgates of terrorism.

In short, the government and media are looking in the wrong place. If Cameron really wants to show leadership, he ought to stop cosying up to regimes which have incubated the growth of ISIS through a shared ideology, if not a shared methodology, and helped the deadly organisation to grow by pouring in weapons that have been supplied by Western governments, Cameron's amongst them.

Using British troops in full dress uniform to repatriate the casualties from Tunisia does not demonstrate leadership; in giving the order for this, Cameron was playing to the gallery and milking a tragic situation for propaganda purposes. ISIS is not an "existential threat" to Britain and pretending that this is a "war" is just plain silly when some of our closest allies are a far greater threat- if a threat is defined as purveying a toxic ideology - to "British values" and "our way of life".

David Cameron's attempt at theological hermeneutics by calling on the BBC to drop the use of "Islamic State" prompted a flurry of convoluted discussions. Historian and author Tom Holland, for example, made the tired claim that the "Islamic State" is rooted in Islam, the Qur'an and Prophetic traditions and practices, and that this disabuses any pretension that it is anything other than what ISIS itself claims to be. As far as he is concerned, it is an "Islamic State", even if the majority of Muslims disagree.

The prime minister's contention that the BBC would "delegitimise" the group's "Islamic credentials" if it used ISIS, ISIL or the Arabic acronym DAESH is perhaps well-intended, but, of course, his proposed alternatives all contain the word "Islamic". Once again there is an obvious absence of clear thinking on this issue but that didn't stop the intellectual credentials of the many pseudo-experts on Islam from filling the media with their crude crusader talk and fooling even experienced presenters like Andrew Neil. Nobody challenged their alleged expertise on the subject.

According to Holland, we should take the claims of ISIS as a version of Islam at face value. Such a crude reading of Islam fuels Islamophobia and demonstrates a great deal of ignorance about the faith of more than a billion Muslims around the world. If Muslims made such preposterous claims they would be banned by Prevent from speaking in universities and on television, and would probably face arrest. Without entering into a lengthy theological tract about Islam, it needs to be acknowledged that Islam is not just what Muslims do and say, and nor are Muslims simply the product of Islam.

Even in our current age, a postmodernist take on Islam does not preclude a recognisable and legitimate manifestation of the faith. The intellectual gridlock displayed by the likes of Tom Holland is disingenuous to say the least. Muslims agree universally on key principles and methodology for interpreting religious texts, including Qur'anic verses which, to the uninitiated and uneducated, apparently "mandate violence".

One of these principles and, indeed, a touchstone in reading and understanding Islamic texts is the famous saying of the Prophet that, "My Ummah [people] will not unite on error." Throughout the ages Islam has been a broad and extremely tolerant umbrella faith; it will continue to be so as far as the vast majority of Muslims are concerned.

This does not mean that differences of opinion do not exist; of course they do, and that is perfectly legitimate and valid, but there is specific guidance for dealing with such instances. To suggest that the practices of ISIS fall within the list of acceptable differences of opinion is to completely misread Islam and its texts.

This is a matter of great importance for us all, especially the politicians, journalists and pseudo-experts of Islam who are driving the clearly misguided policy for tackling the cult of ISIS. Instead of talking down to British Muslims, it is time for them to talk with British Muslims in the search for solutions (there is bound to be more than one; Prevent is not a panacea). It all depends, of course, on whether or not the government is really serious about destroying ISIS. At the moment, that is very much open to question.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Nasim Ahmed) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:49:01 +0000
Israeli analysts say Sisi has failed as ISIS gets closer https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19649-israeli-analysts-say-sisi-has-failed-as-isis-gets-closer https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19649-israeli-analysts-say-sisi-has-failed-as-isis-gets-closer Yossi MelmanThe Israeli media has been discussing the attack claimed by ISIS against the Egyptian army in Sinai as well as the assassination of Egypt's State Prosecutor, and analysed the impact that these developments could have on the future of Israel. It was noted that there are concerns in Israel that Al-Sisi's regime may be failing to control the domestic situation as ISIS gets much closer to its borders and may soon target the Zionist state itself.

Analyst Yossi Melman raised many questions about the ability of the Egyptian army to confront ISIS and win. In his column in Maariv newspaper on Thursday, Melman said that the terrorist attack in Sinai was the biggest ever by ISIS since it launched its war against the government in Cairo four years ago. He stressed that the attack is the most painful blow to the Egyptian army in its war against the terrorism of Islamic extremists.

Melman pointed out that the Sinai events prove that despite Al-Sisi's vow to fight terrorist organisations and his unlimited use of the Egyptian army and security forces, this mission is turning out to be the most difficult and most costly yet. The truth must be said: Egypt has not yet succeeded in the war on terrorism and this raises question about the capabilities of the Egyptian army and the lack of intelligence behind it. What is even more dangerous, he claims, is carelessness and the lack of seriousness.

Talking about the strength of ISIS in Sinai, Melman pointed out that according to assessments made by Israel's security forces and intelligence agencies, the group has several hundred trained and armed activists and an equal number of supporters who come mostly from the local Bedouin population. He said that over the past few months since January's attack in which 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed, the Egyptian army has achieved a lot. It has, for example, succeeded in imposing relative calm over the remaining parts of Sinai, the middle and south, and managed to gain the allegiance of tribal chiefs in those regions by providing incentives at times and threatening punishment at other times.

According to military analyst Alex Fishman, there may be dire consequences as a result of ISIS getting closer to the Israeli borders. If Egypt does not succeed in hampering the group and seizing its resources in Sinai, and does not cut-off Gaza from Sinai completely, this problem will, sooner or later, be knocking on Israel's door.

In his column in Yedioth Ahranoth, Fishman said that the reports from the front line indicate that ISIS fighters have seized heavy machinery belonging to the Egyptian army, including at least one tank. He believes that this started in August 2012 when Salafi terrorists massacred 16 Egyptian policemen and seized a truck and a military personnel carrier with which they stormed across the border and infiltrated Israel for several kilometres. It was a "miracle" that they were defeated and thus prevented from launching a bombing operation against Kerem Shalom.

It was the same Salafists, claimed Fishman, who launched the latest attack, and they happen to be mostly Egyptian residents of Sinai. In 2012 they worked under the name of "Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis" (Supporters of Jerusalem), but in the last year have changed the brand and are now working under the auspices of ISIS Sinai.

This change, said Fishman, makes the potential threat on Israel's southern border much more dramatic. The difference can be discerned from the videos released by the terrorist themselves during recent months: six months ago they were clad in robes brandishing Kalashnikovs, reminiscent of Bedouin bandits; today they are in military uniform with ranks, bullet-proof vests and advanced military equipment.

Fishman insisted that the strategy pursued by the Sisi regime toward the Salafists in Sinai, including isolating them from the civilian population, has failed. Sooner or later, he warned, ISIS will attack Israel.

According to the Arab affairs editor of Haaretz, the problem does not end with Sinai because terrorist organisations are not content with the peninsula. They also work in the cities, wrote Tsvi Birael, and have been pursuing a new strategy.

He added that the Egyptian security agencies' own estimates suggest the existence of two million illegal firearms of all kinds in Egypt. Some of these weapons have been used to kill 500 policemen since 2013; most are found in Sinai but they are also in Cairo and other cities.

Birael went on to say that the Egyptian army believed in the beginning that it was capable of confronting these organisations through a strategy of besieging their funding and armament sources. The army evacuated more than two thousand homes in Sinai along the border with the Gaza Strip and expanded the buffer zone between the two, installed advanced electronic reconnaissance devices along the border, destroyed most of the smuggling tunnels and closed the Rafah crossing.

Such pre-emptive measures are not an alternative to pursuit in the field, he said, and it is here where the tactical difficulty happens to be as far as the Egyptian army is concerned. It obtained permission from Israel to breach the Camp David Treaty and use military aircraft across the area. However, the army is finding it difficult to locate the caves and huts in which activists working for these organisations hide in Sinai.

To counter the Egyptian strategy, the terrorist organisations have developed a strategy of their own, explained Birael. They have widened their operational area in terms of geography and objectives. The past focus in Sinai was to target army and police officers. In the past year, though, they have started to work against tourist destinations, such as Luxor, plant bombs in Cairo railway stations, and set off car bombs in residential areas, with no hesitation about targetting public figures and officials.

This strategy, he said, shows that the groups have succeeded in rebuilding a logistical base within the cities that enable them to evade Egyptian intelligence. It is true that Egypt has designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, arrested most of their political leaders and sentenced some of them, like former President Morsi, to death, but these are only the "usual suspect", according to Birael.

He added that tough penalties and means of pursuit have not reduced the rate of terrorist operations and attempts. Whereas the Muslim Brotherhood has a known leadership that functions in a pyramid structure, the terrorist organisations like Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis work independently and without coordination. These new organisations have no known or united spiritual leadership.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:43:36 +0000
Muslim Brotherhood 'will not be dragged into violence' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19648-muslim-brotherhood-will-not-be-dragged-into-violence https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19648-muslim-brotherhood-will-not-be-dragged-into-violence Jamal HashmatA senior Muslim Brotherhood official in Egypt has said that the movement "will not be dragged into violence" after the political murder of 13 of his colleagues in October Sixth City, Alamatonline.com reported on Friday.

Speaking to Anadolu, Jamal Hashmat said that he expects to see the assassination of those opposed to the military coup following the demand by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for stricter laws to be able to carry out death sentences without delay.

Hashmat challenged the narrative of the Egyptian authorities and mass media regarding the assassination of the Public Prosecutor earlier this week, noting that forensic reports contradict the official line. He reiterated his belief that Al-Sisi is the "beneficiary" of the assassination.

When asked about the 13 Brotherhood officials killed by the security services in the wake of the prosecutor's assassination and the series of attacks in Sinai, Hashmat said that the story put out by the security services is completely false. He explained that the men were arrested in different locations and taken to the apartment where they were all killed. The security services, he claimed, do not have any witnesses to confirm or deny their version of events.

Meanwhile, Hashmat denied any link between the Brotherhood and the Sinai attacks, saying that the group is likely to remain peaceful despite the aggression of the government. Nevertheless, he insisted that the group retains the right to defend itself against the military's attacks on its leaders and members.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:20:10 +0000
US renews its opposition to buffer zones in Syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19647-us-renews-its-opposition-to-buffer-zones-in-syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19647-us-renews-its-opposition-to-buffer-zones-in-syria Syrian refugees fleeing the clashes in Rasulayn region of Syria cross in to Turkey, June 2015A spokesman for the US State Department has said that the US rejects the idea of establishing buffer zones in Syria, or even "safe refuge" areas, Al-Quds newspaper has reported. John Kerby explained that America's position has not changed, and pointed out that Washington has always opposed these plans.

His remarks came after claims that Turkey and Jordan are about to establish such zones in Syria. The Turkish and Jordanian armies were reported to be ready to invade Syria for the first time since war engulfed the country in 2011. Both countries are anxious to stem the flow of refugees.

Turkey has prepared 18,000 troops to carve out a buffer zone in northern Syria and use its air force to impose a no-fly zone against Syrian aircraft.

Sources report that the Jordanian army is also ready to cross into southern Syria. According to Israeli intelligence website Debka, Jordan and Israel are said to be planning joint air cover and the creation of a parallel no-fly zone in the south.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:04:51 +0000
UN condemns Israeli killing of Palestinian teen in Jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19646-un-condemns-israeli-killing-of-palestinian-teen-in-jerusalem https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19646-un-condemns-israeli-killing-of-palestinian-teen-in-jerusalem Hundreds of Palestinians gathered for the funeral, and carried the body of Mohamed Kasbeh on FridayThe UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Maldenov, condemned on Friday the Israeli shooting and killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Mohamed Kasbeh was shot and killed by an officer of the Israel occupation army at point blank range as he headed to the mosque for prayers.

Two bullets hit the teenager in the head and chest and he collapsed immediately, Days of Palestine reported. Other worshippers attempted to offer first aid until a Palestinian ambulance arrived and took him to Ramallah Medical Centre. He was pronounced dead soon after his arrival at the hospital.

Kasbeh is the third member of his family to be killed by Israeli occupation forces. Both of his brothers were killed by the Israelis in 2002.

In a statement, Maldenov expressed deep concerns about the increasing violence and deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem against Palestinians and Israelis. He called for an "immediate end" to violence and for everyone to keep calm. "This reaffirms the need for a political process aiming to establish two states living beside each other safely and peacefully," he said.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:49:27 +0000
Egypt imposes gagging order on investigation of prosecutor's assassination https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19645-egypt-imposes-gagging-order-on-investigation-of-prosecutors-assassination https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19645-egypt-imposes-gagging-order-on-investigation-of-prosecutors-assassination Investigators move in to survey the scene of the blast last MondayAfter revealing the involvement of an army officer in the assassination of Egypt's Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat earlier this week, his acting successor, Ali Omran, imposed a gagging order on the investigation, Rassd.com reported on Friday. The order includes publication of any news regarding the incident in all mass media except information released by the office of the Public Prosecutor.

The decision has created tension among activists on social media, especially after the report published by Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the Egyptian intelligence agencies, regarding the officer's involvement.

Al-Watan revealed that former army officer Hisham Ashmawi was involved in the planning of the prosecutor's assassination. Ashmawi is accused of involvement in a number of the most high-profile attacks of recent years, including helping to plot a failed assassination attempt against Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in September 2013. It said that the plan for the murder  of Hisham Barakat was similar to that of the failed assassination attempt on the Interior Minister.

According to Al-Watan, Ashmawi is a former officer who joined the army in 1996 and went on to enlist in the Special Forces. Although he was sacked from his post, the newspaper did not say why. The security services are doubling their efforts to arrest the suspect, who has taken part in several "terrorist" attacks, including the killing of 70 Egyptian troops in Sinai.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:38:57 +0000
Syria is recruiting Kurds to carry out assassinations and attacks inside Turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19644-syria-is-recruiting-kurds-to-carry-out-assassinations-and-attacks-inside-turkey https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19644-syria-is-recruiting-kurds-to-carry-out-assassinations-and-attacks-inside-turkey Fahd Jassem Al-FraijArabi21 has obtained two documents that expose the role of the Syrian regime in supporting Kurdish forces hostile to Turkey for them to carry out terrorist attacks, including political assassinations, in Ankara and Istanbul. The documents are behind the wide-scale military operation Turkey intends to undertake in Northern Syria, according to the source who supplied them.

The documents indicate that senior Syrian officials have agreed to provide support and funding for Kurdish forces to embark on attacks that result in "discomfort for the Turkish enemy". One letter stresses that, "Turkey will witness plenty of disturbances in the coming days by virtue of the preparations made for this purpose."

The disclosure comes only three days after reports suggesting that the Turkish army has sent reinforcements to the Province of Killis as well as troops to the border town of El Baili. The Turks also set up checkpoints along the roads linking border towns. In the meantime, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that his country will not allow anybody to impose the status quo and will not remain silent about any attempt to amend the political or demographic map of the region. Hours later, Ibrahim Kalin, an advisor to Turkey's president, said that no terrorist organisation will be allowed to establish a presence along the southern borders of the country.

The first of the two documents is a secret message sent by to a departmental head within Syrian intelligence informing him that the minister of defence and General Ali Mamluk visited Al-Qamishli on 17 June where they met with senior leaders of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK); they also met a delegation sent by Masud Al-Barazani headed by his own son Masrur and made up of senior officials from the political forces within Iraqi Kurdistan. All the parties agreed to cooperate completely and absolutely in order to deploy elements from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Al-Malikyah, which is part of Al-Qamishly, prior to mobilising them towards Tal Abyad and then all the way to Aleppo; and open supply routes for them and enable them to seize full control of the said areas.

The message also says that, "The Minister of Defence, Brigadier Fahd Jassem Al-Fraij, approved all the demands of the PKK and consented to expanding their hegemony over the Province of Al-Hasakah. He promised them full support and absolute autonomy. He also promised the Al-Barazani delegation support deep within the Turkish territories in Kurdish and Kurdish Alawite towns."

It adds that Minister Al-Fraij ordered the Kurds to support Shia cells within Al-Riqqah in order to strike ISIS. The minister also gave permission to the Peshmerga to come in under the banner of the PKK with full allegiance to the Syrian leadership and never allow the "Turkish enemy" to have comfort, promising that the coming days will witness "many disturbances in Turkey".

The second secret document obtained by Arabi 21 bears the reference number 15721/85. It is a letter from Branch 330 to the Director of the Department of General Intelligence. The letter states: "Following reconnaissance by the internal source number 43, the source monitored the arrival of 17 elements belonging to the Revolutionary Popular Liberation Front Party that is opposed to the Turkish enemy. These have been admitted to Syria via the Kurdish People Protection Units in order to train them on the bombing, assassination and kidnapping operations to be launched against prominent and influential Turkish personalities deep inside the Turkish enemy's territories / Ankara – Istanbul /. They are still in the training camps of the Kurdish Protection Units. They move between the village of Tal Maarouf and the town of Al-Qahtaniyah. Their training lasts thirty days after which they are returned to their country in order to function within the very heart of the Turkish enemy. For your attention and guidance."

The second letter makes it very clear that the Syrian regime has indeed started training Kurdish elements to carry out terrorist operations within Turkey, including kidnappings and assassinations. This would explain, to a large extent, the massive military reinforcements deployed by Turkey along the border with Syria.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:13:47 +0000
Amnesty 'concerned' about death sentences in Egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19643-amnesty-concerned-about-death-sentences-in-egypt https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19643-amnesty-concerned-about-death-sentences-in-egypt Abdel Fattah Al-SisiAmnesty International has said that it is "concerned" about the latest remarks by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi regarding the death sentences given to Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members, Jordanian newspaper Al-Sabeel reported on Friday. Al-Sisi accused the Brotherhood of assassinating Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat earlier this week, and called for stricter laws to fight terrorism.

The Islamic movement called on Egypt to follow its Constitution and global human rights standards in its war against terrorism. Amnesty sent a message to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, expressing its worries regarding a statement by his ministry that accused the rights group's reports, which criticise Egypt's human rights abuses, of encouraging terrorist groups.

At Hisham Barakat's funeral, Al-Sisi called for stricter laws allowing sentences to be carried out without delay. "The hand of justice is cuffed by the law," he said, "and there is an urgent need to get courts and laws to fight terrorism." He also pledged to carry out all death sentences and other court rulings against Brotherhood leaders and members, which were issued or approved by the assassinated prosecutor.

Leaks giving information about the initial investigations into the assassination reveal that a military official was behind it. The Egyptian authorities have imposed a media gagging order on the details.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:02:55 +0000
Tunisia's revolution in the eye of the storm https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/19642-tunisias-revolution-in-the-eye-of-the-storm https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/africa/19642-tunisias-revolution-in-the-eye-of-the-storm Few would disagree that what happened in the birth-place of the Arab Spring and the jewel of the Mediterranean a week ago against innocent tourists was a stab in the back of the 17th December Revolution. The brutality of the crime in Sousse and the ignorant nature of the events have led me to call into question the framework behind such crimes. This, of course, becomes even more important when we consider the interior minister's claim that, "There are individuals who seek to create a vacuum in the security sector so that they could continue to carry out the massacre."

My reading of the recent events in Tunisia does not fall within the field of conspiratorial analysis, but is based on facts, which confirm that there are criminals who seek to destabilise national unity and the economy in transitional Tunisia. The current status quo also demonstrates how criminal groups in the country seek to disrupt its already sensitive sovereignty.

How can one begin to understand the morally suspect security breach that took place forty minutes after the shooting began? It was this security breach that allowed criminals to hurt the largest number of victims possible in a country that has been living under a constant threat of terrorism since the Bardo museum attacks. Why is it that the killer was not captured until after he had used-up all of his ammunition and was walking in the alleyways adjacent to the crime scene? How was this terrorist able to open the Pandora's Box of intelligence secrets to use to his advantage? Furthermore, how could we possibly imagine that the hotel in question did not have surveillance cameras at every corner, especially in 2015 and in a world that claims to be fighting the war on terrorism post-Arab Spring?

British and German journalists, as well as the eyewitnesses on the scene and the surgeons who treated the injured, all confirm that there was more than one shooter; the evidence for these claims is that there was more than one type of bullet used and the weapons used were also different. As for the "shameful purple media", as many activists call it on social networking sites, it claimed that the attack was carried out by gang members and loyalists of the ousted Ben Ali regime. The Tunisian media called the attacks a "settling of accounts."

The security agencies are not doing their job of collecting the necessary intelligence to protect civilians. What is sickening is the manner in which the state takes advantage of victims and yet is unable to take the necessary steps to counter the terrorists. The status quo of the Ben Ali days has returned.

It appears that one young man, Munther Rizq, who is from a poor family and came to the coast in search of a job, found work in Hadra Al-Buna. He is a teacher by training and a graduate of the faculty of maths. He stumbled across the Sousse crime scene on his way to work and found himself in the hotel security office because he looked impoverished and was wearing torn clothes. The poor man's dignity was completely stomped on as he was accused of a crime that he did not commit simply because of the way he looks. The hotel security staff did not do their job of protecting him but instead took advantage of him in the way that they take advantage of many innocent people. This explains how dozens of innocent people were killed in about forty minutes.

These people would not have been killed if security forces had intervened at the appropriate time; the many German and English newspapers which covered the story confirmed this. We waited patiently and heard the interior minister make many claims and excuses, yet what should have happened, what was expected, is that he should have submitted his resignation post-massacre. That's what would have happened in any other country where politicians respect people. The deficit in the security apparatus is demonstrated further in the number of people who came to Tunis shortly after the attack took place.

One must also point out that the gang that carried out this crime did not hesitate to demand public funds from the government, specifically from the tourism fund. In reality, this fund is used to pay off the loans that are related to the tourism industry and also to whitewash funds in general. Tunisia will not fall, as many people within the country and abroad assume. Nor will it submit to the blows that are waged against the country by the counter-revolutionary forces, including Ennahda. All of them are trying to throw dust in our eyes. Our society is fighting for its identity as militias are created, and mosques are closed. Our country is currently a fertile breeding ground for all negative things that threaten our nation.

Translated from Arabi21, 2 July, 2015

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Mohammad Hunaid) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:52:45 +0000
No progress in Iran talks with IAEA https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19641-no-progress-in-iran-talks-with-iaea https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19641-no-progress-in-iran-talks-with-iaea IAEA

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), spoke earlier today after his visit to Tehran and said that no headway was made with Iran regarding the pending issues related to its nuclear programme. Yukiya Amano met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday along with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani.

"The purpose of the visit was to advance work towards the resolution of all outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme, including clarification of possible military dimensions," Amano said in a statement. He added that he believed that both sides have a better understanding on some ways forward, though more work will be needed.

Iran and the P5+1 group of countries are seeking to reach a final agreement by means of talks in Vienna, under which Iran will agree to reduce and limit its nuclear research in exchange for lifting the international sanctions imposed on it. The government in Tehran denies that it is seeking to possess a nuclear bomb.

The IAEA will play a vital role in monitoring the final agreement and ensuring its implementation. Tehran is stalling the investigation conducted by the IAEA pertaining to the possible military aspects of Iran's past nuclear activities. The investigation is being conducted in tandem with the political talks.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:44:30 +0000
Israeli proposal to expel Palestinians from homeland permanently https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19640-israeli-proposal-to-expel-palestinians-from-homeland-permanently https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19640-israeli-proposal-to-expel-palestinians-from-homeland-permanently Eli Ben-DahanIsrael's deputy defence minister has proposed a law that, if passed, will see the expulsion of Palestinian resistance members and their families permanently from Palestine.

According to Hebrew media reports, Eli Ben-Dahan believes that expelling members of the resistance groups and their immediate family members and exiling them abroad permanently will contribute to "rooting out the phenomenon of emerging saboteurs unaffiliated with any terrorist organisation committing attacks against Israeli targets." The politician confirmed that he has asked Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked to consider the proposal and get official approval for it to become law.

A policy of forced expulsion, if adopted by the Israeli authorities, would be a blatant violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the expulsion of any citizen or group of people from their own territory, either within the same territory or abroad. In addition, Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding the protection of civilians during a time of war, makes it a grave breach of the Convention to deport or transfer a protected person.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:23:26 +0000
UN resolution calls for end to Israeli occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19639-un-resolution-calls-for-end-to-israeli-occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19639-un-resolution-calls-for-end-to-israeli-occupation File photo of Palestinian homes and buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.

The UN's Human Rights Council on Friday stressed the urgency of ending the occupation of Palestinian territory and denounced Israel's refusal to cooperate with an independent commission on last year's Gaza conflict.

A resolution was voted for by 41 states with just the U.S. opposing the proposal in Geneva.

The resolution condemned the "non-cooperation by Israel with the independent commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict and the refusal to grant access to or to cooperate with international human rights bodies seeking to investigate alleged violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem."

It also stressed the "urgency of achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967" and denounced the 1,462 civilian deaths in Gaza in July and August, including 551 children and 299 women, as well as the deaths of six Israeli civilians.

Members said they were "gravely concerned by reports regarding serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes."

Israeli pressure resulted in the council omitting reference to possible war crimes, committed in the occupied territory in 2008, 2009 and 2014.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:55:51 +0000
The Washington Post whitewashes the violence of Israel's occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19638-the-washington-post-whitewashes-the-violence-of-israels-occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19638-the-washington-post-whitewashes-the-violence-of-israels-occupation Ben White

The Washington Post published an article today by their Jerusalem correspondent William Booth about "seven major attacks against Israelis in Israel and the West Bank over the past two weeks." The seven attacks cited in the report date back to June 19, and include shootings and stabbings that have targeted Israelis at military checkpoints and near illegal settlements.

However, it is only near the end of the piece that the Post acknowledges how "there has also been violence from the Israeli side" during the period in question, citing the shooting of an unarmed Palestinian at a checkpoint on June 30. It also references the shooting of a Palestinian teenager this morning (though at the time of writing, does not mention the fact he died).

This one paragraph on "violence from the Israeli side" whitewashes two weeks of routine violence directed at Palestinians by both Israeli forces and settlers. According to UN OCHA, from June 16-29, a similar time frame to the period covered by the Post, Israeli forces injured 28 Palestinians in different incidents. There were also 10 attacks by Israeli settlers that damaged Palestinian property.

Attacks omitted by the Post include: June 20, Israeli forces shot a Palestinian child with live ammunition; June 27, Israeli forces again shot a Palestinian child; June 30, Israeli forces shot a Palestinian with a rubber-coated metal bullet; June 30, settlers assaulted a 60-year-old Palestinian man; July 2, Israeli forces shot three Palestinians during a raid on Dheisheh refugee camp.

The article does not make even one reference to the fact that the West Bank is under Israeli military occupation. The illegality of Israeli settlements is also not mentioned. Even an Israeli newspaper, analysing the "current wave" of attacks, thought to note as a factor "the Palestinians' long-standing opposition to the Israeli occupation."

Bethlehem's 'Checkpoint 300', meanwhile, is described as a "turnstile through the high gray concrete wall that separates the Palestinian territory in the West Bank from Israel." This is misleading; the checkpoint lies inside the West Bank, thus actually separating one part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory from another part (85 percent of the Wall is inside the West Bank).

Finally, the article claims politicians have urged security forces to "reverse decisions to loosen travel restrictions [for Palestinians] to Jerusalem during Ramadan." In fact, Israel's military has already revoked one of its Ramadan 'concessions', so that all Palestinian men under 50 and women under 30 will require a permit to visit Occupied East Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Disappearing Israel's violent enforcement of a half century-long colonial occupation means another explanation for Palestinian attacks is required - and the Post uncritically cites Israeli suggestions such as "anti-Israel programming on TV", "incitement" at the local mosque, or simply "Ramadan."

In its inaccuracies and omissions, the Post's article is a microcosm of the way in which the mainstream media distorts and misrepresents the reality in Palestine, whitewashing Israeli violence and colonial control, and decontextualising attacks by Palestinians under occupation.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ben White) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:44:36 +0000
The myth that bombs make peace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19637-the-myth-that-bombs-make-peace https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19637-the-myth-that-bombs-make-peace Jessica Purkiss

In the wake of the Tunisia attack, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have called for MPs to consider sending British warplanes to target Isis in Syria.

Cameron is not expected to call a vote in parliament on the issue quite yet. He wants to be sure he can win after Ed Miliband effectively blocked military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2013. MP's did back British participation against Islamic State militants in Iraq a year later and the RAF has been carrying out strikes there since September, but have, so far, not targeted Syria.

But are strikes the answer? Cameron and Fallon argue that due to growing evidence that Isis is a threat to national security; yes. However, this method of targeting terrorist groups has already been tried and tested across the globe, and more often than not, it fails with disastrous implications. The existence of Isis is largely down to this- many people explain its existence by looking to the invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror. In-fact, the group was most likely actually formed in a notorious US run prison that was in operation during the Iraq War.

The 2003 US-led invasion into Iraq and subsequent war was however just another chapter in a long history of Western interventions that have laid the groundwork for groups like Isis. Britain has played a role throughout. It was heavily involved in Operation Desert storm in 1991 during which more bombs were dropped on Iraq than were used throughout World War 11. This was followed by the US-UK imposed UN sanctions regime- in 1999, UN figures projected that more than 1.7 million Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the sanctions that had forced them to a diet of "semi-starvation".

In 2003, as part of another US-led coalition, Britain invaded Iraq. The invasion and protracted conflict that followed bred something many Iraqis say wasn't a major issue before- secretariat hate. For example, Samarra, a mostly Sunni city, is home to two of the most sacred Shia shrines. Its Sunni clergy have been the custodians of the shrines for centuries. It was after the invasion that the serious sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq's modern history began.

Britain is now involved in striking Isis targets in Iraq, an ill-conceived approach that is doing nothing to lessen the national security threat posed by the group. Now they are hoping to extend the use of this same broken tactic to Syria- a country that has already been decimated by fighting and Assad's bombs.

The divisions that have allowed ISIS to flourish are now far too complex to be solved with airstrikes. We need to recover the diversity that once blossomed in both Iraq and Syria, not further obliterate it with bombs that will breed Isis' successors.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Jessica Purkiss) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:07:25 +0000
Cost of US war on Islamic State hits $9.2 million per day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19636-cost-of-us-war-on-islamic-state-hits-92-million-per-day https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/19636-cost-of-us-war-on-islamic-state-hits-92-million-per-day File photo of ISIS militants.

The United States' war against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is costing an average of $9.2 million per day, the US Department of Defence has revealed.

The Pentagon announced in a statement that the overall cost of the military campaign against ISIS, which began in August last year, is close to $3 billion.

According to the statement, 54 per cent of the cost is spent on airstrikes, while 25 per cent is spent on arms. The rest is distributed between transport, logistical support and other operations.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:05:26 +0000
Turkey and military intervention in Syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/19635-turkey-and-military-intervention-in-syria https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/19635-turkey-and-military-intervention-in-syria Khorshid Dali

Since the Kurdish People's Protection Units took control of the border city of Tel Abyad, Turkish newspapers have been filled with headlines calling for military intervention in Syria. Reports quote leaked conversations about military plans for such intervention, and high-level security meetings have been and are being held for this purpose.

At the same time, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has intensified his rhetoric and assertion that he will not allow the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria along Turkey's southern border. So is Turkey really prepared for military intervention, or has nothing new actually happened and is this talk no different to what we have heard over and over again over the past few years?

Since Turkey embraced the Syrian opposition and severed its ties with the regime in Damascus it has worked to achieve two main goals. First, to overthrow the Syrian regime by supporting the political and armed Syrian opposition, calling for the establishment of a security buffer zone, and working to attract international support for military intervention. Second, not to allow the formation of a Kurdish faction that is independent of the main Syrian opposition and trying to drive the Kurds to join the armed struggle to overthrow the regime.

Turkey's aims led to efforts to create a fait accompli on the border by calling for the establishment of a security buffer zone, which will serve as a refuge for displaced Syrians, a base for the opposition and cover for air strikes to cripple the regime's air force. There has been no positive response from the West, particularly the United States.

Indeed, there are contrasting agendas in Ankara and Washington regarding the Syrian crisis. The war against ISIS has created a large split in positions due to different visions and strategies. As a result, the conflict has become more complicated and the regime has not been overthrown. Instead, with the support of its allies (Iran, Hezbollah and Russia), the Assad regime has survived, taking advantage of America's retreat, which has been maximised by the Russians.

The Kurds have benefited from the exhaustion and depletion of the regime militarily and the withdrawal of its forces from the Kurdish area. They have established an autonomous body with its own military, security, administrative and economic institutions. They have also imposed a fait accompli on the ground, which has resulted in victories against the expansion of ISIS. The Kurds are a force to be reckoned with and trusted allies of the international coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Hence, Turkey and, perhaps, other countries have found that, so far, the Kurds have benefited the most from the Syrian crisis. They have succeeded, for the first time in the history of Syria, to extend their geographic control and develop a political entity separate from the regime and the opposition.

This has caused growing Turkish concerns that the Kurds will continue to expand and try to link to other areas in the far north-west, with a possibility of accessing the Mediterranean Sea, thus changing some of the oil pipeline maps in the region.

The truth is that Turkey now sees that its southern border has become part of the Kurdish entity in north-east Syria. The features of this entity are forming on the ground, similar to what happened in the Kurdish region in Iraq. Perhaps what has increased Turkey's concerns in this regard is that the Democratic Union Party, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK, is running this project, while the Turks believe that the PKK leadership, based in the Qandil Mountains, is actually behind it all.

However, what irks Turkey the most is not only the Kurdish growth, but also its deep feeling that its historical ally, America, is behind this and that the ultimate goal is the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region. Turkey will be the biggest loser if this happens and Ankara insists that it will not accept it, no matter what the cost. Its priorities in the context of the Syrian crisis may thus be changed.

Without a doubt, this intensifies the Turkish political challenge with regards to Syria, thereby intensifying the debate regarding the options proposed to address and deal with the Kurdish challenge, not only on the border with Syria, but also inside Turkey itself. This is especially true after the Kurdish People's Democratic Party's performance in the parliamentary elections and the talk of ending the peace process between the government and the PKK. The talking points include the possibility of a limited military intervention, specifically in the Jarabulus area due to its importance in preventing geographical contiguity between the Kurdish north-eastern areas. Such an intervention would send a message of support to the Syrian opposition forces, such as the Free Syrian Army and the Army of Conquest, in their fight against Kurdish expansion.

Ankara could also find a basis for a military presence in the border area, and try to attract NATO support for this in order to create a new security reality in the form of a decisive message to the Kurds that Turkey will not allow the establishment of a Kurdish entity.

Politically, action could be taken regionally, especially with Iran and Russia, by saying that it aims to prevent the division of Syria and the establishment of a Kurdish state in the region. This could pave the way for a buffer zone, leading to a route out of the Syrian refugee crisis, which is an increasing burden for Turkey.

However, there are reports that suggest that this scenario has been initiated on the ground by means of the security measures taken in the border area, which will be covered by 20,000 troops. This area is 150 kilometres long and 35 kilometres deep, stretching from Tel Abyad to West Jarabulus. These measures will be taken in order to block the Kurdish project.

Despite these details, as well as others, there are some who are talking about the difficulty of military intervention because the army, specifically the Chief of Staff, refuses to get involved, seeing it as a risk, and perhaps even a conspiracy aimed at dragging the country into a quagmire that targets Turkey itself.

There are those who believe that Turkish military action would be nothing more than an expression of its political tools for dealing with the Kurdish issue in the region as a whole. Such a policy is ironic: how can Ankara deal positively with the Kurdish region of Iraq, while it rejects any openness for the Kurds in Syria? Beyond this irony, the Syrian Kurds believe that there is an issue that they do not understand regarding Turkey's insistence on presenting itself as being against their aspirations. This enhances their belief that Turkey is supporting ISIS against them. They also believe that Turkey portrays them deliberately as separatists who want to divide Syria even though neither the Kurdish parties in the Kurdish National Council nor in the Democratic Union Party have ever called for this. Indeed, the latter rejects the issue on the grounds that its political philosophy believes that Kurdish independence no longer fits with the reality of the region. Instead of independence, the party proposes local or federal government.

None of this seems to be convincing enough for Turkey, which believes that its security is threatened by the Kurdish entity which is turning into a de facto state. Ankara believes that it must take action on the ground to put an end to this, while many believe that the military option will open the floodgates to a number of repercussions.

For a start, military intervention will put an end to the reconciliation or peace process with the Turkish Kurds, who communicate across the borders with their fellow Kurds in Syria, Iraq and Iran. Such intervention will cause Kurdish violence in Turkey to erupt at what is a sensitive time. It will also increase internal Turkish divisions, and perhaps the possibility of a clash between Erdogan and the military establishment, which has not forgotten that he is the one who contained the army and removed it from political life.

The Syrian regime will benefit the most from Turkish intervention, as it will attract popular Arab sympathy, and maybe even some official support from some Arab countries. This is due to the fact that Turkish military intervention will be seen as an attack on an Arab state.

The reactions of Iran, Russia and Iraq may not be what Turkey expects; they may not simply be condemnations and threats. It may escalate to concrete measures that will blow up the internal Turkish situation. The danger of this matter is highlighted by the fact that these countries border Turkey and almost encircle it. This means that retaliation will be both easy for them and difficult for Turkey.

The American position is a major concern for Turkey, especially as Ankara believes that the US alliance with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria is being reinforced day by day due to the coalition in the war against ISIS. There are also those who believe that the US administration hopes that Turkey will be dragged into the Syrian quagmire for reasons concerning the differences in their respective Middle East agendas. There are beliefs that such involvement will result in a reconsideration of the overall Turkish policy and maybe even getting rid of Erdogan himself.

Turkey is certainly facing a serious challenge and wherever it stands, it finds itself losing. It is caught between the hammer of responding to the Kurdish expansion and the anvil of making a difficult decision and fearing its repercussions.

Translated from Al-Jazeera net, 30 June, 2015.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Khorshid Dali) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:43:44 +0000
Tunisia sets Hizb ut-Tahrir deadline to conform to constitution https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19634-tunisia-sets-hizb-ut-tahrir-deadline-to-conform-to-constitution https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19634-tunisia-sets-hizb-ut-tahrir-deadline-to-conform-to-constitution The Tunisian government has given Hizb ut-Tahrir a deadline to complete the legal procedures necessary for bringing its basic law into conformity with the constitution.

Tunisian local radio station Shems FM yesterday quoted Kamel Jendoubi, the minister to the head of government in charge of relations with the constitutional institutions and civil society, as saying that the government would give Hizb ul-Tahrir a deadline to complete the legal procedures enabling it to issue a basic law to regulate its activities.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's issue was brought to the forefront in Tunisia after a terrorist attack took place on Friday in the resort city of Sousse, resulting in the death of dozens of foreign tourists.

During a visit to the scene, President Beji Caid Essebsi indicated that he would call on the government to review the parties' law, referring to the possibility of dissolving parties that were not in line with the constitution.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's spokesman Reda Bel-Hajj accused the president of going beyond his powers. "Essebsi is not [legally] authorised to intervene in political parties, which is the government's prerogative," Bel-Hajj said.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:29:31 +0000
Netanyahu: Israel now faces double threat from Iran and ISIS https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19633-netanyahu-israel-now-faces-double-threat-from-iran-and-isis https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19633-netanyahu-israel-now-faces-double-threat-from-iran-and-isis Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  [File photo]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that "Israel now faces two threats: that of ISIS – and that of Iran."

He added in a statement issued yesterday, a copy of which was obtained by Anadolu news agency, that "We need not strengthen one at the expense of the other. We need to weaken both and prevent the aggression and arming of both".

Netanyahu also stated that "Up until several months ago, when we said that ISIS was carrying out actions on our borders, people were sceptical. And here we see before our very eyes ISIS operating with unusual brutality on both our northern and southern borders," he said, referring to the northern border with Syria and the southern border with Sinai.

The Israeli prime minister also added that "the actions that we have seen from ISIS are nothing compared to the capabilities being built by the Iranian regime."

He pointed out that although "nobody in their right mind would give ISIS nuclear weapons," but that "in the major powers' current talks with Iran they are giving it... the ability to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons, of very many nuclear bombs along with the means to deliver them – long-range missiles."

Israel is opposed to current international efforts, led by the US, aiming to reach a settlement with Iran regarding its nuclear programme. This settlement stipulates the dismantlement of Iran's nuclear reactors. Israel has also opposed any decision to lift the crippling sanctions currently imposed on Tehran.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:31:26 +0000
Israel issued 571 administrative detention orders against Palestinians this year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19632-israel-issued-571-administrative-detention-orders-against-palestinians-this-year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19632-israel-issued-571-administrative-detention-orders-against-palestinians-this-year Israeli authorities have issued 571 administrative detention orders against Palestinian citizens between the start of 2015 until end of June, a Palestinian human rights centre revealed yesterday.

Administrative detention orders issued by month

  • January: 109
  • February: 89
  • March: 121
  • April: 82
  • May: 92
  • June: 78

The Palestinian Prisoners Centre for Studies said in a report that the figures constitute an increase of 150 per cent compared with the same period last year where the number of administrative detention orders amounted to nearly 200.

According to the report, the Israeli authorities insist on issuing administrative detention orders, despite criticism from international institutions and figures about their illegality.

The report explained that among the administrative orders, 126 orders were issued against prisoners detained for the first time and 445 orders were renewed for prisoners already in custody.

Adding that prisoners from Hebron received the highest share of administrative detention orders.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:23:02 +0000
Egyptian security forces kill Brotherhood leader following kidnapping https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19631-egyptian-security-forces-kill-brotherhood-leader-following-kidnapping https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19631-egyptian-security-forces-kill-brotherhood-leader-following-kidnapping Tariq Khalil

Sources from the Muslim Brotherhood have stated that Egyptian security forces killed Muslim Brotherhood leader and businessman Tarek Khalil two weeks after forcibly kidnapping him.

The sources also noted that the army's security forces kidnapped Khalil, along with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Office, Mohamed Saad Elewa, on the first day of Ramadan. They added that the two were severely tortured at the army detention centre, and that Khalil was unable to bear the torture, resulting in his death.

According to the sources, Khalil's body was hidden at Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo for five days.

Mohammed Tarek Kahlil, the son of the deceased Brotherhood leader son, said in a call with Al-Jazeera, that the family did not know the whereabouts of his father in the two weeks since his kidnapping on the first day of Ramadan.

He added that the family initially heard that he was being held in a basement owned by the state security agency, but that they had heard only a few hours ago about his body was in Zeinhom Morgue.

Mohammed confirmed that his father's body showed signs of severe torture and that an autopsy was performed. He also noted that his father's body had been in the morgue from 28 June to 3 July, but that the family was not informed.

The family eventually discovered that the body was brought from Kasr Al-Aini Hospital by way of the Misr El Qadima Police Station. Mohammad said that the death of his father reflect the current situation in Egypt, which he called a "state of injustice and oppression that has no respect for anything."

Khalil was responsible for the Muslim Brotherhood's Development Committee.

The news of his death came after the families of 13 deceased Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members claimed the security forces has assassinated their loved ones on Wednesday just hours after they were arrested.

Photos of the victims taken at Zeinhom Morgue show their fingers still had ink on them from being fingerprinted by the security forces immediately after their arrest.

The Muslim Brotherhood has warned the government against what it describes as "the anger of the oppressed".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:24:34 +0000
Israel seeks help of West to stop its officials from being arrested https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19630-israel-seeks-help-of-west-to-stop-its-officials-from-being-arrested https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19630-israel-seeks-help-of-west-to-stop-its-officials-from-being-arrested The Israeli Foreign Ministry has asked European countries for help in confronting the risk of their generals, political and security officials being arrested on charges of war crimes while abroad.

This comes after the Palestinian Authority, along with a number of Muslim states, filed a complaint in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday demanding that a number of Israeli politicians and military officials be declared suspects of committing war crimes. They also called for their arrest in countries where the law allows for this and for them to be questioned as to their involvement in last summer's war against Gaza.

Israel says Palestinians have planned a harsh campaign against Israel and that a number of countries who have joined in the complaint are committing grave human rights violations. However, the Palestinian action comes following encouragement from European countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely met with some foreign ambassadors and presented Israel's request. They also accused the UN Human Rights Council of being biased, as it overlooked Hamas's role in the war, which according to Israel "hid its weapons and fighters amongst civilians, thus putting their lives in danger".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:16:37 +0000
Hamas: PA's arrest of our members serves the occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19629-hamas-pas-arrest-of-our-members-serves-the-occupation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19629-hamas-pas-arrest-of-our-members-serves-the-occupation Hamas condemned the large-scale arrest campaign launched by the PA security services in Ramallah against Hamas activists and supporters in the West Bank last night during which dozens were arrested.

In a written press statement, member of the Hamas Political Bureau, Izzat Al-Reshq said: "We in Hamas condemn the campaign of arrests launched by the security services in the West Bank." He considered the campaign to be "a stab in the backs of our people during this holy month and a service to the occupation."

Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesman, also denounced the campaign saying: "This rabid security campaign is an attempt to stop resistance against the occupation, especially after the acts of resistance have escalated in the past few days and the occupation's announcement that Hamas was behind most of these acts."

He also stressed that this campaign "reveals the PA's security services' subordination to the occupation. The matter has gone beyond security coordination, which is rejected by all Palestinian people."

Badran held President Mahmoud Abbas personally responsible for "the acts of oppression and terrorism carried out by his security agencies against the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank." He called on all the Palestinian factions and forces to take bold and clear positions against such actions which tear apart the national Palestinian fabric.

In a press release issued today, Hamas said: "The campaign impacted about 108 Hamas supporters across the West Bank. The arrests occurred after their homes were raided late last night and early this morning."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:12:40 +0000
Syrian regime dropped 10,500 barrel bombs this year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19628-syrian-regime-dropped-10500-barrel-bombs-this-year https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19628-syrian-regime-dropped-10500-barrel-bombs-this-year The Syrian regime has used 10,423 barrel bombs in 19,205 air raids between the start of this year and the end of June, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

According to the observatory, airstrikes targeted several villages, towns and cities in Syria from the province of Al-Quneitera in the south to the province of Al-Hasakah in the north-east, and from Aleppo to the province of Daraa.

The helicopters dropped 10,423 barrel bombs on different areas in the provinces Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Al-Hasakah, Deir Ezzor, Al-Quneitera, Al Suwaydaa, Daraa, Idlib and Lattakia.

The warplanes carried out at least 8,782 raids on areas in the provinces of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Al-Hasakah, Deir Ezzor, Al-Raqqa, Al-Quneitera, Daraa, Al-Suwaydaa, Idlib and Lattakia.

Some 2,916 civilians were killed as a result, including 456 women and 665 children, and a further 18,000 were wounded while tens of thousands were displaced. The aerial bombardment also resulted in the destruction of both public and private property.

SOHR said explosive barrels and air raids resulted in the death of 1,213 fighters from Al-Nusra Front, ISIS, and rebel and Islamic battalions while hundreds more were wounded.

It held the UN Security Council responsible for the intensification of air raids because of its reluctance to issue a binding decision to stop the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:59:22 +0000
Israel advocacy group launches anti-BDS initiative for local councillors https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19627-israel-advocacy-group-launches-anti-bds-initiative-for-local-councillors https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19627-israel-advocacy-group-launches-anti-bds-initiative-for-local-councillors boycott and divestment

A new initiative was launched this week by Israel advocates in Britain aimed at countering boycott and divestment campaigns at the level of local government.

'We Believe in Israel', a project of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), officially unveiled its 'Local Government Friends of Israel' network with a reception at the Local Government Association's annual conference in Harrogate.

The goal of the initiative is "to combat boycott attempts and to build links between British and Israeli local authorities." According to BICOM's Luke Akehurst, "local councils are facing increasing pressure from anti-Israel campaigners" seeking to advance "boycott motions."

"This network will ensure we can stand up to anti-Israel activity in councils", Akehurst added.

Organisers claim to have the backing of 450 councillors. The launch event featured Claudia Mendoza, the head of policy and research at the Jewish Leadership Council, and Marie Van Der Zyl, Board of Deputies vice president.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:42:05 +0000
Tunisia shouldn't make the same counter-terrorism mistakes as the West https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19626-tunisia-shouldnt-make-the-same-counter-terrorism-mistakes-as-the-west https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19626-tunisia-shouldnt-make-the-same-counter-terrorism-mistakes-as-the-west File photo of Ambulances and police at the scene of attack on the Tunisian museum in March 2015.

The shock of the massacre in Sousse was such that we should not be surprised at the all-party call to support the Tunisian army and security services. Security and unity is, after all, what Tunisia needs right now.

The response from Tunis has caused some alarm. Soon after the incident the government called for 80 mosques to be shut down on the basis that "extremist preaching" was taking place therein. We have heard calls like this before. They are the hallmark of the narrative that an "Islamic ideology" causes radicalisation, but such an understanding has not made things any better in the world. In fact, the opposite is the case.

Most Muslims would argue that the vast majority of those who have joined ISIS are extremely ignorant about Islam. The Tunisian killer is no different; look at his profile: his lifestyle, it has been reported, revolved around sex and drugs before carrying out his terrorism and he did not exhibit any signs of religious conservativism. So why have Tunisian officials used his act of terrorism as an excuse to close mosques?

Cracking down on ideology will never work. Western governments have tried to do the exact same thing. It has not stopped people from joining ISIS but it has alienated people and made them more vulnerable to radicalisation. Western counter-terrorism policy has largely created a general suspicion of Islam and, in particular, anyone who practises their faith in any serious way, even though the evidence suggests that other factors are more important in the radicalisation process.

British think tank Claystone has highlighted the inherent problem of reducing the complex issue of radicalisation to a simple set of values. According to the Brennan Centre for Justice, based at New York University School of Law, the path to terrorism is "neither predictable, nor religious." An MI5 document that was reported in 2008 illustrated that those suspected of terrorism or who carried out terrorist acts were far from being religious zealots, did not practice their faith regularly and even struggled with basic religious literacy.

ISIS was born in the political vacuum in Iraq. As soon as America and its allies declared "mission accomplished" following their 2003 invasion, Saddam Hussein's henchmen, with their secular pan-Arab ideology of Baathism, were plotting their comeback. They set up their own militia that later became "Islamic State". It was the political reality of the Western occupation and an Iraqi death toll of genocidal proportions that enabled this militia to attract support. It was the group's "anti-imperialist" rhetoric and presence that helped it to expand, not what it was called.

Disappointingly, the West's persistent focus on theology and ideology is in spite of the strong evidence which suggests that more pragmatic issues are involved. Time and time again we hear from terrorist suspects that they chose that particular path for political reasons. Any theology, just like ISIS as a group, merely padded-out the language and means of communication, and nothing more.

Western governments always focus on the "religious" aspect because they want to avoid discussion about their foreign policy, which speaks volumes. Legislation which has followed is thus based on a false narrative which claims that Islamic beliefs and practices are themselves signs of radicalisation. In doing so, it has created suspects out of all Muslims, not least those of all backgrounds who express their concerns about living in a society being made increasingly illiberal in the name of preserving "liberty".

The impact has been hugely counter-productive. Islamophobia has been institutionalised across Europe and Muslims, particularly young people, are more vulnerable to radicalisation. Society has become more intolerant of Muslims (and Arabs), no matter how "western" or "liberal" they may be, despite their condemnation of terrorist acts. There is no reason for Tunisia to take the same approach to counter-terrorism.

Terminology in this debate is important. There is an issue with the term "extremism", for example; how is it defined, and by whom? The lack of an accurate and suitable definition enables governments to label and target whom they please, without genuine evidence or accountability. In Britain, Home Secretary Theresa May is facing criticism for criminalising thoughts and ideas instead of actions. Those who lived through Ben Ali's dictatorship in Tunisia know all too well what that can lead to. It is vital for the political opposition, Ennahda, and other political parties, with the backing of the people of Tunisia to make sure that such a dark period in their history isn't repeated.

While it goes without saying that we should support any measures to ensure that an atrocity like that in Sousse does not happen again, the erosion of civil liberties in order to fight terrorism will not only undo the benefits of the Arab Spring, but also let the terrorists win by default. Such illiberal liberalism is what Ben Ali was famous for. It's the same kind of warped logic which enables Al-Sisi to rule Egypt today, and what an increasingly Islamophobic Europe is heading towards. This kind of "liberalism" turns a nation into a brutal autocracy with a false sense of enlightenment and moral superiority gained by the equally false perception that the Other is an inferior savage.

Tunisian society will need to hold onto its freedom whilst balancing security concerns, otherwise its democracy will implode, as Egypt's and Libya's have. Diversity, respect, tolerance and multiculturalism all demand societal norms that can see beyond how people look and what language they use. It is vital that Tunisia does not fall into the politics of fear.

From a security point of view, it means leading on evidence-based intelligence and not unhelpful stereotypes with racial and religious profiling at airports or elsewhere. From a socio-political perspective, it means challenging any moves made by the government which erode the liberty of the people. Economic solutions are also needed as Tunisia is already full of angry young men who feel alienated because they can't earn an honest living (which also makes them vulnerable to radical ideas). What must be made clear is that punishing society with measures based upon a flawed understanding of radicalisation, one that blames ideology and "a strand of Islam", will only make things worse for everyone.

It's time for us to understand that an attack on anyone's liberty is an attack on everyone's liberty. A peaceful, prosperous future demands a broader search for solutions, rather than policies that will make Tunisia more isolated, vulnerable and insular in the global village. Tunisia doesn't have to make the same mistakes as the West. Let us hope that it doesn't; the people have suffered enough already.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Imran Shah) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:00:45 +0000
When conscience fails, children suffer https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19625-when-conscience-fails-children-suffer https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19625-when-conscience-fails-children-suffer File photo of houses and buildings destroyed by barrell bombs in Syria.

Arthur is a boy living in the West. Arthur is healthy and his family looks after him very well. Even if he gets ill, there is a hospital near their home from which they can get support. His mother takes care of him, ensuring that he eats a proper and balanced diet. He has lots of toys. Even though his life passes by between home and school like many children, he enjoys the time he spends with his friends. He can go outside and play games freely whenever he wants. The biggest dream of 9-year-old Arthur is to be a fighter pilot like his father.

Safi is a boy from Latakia. He is the same age as Arthur; however, his living conditions are very different to Arthur's. While Safi was at school one day, a barrel bomb was dropped on the school building from some airplanes belonging to Syrian regime. A month prior to this incident the windows of his home were shattered from the shockwaves of bombs dropping nearby. Pieces of shrapnel from the bomb at his school have disfigured his face and some remain embedded in his back. He says that among his friends there are some who do not want to play with him because they are scared of the shrapnel wound on his face. Contrary to Arthur, Safi wants to be a doctor. HE explains that one day he would like to be able to "help injured children and adults and to save their lives."

This is an extract from the real life story of a Syrian child living in Latakia. Dozens of stories of Syrian children like Safi have been published on the Turkish website of the UN Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). In these stories, there are heart-wrenching details about the oppression, exile or massacres these children have experienced.

The number of children orphaned as a result of the civil war in Syria is increasing day by day; the war leaves a very devastating impression on children. According to the last report of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF, the number of children negatively affected by the wars in Iraq and Syria has reached 14 million. The number of children remaining in Syria who continue to suffer and need help is 5.6 million; 323,000 of them under the age of five.

More than one million Syrian refugees who escaped from their country consist of children under the age of 11. Antonio Guterres, the high commissioner of UNHCR, recently expressed how serious this figure is in a report in which he claimed that as many Syrian children have been uprooted from their homes or families as the number of children who live in Wales, or in Boston and Los Angeles combined. "Can you imagine Wales without children? Can you imagine Boston and Los Angeles without children?" said Gueterres.

In Syria, 11,525 children under the age of 18 remain in custody. According to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria, 98,823 children have been orphaned as a result of the ongoing conflict. According to a report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), 6,500 children are currently imprisoned in Syria. The same report also states that 94 children have died as a direct result of torture.

Not only in Syria, but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and in many other countries, children and their parents are dying and the number of children being orphaned in war continues to increase. Millions of children cannot go to school, cannot be properly nourished, do not have access to medical services, and live in constant fear for their lives. Even for those children who somehow escaped from the battlefield, many difficulties await them. Most of the children who took refuge in neighbouring countries no longer have a home. They do not have any clothes. Nor do they have any personal belongings, toys, schools or friends. Most importantly, they do not have anyone who can show them sincere love, affection and attention.

"These children cannot be protected. They are exposed to sexual abuse, child labour and child marriage. Their future is being stolen from them," says UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt.

The situation of Syrian children has been reduced to a mere footnote in mainstream news stories. People are seeing burned-out and ruined homes, the bodies of bullet-riddled children with bleary eyes. Even if they see the news and photos revealing the misery of war on the Internet, most people do not look at them very often. When they do look, they quickly forget about them; they want to forget about them. That is because for some, there is no problem as long as their own comfort and their own safety are intact.

To post a few sentences on Twitter, to share one or two photos on Facebook, or to write a condemning message is considered entirely adequate. The number of individuals who have made donations to help Syrian refugees has been far less than expected.

People should think about Syrian children as much as they fuss over their own children. Had these people stood up from their chairs, gone to Syria for a couple of days and experienced the terror and horror of the war there, would they still be able to remain this insensitive? Everyone should put selfishness aside and strive to relieve the problems of oppressed people in the world. We should make a great effort to extend love, peace, brotherhood, justice, affection, and compassion all over the world.

Above all else, we should realise that ideologies and ambitions that render the conscience so blind as to let them torture children to death should be silenced intellectually – yet instead the powers that be attempt to wipe them out with drones, bombs and missiles. We should appeal to people's consciences by explaining that no matter how important personal or national interests are, they simply cannot be more precious than human life, especially that of a child.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Harun Yahya) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 11:35:07 +0000
Defending Riyadh with weapons of mass destruction https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19624-defending-riyadh-with-weapons-of-mass-destruction https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/19624-defending-riyadh-with-weapons-of-mass-destruction Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran

As predicted, an agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme was not reached by the 30 June deadline and the delegates at the G5+1 talks gave themselves an extra seven days. Supreme Leader Ali Khameini went back on a condition set by the previous talks to allow international inspection of Iran's military bases. So far, even the extension sessions are moving slowly, to the frustration of the delegates and regional powers who are waiting for the crucial details that will shape the dynamics of political power in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has been a major concern for the past few weeks. In May, former intelligence chief Prince Turki Bin Faisal said in South Korea, "Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too," with reference to the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons. Riyadh has also distanced itself diplomatically from Washington, which was made clear when King Salman refused to attend a US-Arab summit in Camp David, also in May, and sent Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince and Defence Minister instead.

A diplomatic initiative with Russia has also been initiated by Saudi Arabia. The crown prince visited Moscow a fortnight ago and signed a deal for Russia to build 16 nuclear reactors to provide renewable energy, as announced on the "King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy" website on 18 June.

Despite the initiatives to increase Saudi's nuclear profile, it is very unlikely in the foreseeable future that it will try to become a nuclear state. Nevertheless, there have been suspicions over its nuclear ambitions since the mid-eighties, during the Iraq-Iran war. King Fahad felt uneasy about relying purely on Saddam Hussein to counter Iranian influence in the Arab world; the media has speculated since then about Riyadh getting nuclear weapons. The suspicions deepened significantly in 1988 when it was discovered that Saudi had purchased 36 CSS-2 intermediate ballistic missiles, with a range of 3,000km; the whole of the Middle East could be a Saudi target, including Iran and Israel.

Although bought from China, a Soviet ally, no serious attempt has been made to this day for Saudi to disengage itself from the unofficial oil for security strategic alliance with America that has been the norm from the creation of the kingdom.

Since the execution of Saddam Hussein and the collapse of Iraq, Saudi Arabia is now the main regional military power standing against Iran. To Riyadh's dismay, the current Iranian threat is happening at a time when Washington is reducing its military presence in the Middle East. It is also currently involved in a proxy war as a result of being at the forefront of the power struggle in Yemen. More than ever, therefore, it is in Saudi's interest to prevent Iran from acquiring further military capabilities.

For Riyadh to distance itself from Washington over disagreements about this issue is understandable. To put pressure on Washington to take a more hard-line approach to the Iran nuclear talks by turning to Moscow is also understandable. What people who believe that Saudi is looking to match Iran's nuclear capability forget, though, is that Saudi Arabia is currently stuck in an asymmetrical war and needs to boost its non-conventional military capabilities. The air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen are not working, neither is the blockade. If anything, they have militarised the Houthis further, allowed ISIS to grow and created a humanitarian crisis, including a dengue fever epidemic in its southern neighbour.

Over recent years, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, Iran's way of spreading influence in the Arab world has not been through an arms race, but through funding and arming government opposition groups to create instability. With instabilities come power vacuums, which Iran may exploit.

The truth facing Riyadh is that if it wants to prevail in the power struggle, it will have to advance its military capabilities to combat the asymmetrical threat coming from the other side of the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Weapons of mass destruction, although obviously important to assert authority, are nothing more than a symbolic deterrent, for now at least. The past three months should have taught Saudi to enhance its military capabilities to deal with asymmetric threats and to place counter-terrorism at the heart of its defence policy. It is also important to remember that we are moving away from the bipolar global structure upon which Saudi has based its policies for decades. This means that Saudi Arabia, as a key regional power, needs to go back to the basics and ask itself what it means to defend itself in the changing Middle East.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Diana Alghoul) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:55:29 +0000
Hamas denies forming militant group to harm Arab countries https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19623-hamas-denies-forming-militant-group-to-harm-arab-countries https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19623-hamas-denies-forming-militant-group-to-harm-arab-countries Husam Badran

Hamas yesterday denied what it described as "Israeli allegations" that the movement's leaders abroad were forming armed cells and planning attacks against their host countries.

The group's spokesman Husam Badran said in a press statement: "The occupation practices incitement every now and then to influence Hamas's relations with various countries and parties which support the Palestinian cause."

"The occupation holds some Hamas leaders abroad responsibility for acts of resistance in the West Bank, this is an attempt to cover up its inability to prevent resistance fighters from performing their duty in defending their people," he said.

Badran, who lives in Qatar, stressed that the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, "does not need permission from any party to exercise its role in facing the occupation's soldiers and settlers."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:45:17 +0000
UNESCO classes Sanaa as heritage sites in danger https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19622-unesco-classes-sanaa-as-heritage-sites-in-danger https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/19622-unesco-classes-sanaa-as-heritage-sites-in-danger UNESCO

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) yesterday added the Old City of Sanaa and the Old Walled City of Shibam to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

During their 39th session in the city of Bonn, Germany, the committee said the Old City of Sanaa and the Old Walled City of Shibam sustained serious damage due to the ongoing clashes between Shia Houthi rebels and government forces.

It said the decision to include both cities on the World Heritage in Danger list will help mobilise international efforts to protect the sites.

The Old City of Sanaa has been inhibited for more than 2,500 years.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:36:53 +0000
'The Iraqis have always defended the Palestinians': A conversation with Yousif Naser https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/19621-the-iraqis-have-always-defended-the-palestinians-a-conversation-with-yousif-naser https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/19621-the-iraqis-have-always-defended-the-palestinians-a-conversation-with-yousif-naser EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW & IMAGES

Exile and war have long been dominant themes in the work of Iraqi artist Yousif Naser; pain and death rendered in large, black strokes, a chaotic jumble of eerie shadows and figures. The paintings from one of the artist's most recent and better known series Black Rain, for example, showcase the violence and horror of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, the canvases depicting the inky silhouettes of aeroplanes and bombs, of fire and destruction, and of open-mouthed screams.

But in a new exhibition hosted by the W3 Gallery run by the Acton Arts Forum, Naser has taken a different approach, opting instead to lay bare the bones of his creative process and exhibit the sketches and paintings the public rarely get to see. Entitled Visual Prattle, the exhibition features large scrolls covered in bold brush strokes, scraps of paper rendered black with scribbles and musings, and dozens of sketchbooks bursting at the seams with ink and colourful blocks of paint.

"I wanted to show the public the story behind the paintings," says Naser, "these are not paintings, they are like diaries; spontaneous, immediate, direct. When I go to my studio, I don't go to my paintings, I go to these."

Naser says that most artists are embarrassed by such incomplete designs and hide them from the public, but that he wanted to bring them out into the open so that people can have a first-hand glimpse of his "prattle of the imagination".

"Artists ramble on in this way on paper, canvas, wood or any other medium. Some would say this is not enough to satisfy the audience. I disagree," he says. "This exercise is the point from which every newcomer starts to spin its tale; it is the place from which every finished work of art starts."

One such rambling is a vivid depiction of the grizzled and bearded face of Saddam Hussein, rendered in bold reds and blacks and repeated several times across the page, his deadened eyes bearing unnervingly into the onlooker. Naser explains that this particular image came about when he was working in his studio with the news on in the background when the announcement came on that Saddam Hussein had been captured. Naser was particularly captivated by the image of the fallen former dictator, and set about capturing that and the elation he himself felt at the news.

"I was so happy because I thought now he is gone it would all be over. I didn't know the devil was still in the people."

Much of his current work deals with Iraq post-2003, or alternatively with a nostalgic depiction of the homeland he has lost. One of the pieces in the exhibition is an enormous grey and white canvas that fills an entire wall and which the artist has painstakingly and meticulously filled entirely with intricate pen and ink drawings depicting his life in his home country and the people he has left behind.

"All of Iraq is here," says Naser, gesturing towards the canvas with a wistful look in his eye, "It took me six months to complete that piece. I wanted to capture a piece of my country."

Naser was forced to flee Iraq in 1979 as a result of his activities with the Iraqi Communist Party, and in particular for his involvement with a branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in his native Basra.

"The Iraqi Communist Party has always defended the Palestinians," says Naser, "Against Zionism, against human rights violations... In Iraq, there was a law by the Ba'ath [Party] that if you were with the PLO or part of a leftist group you were put to death." He chuckles wryly, "I was both."

The artist left Iraq for Beirut, where he worked for several years as an "artistic director" of the PLO based in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp. He says his experience was not uncommon among Iraqi leftists at the time: "Thousands of us left Iraq to work with the Palestinians," he says, "it was a cause that we believed in."

He fled Beirut in 1982 following the Israeli invasion, and eventually made his way to the UK in the early 90s following stints in Syria, Cyprus and Norway.

"I don't like London," he says of his current home, "I was the only Iraqi who was forced to stay. All the Iraqis wanted to come here but I wanted to leave; but they wouldn't let me."

Indeed, the artist's work, like his words, bears testament to this fact; image after image of Iraq are layered upon one another; image after image of a lost homeland. Naser may find himself physically here, in a small community-run gallery in West London, but his heart remains firmly there, among the date palms and dusty skies of his childhood home.

Images courtesy of Yousif Naser.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Emmanuela Eposti) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:18:13 +0000
Israeli soldier kills Palestinian teen on his way to Al-Aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19620-israeli-commander-shoots-dead-palestinian-teen-on-his-way-to-pray-in-al-aqsa https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19620-israeli-commander-shoots-dead-palestinian-teen-on-his-way-to-pray-in-al-aqsa Mohammad Kasbeh funeral

A senior Israeli army officer shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian early Friday morning by the Separation Wall near Qalandiya checkpoint.

According to Palestinian sources, Mohammad Kasbeh was killed by two bullets while trying to cross the Wall to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Initial reports from Israeli sources claimed that the teenager was part of a group throwing stones at a military patrol that was making its way to Qalandiya, damaging a vehicle's windscreen.

Binyamin Brigade commander, Col. Yisrael Shomer, got out of the car and opened fire, killing Kasbeh and wounding one other Palestinian.

Israeli military sources claim that Shomer felt in "mortal danger." No Israeli forces were injured.

An Israeli spokesperson said: "The forces called the suspect to halt and shot warning shots in the air. Once he continued hurling rocks at close range and in response to the imminent danger the forces fired towards the suspect." The IDF Spokesperson said standard procedure was followed.

Hundreds of Palestinians from Qalandiya refugee camp gathered at the Palestine Medical Center to mourn Kasbeh's death.

Just two month ago, Col. Shomer participated in an Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs event on "Minors & Military Justice System in the West Bank", speaking on a panel about "the Arrest and Investigation Process in the West Bank."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:14:01 +0000
Israel calls for alliance with 'moderate' Arab countries to fight 'Islamic terrorism' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19619-israel-calls-for-alliance-with-moderate-arab-countries-to-fight-islamic-terrorism https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19619-israel-calls-for-alliance-with-moderate-arab-countries-to-fight-islamic-terrorism Aryeh DeriAn Israeli minister yesterday called for the formation of an alliance with "moderate" Arab states to fight what he called "Islamic terrorism".

In a statement quoted on local radio, Israeli Minister of the Economy Aryeh Deri said: "Israel and the moderate Arab states must form an alliance to fight Islamic terrorism."

"Egypt, Jordan and the moderate Gulf states should realise the need for cooperation with Israel in this field."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attacks that targeted the Egyptian army and police forces in the northern Sinai on Thursday, offering his condolences to Egypt.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:22:01 +0000
Blair in Cairo to discuss the peace process, lifting the Gaza siege https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19618-blair-in-cairo-to-discuss-the-peace-process-lifting-the-gaza-siege https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19618-blair-in-cairo-to-discuss-the-peace-process-lifting-the-gaza-siege Sameh Hassan Shoukry, Egyptian foreign minister

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with the former President of the International Quartet Committee, Tony Blair, on Wednesday to discuss developments on the Palestinian political, security and humanitarian issues and ways to resume peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

In a press statement issued yesterday, the spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati said the discussions centred around the Palestinian issue, achieving stability and security in the region as well as the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Shoukry also outlined the need for a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli issues on the basis of a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on all Palestinian lands.

The spokesperson added: "The meeting dealt with the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in detail as well as the necessity of having the states and donor parties meeting the pledges they made and lifting the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza Strip."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:17:28 +0000
Hamas will not recognise amendments to unity government https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19617-hamas-will-not-recognise-amendments-to-unity-government https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19617-hamas-will-not-recognise-amendments-to-unity-government Islamic Resistance Movement-Hamas

Hamas will take decisive political actions in the Gaza Strip if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas introduces ministerial amendments to the unity government formed last year, close sources revealed.

The unnamed sources told Quds Press that Hamas will not recognise any ministerial amendments to the unity government introduced by Abbas, explaining that in this case "Hamas will be obliged to take firm and decisive action to ensure stability in Gaza Strip administratively and politically".

The Palestinian news agency reported earlier that Abbas commissioned Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to conduct "ministerial amendments to the national unity government to help it carry out its national responsibilities in all Palestinian regions."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected Abbas's decision calling it "a coup against the reconciliation agreement".

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:13:45 +0000
Talking to terrorists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/19616-talking-to-terrorists https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/19616-talking-to-terrorists Richard JacksonRichard Jackson speaks to MEMO: "Once you listen to what their grievances are and try and address them terrorism subsides."

One week ago, Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgai opened fire on tourists near Sousse, Tunisia, killing 38 people. On the same day, a man was beheaded in France and a bomb detonated in a Shia mosque in Kuwait killing 27. ISIS claimed responsibility for all three.

Amidst the media coverage that follows terrorist attacks such as these two schools of thought generally emerge: one asserts that terrorists are driven by religious ideology and the other that they are driven by political motives, principally western foreign policy. "All the evidence suggests that this is deeply political," says Richard Jackson, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand. "It's the conclusion of all the serious scholars I'm aware of that in particular the invasion of Iraq was the single most radicalising event for militants across the Middle East and in European and Western countries."

"That makes complete sense," he continues. "Because if we look at this kind of terrorism it wasn't around in the same form and the same level or even close to the same extent 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Islam's been around for hundreds of years... but this is a very modern phenomenon and it's very, very connected to the politics of the Middle East, particularly to the invasions to Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib torture, to drone strikes and so on."

"What you've got to remember is that the west has killed 1.3 million people in Iraq. That's likely to drive any reasonable person into a rage and cause immense grievance."

The Tunisian government responded to last Friday's attacks by issuing an order to close more than 80 mosques. Jackson, who is also Chief Editor of Critical Studies on Terrorism and runs a blog on the subject, explains that one of the oldest precepts of theories on terrorism states that isolated acts of violence push the state to respond by cracking down, which in turn intensifies grievances against the state and mobilises support.

The theory, he says, "is that you provoke the power to respond in a disproportionate way, which then creates grievance, which then gives terrorists more support and leads eventually to a broader, deeper movement that can perhaps consider moving to the next stage, which would be a kind of a civil war or an insurgency and then eventually overthrowing [the] regime."

Knee-jerk reactions, says Jackson, simply conform to terrorists' expectations; but not all governments respond in the same way. In 2011, Anders Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo before shooting dead 69 people at the Norwegian Labour Party's youth camp, yet Norway's response to the attack showed an alternative way to deal with such assaults: "They said we don't want to let this terrorist attack undermine our values and undermine our tolerance and our sense of community," he says. "We don't want the terrorists to win by making us suspicious of each other and creating greater senses of grievances so we're not going to respond in the way that they expect."

Like the Breivik assault, the tragic events in Tunisia, Kuwait and France last week went straight to the headlines. On the same day many more people across the world died in car crashes, work accidents, drone attacks, hunger and in wars; yet their stories received less attention. Jackson believes the media are largely responsible as they have adopted terrorism as "the most spectacular spectacle," responding to attacks with wall to wall coverage. The public then supports this by consuming media products, which in turn increases revenue for media producers. "Small arms kill half a million people a year around the world," points out Jackson. "These are less spectacular but far more lethal [than terrorism]."

Moreover, he says, terrorists actually rely on this kind of media coverage to spread their message:

"Without the media terrorism wouldn't really exist. It would be very hard for terrorists to have any impact at all if no one publicised what they were doing. So sadly there's a kind of symbiotic relationship between the media and terrorism because terrorism relies on the media to get their spectacular message out and the media relies on terrorism to get their ratings up. So both sides benefit."

That being said, attempts by the government to control the media and restrict what is broadcast haven't worked either. "It's hard to know how to get the media to behave more responsibly and not play into the hands of terrorists," he says.

Last year, Jackson took a break from writing academic books to pen Confessions of a Terrorist, a fictional account of a dialogue between a wanted terrorist and a British intelligence officer. Jackson says he has always wanted a novel to give to his students but only found literature that painted terrorists out to be Hollywood-style villains.

Confessions of a Terrorist questions the taboo of talking to terrorists and the fear many have that doing so will lead to understanding and sympathising with their behaviour. "I think that it's really important that we talk to them so we know what we really want and so that we understand what they're trying to achieve and why they think they have to use violence... and whether if the situation was reversed we would do the same thing... [T]he reality is in many ways we go and commit a lot of violence overseas and then when people react against that and fight back we get all shocked and surprised. So we need to talk to them."

"If you look at the academic research, you find out that actually most terrorist groups are not defeated through military means, but a much higher proportion of them stop their terrorism through political dialogue," he continues. "So once you start talking to them and once you bring them into the political process, once you listen to what their grievances are and try and address them terrorism subsides."

One of the consequences of not talking to terrorists, believes Jackson, is that we have dehumanised them which allows us to take away their human rights and justifies acts such as killing them with drones. "As a consequence countless innocent people have been killed... Countless innocent people have been tortured; have been kidnapped and taken to these horrible, secret prisons around the world. All kinds of human rights abuses have been carried out and as a result we in many ways have betrayed our own values and that's because we've dehumanised the terrorists and that's why I think it's really important to re-humanise them."

The language of terrorism is thus a way of defining the "other" and drawing a distinction between us and them, good versus evil, freedom lovers against freedom haters and soldiers and patriots against terrorists, says Jackson: "You can look through history – recent and long in the past –and realise that actually governments commit exactly the same acts as so-called terrorists. They use violence to try and terrify groups of people and intimidate groups of people. Sometimes, they plant bombs in public places or blow up or hijack planes. There are so many examples."

A lot of terrorist scholars argue, therefore, that if the definition of terrorism is applied objectively a lot of state violence can be classified as state terrorism. "But again, that's a very difficult narrative to make and to be accepted in public because we like to have these clear lines between our good legitimate violence which comes out of the authority of the state and illegitimate, illegal violence," says Jackson.

"The problem is that when those two forms of violence look identical and you can't tell the difference between them; [then] there comes to be a question over [whether] our violence [is] actually that legitimate."

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Amelia Smith) frontpage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:05:37 +0000
One year on, Gaza's fragile peace holds amid tensions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19615-one-year-on-gazas-fragile-peace-holds-amid-tensions https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19615-one-year-on-gazas-fragile-peace-holds-amid-tensions Gaza lies in ruinOn 8 July 2014, Israel began airstrikes over Gaza, in what was known as Operation "Protective Edge". The bombardment followed weeks of ramped up tensions that had begun with the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teenagers by Palestinians. Over the course of the next seven weeks, a combination of Israeli bombs, a ground invasion, and Palestinian rocket fire, led to the deaths of 2,200 people, the vast majority of them Gazans. (73 Israelis died). Israel's stated aim was to destroy Hamas's network of tunnels that allows the group to smuggle supplies and weapons into Gaza. For its part, Hamas was demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza, and sought to bring international pressure to bear on Israel.

Now, a year later, what has changed? In some ways, nothing at all: as with all other recent conflicts between Israel and Gaza, a battle for control of the narrative is raging. The UN published a report to the human rights council in Geneva last week, concluding that both Hamas and Israel could be guilty of war crimes. It said that blame for Israeli violations went right up to the very highest echelons of the political and military establishment. Israel, as always, denounced the report, and has published its own, which exonerates the Israeli Defence Forces for any wrong-doing. Hamas also rejected the report, saying that its rockets were aimed at military targets, not at civilians. One particularly contentious incident was the death of four young boys who were killed by Israeli shelling as they played on Gaza beach. The UN report singled this incident out for criticism; the IDF's investigation exonerated the soldiers involved. Clearly, the UN's call for Israel to "break with its lamentable track record" on holding wrongdoers responsible has not been heeded. The war began during the holy month of Ramadan; there were strikes on residential properties in the evenings, when people were most likely to be at home, together, breaking their fasts. Israel, which did not cooperate with the UN inquiry, has given no explanation for this.

The post-conflict response in Gaza also has echoes of previous conflicts, when the harsh blockade imposed by Israel blocked the reconstruction of war damaged sites. In September 2014, soon after the conflict, a UN official said that the amount of building materials entering Gaza would need to quadruple, and that the UN could oversee the process. This has not materialized. International donors – including the US and the EU – have pledged billions for the rebuilding of Gaza. But only a small proportion of this money has actually been paid out and just one per cent of the building material needed has been delivered; the mechanism that was meant to allow the delivery has not worked. Tens of thousands of Gazans are still homeless. In late February, a UN official told Al Jazeera that four infants had died from the cold in Gaza in January. Power cuts last for up to 18 hours a day. Gaza's healthcare system has also been devastated: 17 hospitals, 56 primary healthcare facilities, and 45 ambulances were damaged or destroyed during the war.

In March, a group of 30 aid agencies including Save the Children and Action Aid signed a letter bemoaning the lack of progress in rebuilding Gaza. "Israel, as the occupying power, is the main duty bearer and must comply with its obligations under international law," it said. "In particular, it must fully lift the blockade, within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 (2009)." The letter also referred to political paralysis in the Palestinian territories – a power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has been one factor in the delay of aid – and the resumption of occasional rocket fire by Hamas. Israeli officials dispute this version of events, saying that Hamas is responsible for diverting funds and resources towards rebuilding its military capabilities and away from civilian needs. This week, the head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, said that the organization was stronger militarily now than it was last summer.

For the most part, the ceasefire agreed at the end of last year's 50 day war has held, but there have been skirmishes as Hamas fires rockets and Israel attacks Hamas targets. Gaza has seen three major conflicts in the last seven years; there is no reason to think that it will not see another in the coming months or years. The fragile peace agreement may have more or less stayed in place, but tensions and mutual hatred remain. During this holy month of Ramadan, Gazans are fasting amongst the devastation waged last year. This continuing deterioration of living standards, with people forced to live amongst the rubble left by war for years can only lead to ever-increasing, simmering resentment. A year has passed, but not much has changed.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Samira Shackle) frontpage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:51:10 +0000
Erekat's unabashed subjugation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19614-erekats-unabashed-subjugation https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/politics/19614-erekats-unabashed-subjugation Saeb ErekatThe distortion of "logic and law" forms the premise of Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat's recent article which was published in the Guardian. The article entitled "What Palestine needs is for Europe to honour its own agreements," is another exhibition of subjugation to higher authorities, achieved through the usual tactic of selective political rhetoric, assimilated and reaffirmed through a compromised narrative. In this case, Erekat's alleged concern for Palestine clearly portrays the Palestinian Authority's acquiescence and hence, fails to challenge Europe's role in protecting Israel's colonial expansion.

"Under international law, states have a duty not to support Israel's occupation of Palestinian land. Logic and law dictate that the EU and its member states take active steps towards implementing the two-state solution." Erekat's statement encapsulates the abomination of the whole article, which is littered with discrepancies, adherence to international dictates on Palestine, as well as the PA's commitment to discuss Palestinian concerns through a collaborator's perspective.

Proof of such stance is easily discernible in Erekat's request of Europe. "What we, as Palestinians, are asking from Europe is nothing more than that the EU protects its own 20-year investment in the two-state solution by respecting its own obligations under domestic and international law; nothing more than adherence to its own policies; nothing more than allowing our people the same basic human rights to which all people are entitled."

The EU has made it abundantly clear that as far as Palestinians are concerned, the concept of universality with regards rights remains an elusive hypothesis. Conveniently disregarding colonisation - a tactic also utilised by the PA - the EU has remained at the helm of negotiations which have led to the excessive fragmentation of Palestinian territory and displacement of the indigenous population, all in the name of the two-state conspiracy. Despite the repercussions upon Palestinians, Erekat is calling upon the EU to persist in its fallacious and duplicitous agendas.

What Erekat defines as a "common goal" has proved to be nothing but an extended timeframe for Israel to expand its illegal presence – defined clearly in the article as a process that "became an end in itself, the only goal being to get the two parties to the table – nowadays an almost feverish obsession for some governments." However, an immense intentional omission is evident in the article – that of the PA's willingness to participate in the international obsession of insisting upon a two-state scenario. Whatever political jargon the internationally-recognised Palestinian leadership might come up with, the reality for Palestinians remains dictated by inadequate and incompetent representation seeking to aid in the colonisation process, rather than assert or, at the very least, appreciate the intrinsic role of Palestinian resistance.

Reminiscent of the same manner in which the PA has exhibited its incompetence at utilising the international platform provided by the UN to articulate the Palestinian narrative, Erekat has taken up precious space penning a series of inconsistencies which confirm the PA's role in subjugating Palestinians, in return for a compromised semblance of legitimacy that only retains validity in relation to both Israeli and European efforts to maintain instability in Palestine and the region.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Ramona Wadi) frontpage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:37:59 +0000
'Egyptian regime's war on terror is reminiscent of Algeria's war' https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19613-egyptian-regimes-war-on-terror-is-reminiscent-of-algerias-war https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/19613-egyptian-regimes-war-on-terror-is-reminiscent-of-algerias-war File photo of Egyptian military

A member of the Algerian opposition movement Rashad has warned that Egypt is heading down a similar path which led to Algeria's war in the 1990s which resulted in the death and deportation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Mohamed Al-Arabi Zitout, who is also a former Algerian diplomat, added that the current regional and international circumstances will eventually turn in the Egyptian revolution's favour even if a high price has to be paid first.

He noted that some Egyptians are giving in and staying silent, some are fleeing the country and others are taking up arms against the government, which could result in the interference of foreign and regional powers in the country's affairs.

According to Zitout, this is reminiscent of the Algerian model with the cycle of violence leading regional and international intelligence bodies to intervene and turn the war into a dirty war.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:18:04 +0000
Saudi investigate Al-Awaji for insulting late king https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19612-saudi-investigate-al-awaji-for-insulting-late-king https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/19612-saudi-investigate-al-awaji-for-insulting-late-king Late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz

Saudi Arabia has referred preacher Mohsin Al-Awaji and Rotana Khalijiyah satellite channel presenter Abdullah Al-Mdaifer for investigation for abusing the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz during an episode of "Fi Al-Samim" (right to the point).

Saudi sources said the directive ordered the referral of Al-Awaji and Al-Mdaifer to the investigation commission and to the general prosecutor's office to charge them with abusing the late king.

It also ordered the complete suspension of the programme and banned Al-Mdaifer from reappearing on the channel until the investigation is concluded.

During the programme, Al-Awaji made a wide ranging critique of the late king's reign and said that the Royal Court was not functioning with clarity. He also criticised the management of the first war against the Houthis in 2009 and the Saudi policy in the region in general as well as domestically.

He also commented on Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef reminding him "that he will end up in the grave" exactly where his uncle King Abdullah ended up.

It is well known within Saudi circles that Al-Awaji sympathises with the Muslim Brotherhood, he has previously criticised the kingdom's support for Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi.

Al-Awaji was detained during the reign of former King Fahd Bin Abdelaziz and during the reign of King Abdullah on charges relating to a number of issues that touch on the state's inclinations and policies. In the interview he said that he was imprisoned four times during the reign of King Abdullah.

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noreply@memonitor.org.uk (Middle East Monitor) frontpage Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:43:06 +0000