French Cartoons 'Fuel' Anti-Blasphemy Protests, and More of This Week's Top News

REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood


French cartoons insulting Islam condemned as 'fuel on the fire'

As Muslims across the globe continue to protest the US-made film that insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad, a French weekly called Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons of the prophet, sparking a new wave of rage in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Press TV reported that the cartoons were denounced by both Egypt's al-Azhar Mosque and the Vatican as "fuel on the fire," and Al Jazeera reported that a number of French embassies and schools would close today for fear of violence.

According to BBC Arabic, anti-blasphemy demonstrations have spread to South and Southeast Asia, specifically the capitals of Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, while Pakistan experienced deadly Friday protests after security forces opened fire on demonstrators.

This Week in Syria: 'Friends of Syria' meeting, 'massacre' in ar-Raqqah, and fears of chemical attack

New TV reported a massacre by the Syrian regime in ar-Raqqah on Thursday, while Holland hosted a meeting of representatives of the group known as "Friends of the Syrian People," which includes 60 countries and the Arab League. Meanwhile, IBA reported on Tuesday that the Syrian army flew in members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to witness firing tests for chemical weapons at the country's largest chemical weapons research center. Newly-defected Major General Adnan Sillu, who was the head of the Syrian weapons program, also said that the Assad regime had plans to conduct a chemical weapons assault on the rebels, as well as transfer missiles with chemical warheads to Hezbollah.

Large-scale IDF exercises in Golan Heights, as Israeli air strike kills two Hamas officers in Gaza

IBA reported surprise large-scale military exercises involving top IDF brass amid the Jewish High Holy Days. The exercises simulated a deteriorating security situation in the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that an Israeli air strike resulted in the deaths of two Hamas security officers near the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, saying that the officers were on an official mission near the tunnels by the Egyptian-Palestinian border. IBA, on the other hand, reported that the deaths were of Hamas operatives who were tasked with securing smuggling tunnels for explosives, and were planning a terror attack against Israel.

 

Image: A girl is photographed as she attends an anti-U.S. demonstration with religious students in the compound of the Red Mosque in Islamabad September 22, 2012: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

 
 

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A Taste of the Førde Festival, The Musicians of the Nile

This is just the first of what I plan to be several postings about the fabulous Førde Festival in Norway. The festival has already garnered itself an excellent reputation amongst world music aficionados, but should be on the agenda of anyone who enjoys travel and adventurous music. Part of that is due to the spectacular setting, and I advise those who make the trip to plan to explore the fjords all around the area. As press, we were treated to a breathtaking journey from Bergen via rail and boat up to Førde, that I will not soon forget. The other part of the allure is the excellent and canny musical choices of the producers. Torill Falleide and Hilde Bjørkum know what will please their audience, and it's an engaging mix of both unadorned ethnic and eclectic music that is consistently entertaining.

 

My video is from the opening night, and it’s quite literally a dazzler. The various musicians were asked to present their most tantalizing numbers, as the first program of the festival is intended as a menu, giving the audience a sampling of what is to come.

 

 

So the Musicians of the Nile presented a tanoura dance, complete with light show. What made it so amazing was that the light show was inside the costume of the dancer! Some folks questioned the "authenticity" of this but I think that if tiny lights had been around that could be sewn into the costume of the dancer back when it was first being performed hundreds of years ago, it would have been perfectly within cultural standards!

 

The tanoura dance will remind you of the whirling dervish dances of Turkey and they are indeed related, as the sufi tradition is present in Egypt through the Levant and Turkey, and in some forms, even into west Africa. (There are some claims that Sufism actually originates in ancient Egypt, but the majority of sources I have read posit that it was a reaction to, and outgrowth of, Islam.) The music and the whirling is meant to induce a trance, which in turn leads to a union with the divine. The skirts of the dancer are layered, and each color on the skirt represents a different Sufi order. These days this kind of presentation is very popular for entertainment at weddings and other kinds of celebrations. For my part, I was in heaven in a different way -- I'm a fool for colored lights (you should see me at a fireworks display) and I felt like a little kid transported with delight.

 

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The Not-So-Innocent Film that Sparked Rage Across the Muslim World, and More

American film offensive to Islam sparks anti-US protests across Muslim world

REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Adding to the death of the American ambassador to Libya and members of his staff in Benghazi on September 11, demonstrations condemning a film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Lebanon, Gaza, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, and Mauritania, leading to four deaths in Yemen. Other Western embassies have also been attacked in Sudan.

IBA reported that the film that was released on the Internet and sparked the protests is called "Innocence of Muslims," and was produced by a California-based Jewish writer and producer. Most of Mosaic's broadcasters have reported that he is an Israeli American, leading to further anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment among Muslims.

 

Israel quickly denounced the film, with New TV reporting on Wednesday that the Israeli Foreign Ministry called it "unbearable extremism." Press TV noted that US President Barack Obama condemned the killings, but stopped short of condemning the film.

 

In addition to depicting the prophet Muhammad, which is strictly taboo in many interpretations of Islam, the film struck a nerve in the Muslim and Arab worlds for being American-made. Al Jazeera English discusses the nature of the protests, touching on the deep-seated anger of some citizens in the region regarding US foreign policy, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Syrians come out for another round of Friday protests after a week of heavy shelling

As the new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visits Damascus for the first time since his appointment, cities and villages across Syria have continued to endure heavy army shelling, especially in and around Aleppo and Damascus. Algerie TV reported that the most recent statistics from the UNHCR indicate the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed 250,000, with 85,000 currently in Jordan.

Despite the daily attacks, BBC Arabic reported that on Friday, anti-regime demonstrations took place across Daraa, Idlib, the countryside of Damascus-- which the Syrian government says still harbors "terrorists" that they are trying to pursue-- and al-Hasaka Province, which has a Kurdish majority.

Newly-elected Somali president escapes assassination attempt

Hassan Sheikh Mahmud, who hails from the same tribe as departing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is the first Somali president to be elected within the country in more than two decades. However, BBC Arabic reported that just days after his election, he escaped two bombings that targeted the Mogadishu hotel in which he was residing. He was was meeting with Kenyan Foreign Minister Samson Ongeri at the time of the attack, which came as a surprise given the number of Somali and African Union forces protecting his hotel and convoy.

 

Image: Tunisian protesters burn the U.S. flag during a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

 
 

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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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Egyptian President-Elect Takes Oath in Tahrir Square and More

Egypt's Islamist President-elect Mohamed Mursi (R) delivers a speech while surrounded by his body guards in Cairo's Tahrir Square, June 29, 2012. Mursi took an informal oath of office on Friday before tens of thousands of supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in a slap at the generals trying to limit his power. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh


Egyptian President-Elect takes oath in Tahrir Square

New TV - Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi took an oath before the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square, and vowed to respect the constitution and the law. In the evening, he took an oath to begin his term under the eyes of the Military Council; and away from formalities and the usual protocol, the Egyptian president-elect chose to address his opponents before his supporters. He went to Tahrir Square, which is packed with Egyptians denouncing military rule. Morsi began his presidential term from al-Azhar al-Sharif Mosque, where he performed Friday prayers amongst thousands of Egyptians. The holy mosque was packed with Egyptians who welcomed him in their own way. Al-Azhar’s courtyard held a demonstration giving their allegiance to the president-elect, on a Friday that Egyptians named "The Friday of Handing over Power."

Saudi women launch campaign to defy driving ban

BBC Arabic - The "My Right to Dignity" campaign, in which many Saudi women are active, continues to promote "The Friday of Women Driving". It is an attempt to urge the women in the kingdom, and those in solidarity with them, to drive in the streets of the kingdom today, in order to push for a lift of the driving ban imposed on them. It is a ban among many others, social and political, that are imposed on Saudi women. Advocates for women's driving rights insist that the key to the car may be the key to change in the kingdom.

Sudanese opposition fails to sign post-Bashir political charter

Dubai TV - International condemnation did not prevent Khartoum's government from waging a new arrest campaign targeting Sudanese opposition parties, especially since they started a new movement under the banner of "toppling the regime." But the meeting that was held to sign two proposed charters to manage the country during the transitional period following the regime's collapse, was postponed until next week after they failed to reach an agreement.

UN warns of rising sectarian killings in Syria as gunmen attack pro-Assad TV channel

BBC Arabic - Emad Sara, Director of the news channel Al-Ekhbariya, denounced the attack on the channel. He said the opposition has no desire to convey the opinions of others. He said "Three of our journalists were martyred, and of course, their only crime was conveying words; words that you all know well, words of truth, words that express the other point of view. They conveyed the message of their freedoms in their own way. As such, they were targeted". Human rights investigators in the United Nations released a report today that says the violence in Syria is spiraling out of control. According to the report, the Syrian government is using combat helicopters and artillery to shell residential neighborhoods. It points to the increasing number of sectarian attacks. The report adds that a number of Syrian regions have descended into civil war since the UN-backed ceasefire this past April.

Yemenis take to streets of Sanaa in a massive car rally

Al-Alam - The streets of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, witnessed demonstrations that were the first of their kind, in the form of a procession of cars. Protestors chanted slogans demanding the ouster and trial of those loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, stressing the importance of continuing to mobilize the revolutionaries. Revolutionary youths say that it symbolizes the beginning of a new revolutionary mobilization with the aim of protecting the revolution through various methods.

 

Image: Egypt's Islamist President-elect Mohamed Mursi (R) delivers a speech while surrounded by his body guards in Cairo's Tahrir Square, June 29, 2012. Mursi took an informal oath of office on Friday before tens of thousands of supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in a slap at the generals trying to limit his power. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

 
 

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Protests Break Out in Sudan and More

Al Jazeera


Anti-regime protests sweep Khartoum


Dubai TV - A wave of popular rage is sweeping the Sudanese capital following calls to launch protests from local mosques in condemnation of the deteriorating economic conditions and to demand change. Yesterday, fierce confrontations broke out between Sudanese police and al-Khartoum University students. Anti-riot police used batons and fired tear gas and rubber bullets, in a new development described by the Sudanese opposition as 'the first step towards change.'

Kuwait court dissolves parliament, declares polls illegal

Al Jazeera - Al Jazeera correspondent in Kuwait reported that opposition representatives resigned from the former National Assembly that was reinstated today by the Constitutional Court. This comes after the Constitutional Court issued a ruling voiding the parliamentary elections that were conducted earlier this year. According to the court, since the parliamentary elections are invalid, the current assembly must be dissolved, and the former assembly, whose majority supports the government, is to be restored.

Delayed poll results keep Egyptians on edge and on the streets

Al-Alam - In Egypt, Secretary-General of the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission Hatem Bagato said the presidential election results will be announced on Saturday or Sunday. Bagato said that looking into the appeals presented by both candidates, Mohamed Morsy and Ahmed Shafiq, requires some time. Protests and sit-ins are continuing in Cairo and other Egyptian cities over the military council's decisions and especially the constitutional declaration that limits the powers of the next president. Protestors expressed fear of fraud in the presidential election results after the Supreme Elections Commission decided to postpone announcing the results.

Iran, P5+1 powers fail to settle another dispute

Dubai TV - The talks between the West and Iran over the latter's nuclear program have failed in Moscow. The two-day talks ended with the two sides agreeing to meet again next month in Istanbul. Both sides confirmed they have started to tackle critical issues, but warned that significant gaps still exist between them. With this, the Russians have failed to achieve political gains on the international front.

Syrian pilot defects after landing in Jordan

BBC Arabic - Jordan granted political asylum to the defected Syrian pilot Hassan Mari, after his MiG-21 fighter jet landed in Mafraq Airport this morning. Syrian TV had announced contact was lost with the warplane during a training mission in Daraa. Activists said this is the first defection of an air force pilot with his plane since the uprising began.

Dire humanitarian conditions loom in southern Yemen

Al-Forat - Widespread disease, destruction, and a lack of food and medicine, is the status of Yemen's southern provinces, after having been afflicted by war and armed conflicts. This state of the security and humanitarian conditions in Yemen's southern provinces are the result of heated battles between the Yemeni army and armed elements of al-Qaeda. It is a humanitarian crisis that threatens the life of over half a million refugees, who were displaced by battles that caused widespread destruction to the southern regions' infrastructure.

 

Image: Al Jazeera

 
 

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Developments in Libya and the Middle East


REUTERS/Ismail ZitounyLibyan court revokes law banning Gaddafi glorification


Al Jazeera - Libya's Supreme Court ruled that a law, passed by the National Transitional Council, was unconstitutional. The law criminalizes the glorification of Gaddafi and his ideas, and punishes with a prison sentence anyone who harms the February 17 Revolution. The court's ruling ended the debate between the law's opponents and proponents. Some viewed the law as a restoration of the former regime's tools of governance, while others considered it a rupture with the Gaddafi era.

Egypt's high court dissolves parliament two days before presidential elections

New TV - Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and confirmed the presidential run-off elections will be held on time. the struggle between Egypt's judges and the dissolved parliament seems ongoing, after parliament insulted and defamed the Egyptian judiciary and Judge Ahmed Rifaat, who presided over Mubarak’s case. This led the chairman of the union of judges to respond in kind, as the battle continues between the legislative and judicial powers. The ruling also found the disenfranchisement law invalid, keeping Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential race.

A look at Gaza after five years of Hamas rule and Israeli siege

BBC Arabic - Tuesday marked the 5th anniversary of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip following an internal battle with its opponent Fatah, that lasted many months and shaped the beginning of the Palestinian political division. Attempts to remedy this division continue today. It also paved the way for an economic blockade by Israel on Gaza's crossings, the price of which is being paid by Gaza’s residents.

As rhetoric intensifies, the Syrian conflict nears global proxy

Al-Alam - In light of the on-the-ground developments of the Syrian crisis, and as clashes continue between armed groups and government forces while a political solution is still lacking, the positions of European and world capitals have differed on the situation in Syria. In contrast to the UN position expressing concern over the eruption of a civil war in Syria, France's position explicitly urged an escalation of the situation in order to topple the regime. It also threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Syria.

 

Tunisia arrests dozens of Salafi Islamists rioting over art show

BBC Arabic - Clashes in some areas of the densely populated capital continued until the early morning hours. According to the Interior Ministry, the clashes erupted overnight between security forces and groups affiliated with Salafi forces, and vandals in several neighborhoods of the capital Tunis. Vandalism, burning and looting affected security and judicial institutions, and syndicates. Protesters say the reason is the display of portraits they considered offensive to Islam.

 

Image: Judge Kamal Bashir Daham, head of Libya's Supreme Court, and members of the court panel meet to approve the constitutional invalidation of a law that will criminalise the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or any of his supporters in Tripoli June 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

 
 

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Egyptians Rally in Tahrir for Mubarak Retrial and More

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Egyptians hold the second million-man march within two days

Al Jazeera - Tahrir Square witnessed a demonstration titled the “Friday of Determination”. Following the verdict of Mubarak and some of his regime’s figureheads, masses took the squares and held spontaneous protests; they were not mobilized by any particular revolutionary or political force. The protests, in which thousands participated, viewed the verdict as a step toward reproducing the former regime. The demands varied throughout the demonstrations, and included the implementation of the disenfranchisement law on candidate Ahmed Shafiq, preventing him from participating in the presidential run-off round, and the re-trial of deposed President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, and his regime's figureheads.

 

Two Sudans disagree over border of demilitarized zone

Dubai TV - The current African-mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan have stalled once again since they started four days ago in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Both sides have failed to establish a demilitarized zone on their shared borders. Observers believe that both sides do not wish to continue fighting in light of their current crises, and the fear of UN sanctions if they fail to resolve their problems.

Benghazi residents protest unequal distribution of Libya's National Council seats

Al Jazeera - Hundreds of people demonstrated in the Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday, demanding a fair redistribution of the Public National Conference's seats among all Libyan regions. The protestors believe the current distribution of seats is prejudice, as it is based on the population density, and may lead to the monopoly of political decisions. In addition, the protestors expressed their intention to boycott the anticipated parliamentary elections, if their demands are not met.

A look back at Naksa Day, or the Day of the Setback

Palestine TV - Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the June War, known as the Naksa, or the day of the setback, when tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced. On that day in 1967, Israel launched an attack that targeted a number of Arab countries and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It changed the geographic and demographic reality in what remained of Palestine, in the years following the Nakba, or the catastrophe, when its land was occupied and its people were displaced. And despite the long years of great pain between 1948 and 1967 that hold the history of dark massacres, the refugees have never stopped waiting for their return. Refugee camps and journeys of displacement remain witnesses to the severity of the occupation that has changed and is still changing the map of this region.

Afghan President Karzai condemns NATO air strike as Panetta arrives in Kabul

Al-Alam - Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the NATO air strike conducted in the southern province of Logar that resulted in the death of 18 people, assuring that targeting civilians cannot be justified. Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense Panetta arrived to Afghanistan in a surprise visit. Panetta said the purpose of his visit is to get an assessment from American General John Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, of the ability to cope with the Taliban's threats and Haqqani fighters, referring to another network tied to al-Qaeda.

Image: A protester acting as Hosni Mubarak wears a mask depicting the deposed Egyptian president during a mock trial at Tahrir square in Cairo June 8, 2012. Hundreds of activists gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demonstrate against presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik ahead of a run-off vote, saying they did not want to be ruled by another former military man. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

 
 

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Palestinians Honor Their Returned Dead and More

REUTERS/Darren Whiteside


Palestinians honor the dead returned by Israel

Al Jazeera -  The Palestinian Authority received the remains of 91 Palestinian martyrs, including 12 from the Gaza Strip. For years, the remains were nothing but a number in a mass grave inside Israel. Today, they are reclaiming their identities. And on their tombs, a story of life, revolution, and martyrdom will be written. The oldest remains belong to seven martyrs who carried out the Savoy Hotel Operation in Tel Aviv in 1975. The Palestinian Authority hopes to receive another wave of martyrs in a few weeks.

Angry Egyptian portesters torch Shafiq's campaign headquarters

Al Alam - Egyptians took to the streets to express their anger towards presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who is participating in the runoff round, and possibly becoming Egypt's first president after the revolution. Once again, the revolutionaries took to the squares in different governorates to protect their revolution, which would be at stake if Shafiq won the elections, given that he was one of the figures of the regime they revolted against.

The enraged protestors reached Shafiq's campaign headquarters in several governorates and set them on fire, throwing his campaigns'advertisement materials outside his headquarters in the Dokki area in Cairo, where some of his supporters gathered.

Syria faces diplomatic backlash over Houla massacre

BBC Arabic - The Geneva-based UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that in its preliminary investigations, at least 20 of the victims in the Houla massacre, which took place last Friday, were killed in artillery shelling. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department told the BBC that the U.S. administration decided to expel the Syrian charge d'affaires in Washington, Zuheir Jabbour. French President Francois Hollande announced the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador in Paris, and Australia also announced that it has requested the charge d'affaires, as well as other diplomats in the Syrian embassy in Canberra, to leave Australia within 72 hours, all in response to the massacre.

UAE revokes citizenship of seven rights activists

Al Alam -  A United Arab Emirates court issued its final decision, withdrawing the citizenship of seven activists. Another Emirati court is looking into the case of blogger Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, who is expected to be exiled to the Comoros Islands. Media and legal reports indicate that in 2009, the Emirates paid 200 million dollars to the Comoros Islands to issue Comorian citizenship to residents of the Emirates who do not have one, or the stateless who are subject to persecution, abuse and are deprived from citizenship rights. It is a chronic problem in the Emirates and several countries of the Persian Gulf.

Six bomb attacks in Baghdad kill at least 17 people

Dubai - In the bloodiest attacks on the Iraqi capital in weeks, six bombings rocked Baghdad today, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens. These attacks broke the weeks of relative calm in Baghdad as the country is witnessing conflict inside the Iraqi government over a political crisis that threatens to fuel sectarian strife again. The bustling residential neighborhood of Shuala in the northwestern part of Baghdad was the most targeted by a wave of bombings that also hit the areas of al-Ghazaliya, al-Ameriya, al-Yarmouk, al-Zafaraniyah and al-Dora. As usual, booby-trapped vehicles and explosive devices claimed the lives of dozens of innocent people, and a state of emergency was declared at the hospitals in the Iraqi capital amid today's new wave of violence targeting civilians.

 

Image: A Palestinian woman shouts as others carry a flag-covered coffin containing the remains of a Palestinian militant following a ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 31, 2012. The remains of 91 Palestinian militants whose attacks killed hundreds of Israelis were returned to the West Bank and Gaza on Thursday in a gesture Israel said it hoped could help revive peace efforts. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

 
 

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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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