Syrian Eid Truce Broken, Sudanese Arms Factory Bombed, and More News This Week

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 

Brahimi-brokered Eid al-Adha ceasefire quickly broken

New TV reported over the week that UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had been working with the Syrian government on a ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a conditional truce on behalf of the Syrian regime, but armed opposition groups such as Ansar al-Sharia rejected the conditions and made their own demands. Sure enough, the ceasefire was broken on Friday, the first day of Eid.

Afghanistan: Dozens killed in Eid suicide blast

BBC Arabic reported on Friday that in the most violent attack in Afghanistan in months, 41 people were killed and at least another 50 were injured when a man blew himself up inside a mosque in the city of Maimana, the capital of the Faryab region in northern Afghanistan, during the early morning prayers for Eid al-Adha. The suicide bomber was reportedly wearing a police uniform. Many of the victims were government soldiers, and prominent local authorities were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion.

Sudan blames Israel for bombing of arms factory in Khartoum

Press TV reported on Wednesday that Sudan has blamed Israel for an air raid on an ammunition factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Sudanese Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman announced that evidence pointing to Israel was found among the remnants of the explosives, adding that Sudan reserved the right to retaliate. Hamas also accused Israel of orchestrating the bombing. However, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday that Israel denied the claims, and Israeli defense official Amos Gilad described Sudan as a "dangerous terrorist state."

More violence erupts against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Press TV reports that at least 112 Rohingya have been killed in Rakhine State, and homes of Rohingya Muslims have been torched all across Myanmar in a new round of sectarian violence perpetrated mainly by Buddhist extremists. The violence had died down after a spate of killings in August that drove a number of Rohingya to flee the country, but they are again forced to leave their homes in light of the new wave of attacks.

 

Image: A member of the Free Syrian Army talks on the radio during an operation in Haram town, Idlib Governorate, October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 
 

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Trouble Brews in Yemen, Words Fly at NAM Summit, and More Top Stories This Week

REUTERS/Mehr News Agency

 

Words fly at Non-Aligned Movement summit

On Wednesday, Al-Alam reported that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tehran to take part in the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, despite outcry from the United States and from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran taking over NAM leadership. However, Ban went on later in the week to sharply condemn Iran's denial of the Holocaust during WWII, as well as Israel's right to exist, in a speech at the summit.

Ban's comments were part of a number of verbal attacks at the meeting, which was heavily covered by Mosaic's broadcasters. BBC Arabic reported that the Syrian delegation left the summit's conference hall when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi criticized the Syrian government during his speech, in which he affirmed his country's "full solidarity" with those seeking freedom and justice in Syria. Additionally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western countries of fabricating crises around the world, and of monopolizing the UN Security Council.


Trouble brews for a shaky Yemen in transition

New protests have broken out in the Yemeni capital Sanaa to denounce the deteriorating security situation in the country, and to demand the dismissal of relatives of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from their military positions. Al Jazeera reported that this comes after an assassination attempt targeted Yassin Saeed Noman, the most prominent leader of the Joint Meeting Parties opposition coalition.

In addition, Press TV reported another US drone strike in Yemen killed at least eight people in Hadhramaut Province, the second such attack in the region this week. Dubai TV reported the killing of three al-Qaeda members in an air raid in the Khashamir area of the Qatan district, but the source did not specify the origin of the plane that carried out the raid.

Yemen has been experiencing difficulty in restructuring the country's government after the fall of former president Saleh. Earlier this week, members of the Southern Movement in Yemen refused to participate in the national dialogue conference scheduled for the end of the year. They demand the south's secession from the north, which would mean a return to the country's pre-unification division.

More leaders express stance on Syrian Civil War

As the Syrian army's shelling intensified all across Syria this week, Press TV reported that President Bashar al-Assad sat down for an interview with Syrian channel Al-Dunya, saying more time is needed to end the insurgency in his country and that a buffer zone, the idea being championed by "hostile countries" and "Syria's enemies," is unrealistic.

Meanwhile, some leaders expressed their stance on the Syrian war during the NAM summit, most notably Egypt's President Morsi, Iran's President Ahmadinejad, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who opposed any kind of military intervention, as well as criticized the ongoing flow of weapons to insurgents. The head of Russia's army also rejected media reports this week that Moscow was winding down its military presence in Syria, saying that it is not in the process of evacuating its naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus, which it has leased since Soviet times.

 

Image: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks to Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (R) after his speech during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency

 
 

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Was Yasser Arafat Killed by Polonium Poisoning? and More

A Palestinian woman walks past a mural depicting late leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City July 4, 2012: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

 

Was Yasser Arafat killed by polonium poisoning?

Al Jazeera - The Institute of Radiation Physics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland found abnormally high levels of polonium on the personal belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. If an analysis of Arafat's remains produce similar results, experts say it proves that the Palestinian leader was poisoned with this material, since it is usually only produced in nuclear reactors. The Geneva-based Forum for Human Rights and Development indicated that it is ready to send an independent investigative team that includes experts in forensic medicine and criminal investigation to find out if the late Palestinian leader was assassinated.

Sudanese activists protest for third week in hope of sparking popular uprising

BBC Arabic - Sudanese activists organized new protests today dubbed "Vagabonds Friday," in response to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's description of protestors as a handful of rogue vagabonds with no prospects. This is the third week of protests in Sudan, which is witnessing unprecedented popular anger due to deteriorating living conditions in the aftermath of the government's attempt to implement austerity measures, in response to worsening economic conditions, especially after the secession of the South one year ago.

Syrian Republican Guard General Tlass defects to Turkey

New TV - A high-level Syrian security source confirmed that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, the brigade commander of the 105th Republican Guard, has fled to Turkey. Tlass is the highest ranking officer to defect from the regime. The source added that Tlass is an important witness to the crimes of the Syrian regime, and that rejected the destruction that killed thousands in his city of al-Rastan.

Libyans set to vote in first post-Gaddafi election amid fears of violence

Dubai TV - Amid fears over the inability of Tripoli's government to maintain security, Libyans are preparing to hold their first free general elections in over half a century. Nearly three million voters will head to the polls tomorrow to elect 200 foundation council members out of the 3,700 mostly Islamist candidates. However, the election process is facing significant challenges, mot notably security threats and anti-election groups, which include pro-federalism protestors who closed the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf in protest of the allocation of seats in the General National Congress.

Egypt's Morsi orders investigation into killing of protestors

Al-Alam - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi issued a presidential decree ordering the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigation the killing and injury of protestors during the January 25th revolution. The decree orders a review of the investigations and a reexamination of sites that witnessed acts of violence and killings.

 

Image: A Palestinian woman walks past a mural depicting late leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City July 4, 2012: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

 
 

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Major Events in Syria and the Rest of the Middle East

People run carrying a burnt body at the site of an explosion in Damascus May 10, 2012. Dozens of people were killed or wounded in two "terrorist explosions" which struck a southern district of the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday, state television said. REUTERS/Sana/Handout


Devastating bombings hit Syrian capital as the blame game continues

 

New TV - Two terrorist bombings rocked the Qazzaz area in the southern part of the capital as workers, students and employees were heading to their schools, universities and workplaces. Syria's Interior Ministry confirmed the two bombings were carried out by two suicide bombers driving two booby-trapped vehicles carrying a large amount of explosive materials, estimated at over 1,000 kg. The preliminary outcome of this terrorist act is 55 martyrs, and 372 injured civilians and soldiers.

BBC Arabic - Tens of thousands participated in demonstrations across different parts of Syria on Friday to demand the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime despite the heavy security deployment of regime forces, according to activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Meanwhile, condemnations and international reactions to Thursday's two explosions in Damascus continue.

Algeria holds parliamentary elections amid voter apathy

BBC Arabic - Voters in Algeria are headed to the ballot boxes to cast their votes in parliamentary elections described as "fateful" by the authorities. Over 21 million people are registered to vote to elect 462 candidates affiliated with 44 political parties, and a large of number of independent candidates. However, the election campaign that looked weak did not attract much attention from many people.

Al Jazeera - Algeria's interior minister, Dahu Ould Kablia, announced the results of the parliamentary elections, saying the ruling National Liberation Front won 220 of the 462 seats. The National Democratic Rally received 68 seats, and the Islamists received almost 60 seats, including 48 for the Green Algeria alliance, which came in third place.

Israeli settlers burn hundreds of olive trees in West Bank

Palestine TV - Jewish settlers burned hundreds of trees in the villages of Bureen and Jamaeen in Nablus province with the goal of seizing more land from the Palestinians. It is an expression of their deep hatred for the Palestinian land and people. Over 100 trees were burnt in this area, located three kilometers southeast of the town of Jamaeen. The area between the town and the two settlements of Ariel and Tafuh has witnessed torching operations targeting fruit trees. The two settlements have seized vast areas of Palestinian villages in this region.

Egyptian ex-pats begin voting in Egypt's first post revolution presidential elections

Press TV - Egyptian ex-pats in several countries began voting in Egypt's first post revolution presidential elections.  Ex-pats have until May 17th to cast their ballots in Egyptian embassies and consulates.  The election's front runners took part in the country's frist ever presidential debate.  Former member of the Muslim Brotherhood Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh faced former Arab League cheif Amr Moussa over issues regarding Israel and the principles of Sharia law as the main source of legislation.

 

Thousands of Mauritanians declare readiness to kick out President Aziz

Al Alam - The Mauritanian opposition organized a festival in Nouakchott to demand the departure of President Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz’s regime. The ruling party's deputy chairman, Oumar Ould Matallah, said the people placed their trust in Ould Abdel Aziz, and the president is continuing the path of reforms and combating corruption. The opposition considered the turnout a new referendum on the legitimacy of the regime. The majority says the only way to topple the president is through the ballot box in about two and a half years. Former Mauritania president, Ely Mohamed Vall, who is one of the most prominent figures supporting this movement, described the regime as a failure and finished.

 

Image: People run carrying a burnt body at the site of an explosion in Damascus May 10, 2012. Dozens of people were killed or wounded in two "terrorist explosions" which struck a southern district of the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday, state television said. REUTERS/Sana/Handout

 
 

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2011: The Year of the People

This time last year, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking a popular uprising in Tunisia that spread to countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The uprisings have come to be known throughout the world as the "Arab Spring" and have caused more change in one year than the region has seen in decades. For months, chants across the Middle East echoed, "The people want the downfall of the regime." Only a month after Tunisians ousted Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, it took the Egyptian people only 18 days to overthrow Hosni Mubarak after being in power for 30 years. 

An anti-government protester displays paintings on her hand of other countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa October 26, 2011. The words read, "Go out." REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

 

Shortly after the downfalls of Ben Ali and Mubarak, Libyans took up arms against Muammar Gaddafi. After ten months of violent battles that took the lives of thousands of civilians, Libyan revolutionaries claimed victory when Gaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte. 

 

Protestors in Yemen hope to turn a new page after months of bloody crackdowns as embattled ruler Ali Abudllah Saleh belatedly signed the Gulf-brokered deal that will transfer power in the country by early next year. 

 

In Syria, anti-regime activists are unyielding in their ongoing fight against Bashar al-Assad. As the death toll has reached over 5,000 according to the UN, the international community is slowly boosting efforts to end the months-long bloody crackdown. 

 

Protests and subsequent crackdowns have spread through Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia but have received far less media attention.

 

In his article "From Tunis and Tahrir to Wall Street, and back again," UC Irvine Professor Mark Levine explains the common frustrations of people throughout the region. He states, "The lack of hope or possibility to find decent work, or overcome the corruption and repression there that defined life in [Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi's hometown], was a microcosm of political and economic life in Tunisia under Zine Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt under Hosni Mubarak and most every other country in the region."  Khoda, a Syrian housepainter turned insurgent, had a different view: "In Egypt, the revolution started because of poverty and hunger," he said. "In Libya it started because of misuse of power. In Syria, the main purpose of the revolution is to gain back our dignity and our honour."


As the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are being hailed as successes by some, other observers aren't as optimistic that they will lead to the kinds of changes that protestors had hoped. Daniel Byman of the Washington Post predicts, "The Arab Spring may not bring freedom to much, or even most, of the Arab world. Even as the United States prepares to work with the region's new democracies, it also must prepare for the chaos, stagnation and misrule."


As we reach the one year mark of the start of the "Arab Spring," there are many lessons to be learned from the unparalleled and tumultuous revolutions that rocked the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. Mohamad Al-Ississ, a professor of economics at the American University of Cairo, says the fight is not over and that "this is the moment where we go forward or we go back to ground zero." Levine warns that "democracy is a means, not an end," pointing to our own Western system today that is "so dominated by money and power that inequality and corruption are reaching 'third world' levels."

 

Huguett Labelle, chair of Transparency International and author of  "The keys to change across the Arab world," offers wise words of advice to the future leaders of the Arab world: "listen to the people, or risk being overtaken by them."

 

Photo Credit: An anti-government protestor displays paintings on her hand of other countries involved in the Arab Spring revolutions during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on October 26, 2011. The words read, "Go out." REUTERS/Louafi Larbi 

 

 
 

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Inside Syria's Divided Opposition

Seven months into the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Syrian opposition remains starkly divided on several key issues. According to the BBC, these issues include "the question of whether or not to encourage foreign intervention, whether there should be regime change or dialogue, and whether there should be armed rebellion or peaceful protest."

 

The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was recently formed in Turkey, and the Damascus-based National Coordination Committee (NCC) are the two main opposition groups that have emerged in Syria. While both blocs agree on overthrowing the current regime, the NCC calls for dialogue with Assad's regime (on the condition that the regime ends the violence against protestors), while the SNC vehemently rejects any form of dialogue. 

 

While the SNC and the NCC both originally rejected foreign intervention, the SNC membership now seems divided on the issue. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, "some SNC members, especially the youth activists, have been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians including a NATO-led intervention akin to the one in Libya." The NCC calls instead for economic sanctions and other political maneuvers to counter Assad's regime. 

 

Military defectors organized under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) mark yet another facet of Syria's opposition. The FSA has repeatedly mounted attacks on Syrian security forces and Syrian security forces and army, worrying many that the crisis will escalate into a civil war. A majority of the opposition agrees that protests should remain non-violent, however many youth activists are growing impatient with the slow progress on the political front.

 

A Syrian protester living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011.

Many protestors are weary of both opposition blocs, saying they aren't representative of the people and their demands. In an article titled, "Opposing (Some) Arab Opposition Groups," As'ad AbuKhalil warns against endorsing Arab opposition groups simply because they oppose dictatorial regimes. He says, "Some Arab opposition groups may promise democracy and rule of law, while they carry the agenda of a sponsoring tyrannical government… It is our duty…to speak out against those opposition groups who promise to take the people from one form of tyranny to another."

 

As the protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad continue on a daily basis in Syria, the deepening divide in the muddled Syrian opposition will continue to hinder a resolution to the crisis. In the words of Steven Heydemann, senior advisor for Middle East initiatives at the US Institute of Peace, the Syrian revolution will be  "a marathon" if Syrians cannot unite. 

 

(Photo:  A Syrian protestor living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011. Watch New TV's report on the altercation here.

 

 
 

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Tonight on Mosaic: Syrian activists form an opposition council in Istanbul

On the six month anniversary of Syria’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, members of the Syrian opposition met in Istanbul today to form a united Syrian National Council. The council is made up of 140 members, including dissidents who have been exiled and opponents living in Syria. Future TV reported today that the council’s objectives include maintaining the peaceful nature of the revolution, toppling Assad’s government within six months, and forming an interim government to establish a pluralistic, democratic state. 

 

Earlier this week, the UN Human Rights Council appointed three experts to investigate the human rights abuses against civilians in Syria, including children. According to the UN, at least 2,600 people have died in the past six months of unrest that has swept Syria. 

 

The opposition is mobilizing its supporters to participate in tomorrow’s protests on what is being called the “Friday of perseverance until the downfall of the regime.” Last Friday, Syrians participated in the “Friday of International Protections” with the hopes that the international community would step in to protect civilians. Russia, China, India, and Brazil continue to oppose the UN-imposed sanctions and foreign intervention in Syria. While the Obama administration and European leaders issued statements calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down on August 18, it is unlikely that protestors will get outside help they want, at least for now, according to the Economist.

 
 

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Tonight on Mosaic: UN calls on Yemen to halt attacks on peaceful demonstrations

Yemen: The United Nations demanded the Yemeni government put an end to the attacks and use of live ammunition against civilians. In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime to immediately release all detainees arrested for peacefully protesting. Meanwhile, Yemeni protestors in Sanaa flocked to Change Square to take part in a rally called for by the Organizing Committee of the Youth Revolution, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down and be prosecuted. 

 

Syria: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Syrian security forces killed three people today. Two died when security forces opened fire on a funeral in the outskirts of Hama, and the third died during a raid in Deir az-Zour. Several protests occurred in Daraa, Hama, Homs, and Deir az-Zour on what is being called the "Tuesday of Anger" against Russia, which still supports the Syrian regime and is preventing any move against Syria at the UN Security Council. Protestors hoped to relay their message to Russia by burning the Russian flag. 

 

Libya: Residents of Bani Walid continued to flee the city today as battles between the revolutionaries and Gaddafi's battalions continue. Supply and aid convoys follow close behind the revolutionaries to provide them with the necessary food, ammunition, and fuel for battle. Field hospitals also move alongside the battles, taking into consideration the terrain of the site and conditions of the battle. 


Egypt: Former vice president and intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman testified in front of the Cairo Criminal Court today in the case against former President Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli, and six others. They are accused of ordering the killing of protestors during Eygpt's January 25 revolution. The court issued a ban on media broadcasts of the court proceedings and on the publication of witness testimony.  

 
 

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Tonight on Mosaic: Moroccans reiterate rejection of cosmetic reforms

Morocco: The February 20 Movement renewed its rejection of what it describes as "sham reforms." The movement demands genuine political reforms that transform Morocco's controlled political process to one capable of producing the change demanded by the masses. The movement also renewed its demands for prosecuting corrupt officials and holding fair elections. In addition to the political demands, the movement raised slogans demanding social justice, freedom, and dignity.

 

Syria: The Syrian opposition is rallying its supporters to participate in a day of anger against Russia, as Moscow continues to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Following Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Medvedev stated that it is wrong to place additional pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and force him to end security operations. The Syrian opposition has called on supporters online to protest across Syrian cities and towns and to burn the Russian flag.

 

Libya: Fifteen people were killed in an attack by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's battalions on an oil facility near Ras Lanuf. The Libyan National Transitional Council announced that its fighters fended off the battalions' attack on Bani Walid, one of the final strongholds of Colonel Gaddafi's loyalists. The NTC forces began reinforcing their siege on the city of Sirte, also under Gaddafi's control.

 
 

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Tonight on Mosaic: Syrian protestors demand the execution of Assad

 

Syria: The movement against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is gaining momentum as anti-regime protests continue across various Syrian cities, despite the relentless campaign of raids and arrests. On the eve of a Friday dubbed "Death Not Humiliation," the Syrian opposition has renewed their call for staging additional protests after the Eid ul-Fitr holiday. In a video released online, Hama Province Attorney-General Adnan Bakkour announced his resignation in protest of the crackdown on protestors. He also denied the authorities' claim that he was kidnapped by an armed group.

 

Libya: Russia has recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the country's authority ahead of the "Friends of Libya" International Conference in Paris. Meanwhile, Muammar al-Gaddafi affirmed in a new audio speech that he will not turn himself in and will continue fighting. The Libyan Transitional Council has extended its deadline for the surrender of Gaddafi's forces in Sirte by one week. 

 

Yemen: Confrontations between pro- and anti-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh activists were renewed in the southern city of Taiz as hundreds of people demonstrated in the eastern city of al-Bayda. They called for massive protests on Friday, under what they named "revolutionary resolve" against Saleh's regime. The past two days witnessed a political and media debate between the Yemeni president and his opponents. Saleh, who is carrying out his duties from the Saudi capital of Riyadh and appeared in good health, accused his opponents of "lies, corruption, hatred, and envy."

 

 
 

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