News roundup — May 13

Protesters in Sanaa, Yemen, May 13:

Yemen protesters shot as Saleh vows defiance

Three protesters have been killed and at least 15 wounded after government forces opened fire at demonstrators in the southern Yemen city of Ibb.

The soldiers began shooting after protesters surrounded a building where the troops had taken shelter after a clash earlier on Friday.

Demonstrators, who are calling for president Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down, then set fire to an armoured troop carrier. (Al Jazeera)

Bahrain targets Shia religious sites

The Bahraini government has destroyed a number of mosques in continuation of its aggressive crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a special Al Jazeera investigation has revealed.

At least 28 mosques and Shia religious institutions have been destroyed in the Gulf state since the crackdown on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March, the opposition group, Al Wefaq, told Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford.

The Justice Ministry, however, said it was tearing down the mosques because they were not licensed. (Al Jazeera)

Bahrain’s protesters were drugged, official claims

Adopting what might be called the Qaddafi defense, the head of Bahrain’s military claimed that the country’s brutal crackdown on dissent was entirely justified because the kingdom’s security forces had been confronted by young protesters under the influence of mind-altering drugs.

According to Bahrain’s state news agency, Sheik Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on Wednesday that “young people were given pills which affected their minds and made them do unusual things.” He also claimed “that Bahrain had been the victim [of] a conspiracy involving foreign agents and financing.” (New York Times)

Bahrain’s hospitals are used as bait

Christopher Stokes writes: In Bahrain, to be wounded by security forces has become a reason for arrest and providing healthcare has become grounds for a jail sentence. During the current civil unrest, Bahraini health facilities have consistently been used as a tool in the military crackdown against protesters.

The muted response from key allies outside of the region such as the United States – which has significant ties to Bahrain, including a vast naval base in the country – can only be interpreted as acceptance of the ongoing military assault, which is backed by the Gulf Co-operation Council.

While the government and its supporters in Bahrain continue to refer to the protesters as rioters, criminals, extremists, insurgents or terrorists, the label that remains conspicuously absent for those who are wounded is “patient”. (The Guardian)

George Mitchell quits as Mideast envoy

The Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, is resigning after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks, U.S. officials said Friday.

The White House is expected to announce that the veteran mediator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace accord is stepping down for personal reasons, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an afternoon announcement that will follow a White House meeting between Mitchell and President Barack Obama.

There are no imminent plans to announce a replacement for Mitchell, the officials said, although his staff is expected to remain in place at least temporarily.

Mitchell’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Middle East, which is embroiled in turmoil, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been moribund since last September and is now further complicated by an agreement between Palestinian factions to share power.

Obama will deliver a speech next Thursday at the State Department about his administration’s views of developments in the region, ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also will travel to Washington next week. (AP)

More than 7000 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in last 10 years

On Thursday, The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) issued a report stating that more than 7000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories over the past ten years.

The PCBS said that 7342 Palestinians were killed in the period between September 29, 2000 and December 31, 2010.

The report stated that by the end of 2009, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire arrived to 7235, including 2183 killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank. (IMEC)

Clashes in East Jerusalem ahead of Nakba day

Israeli security forces have clashed with Palestinians in several East Jerusalem neighbourhoods ahead of “Nakba Day” or “day of catastrophe” on Sunday.

The anniversary marks Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood after which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in the war that ensued.

A correspondent for the AFP news agency saw four people hurt as police opened fire with rubber bullets at stone-throwing youths in Silwan. (Al Jazeera)

Palestinian teen critically injured as Israel cracks down on Nakba demos; American protester shot in the head with tear-gas canister at close range

A 17 year-old was critically injured from live fire in East Jerusalem, and an American protester suffered serious head injury after being hit by a tear-gas projectile shot directly at him from close range.

Israeli military and police forces responded heavy handedly to demonstrations commemorating 63 years to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 today all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Morad Ayyash, a 17 year old from the Ras el-Amud neighborhood was shot in the stomach with live ammunition. He has reached the Muqassed hospital with no pulse and the doctors are now fighting for his life.

Tension also rose in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where 19 protesters have been injured and 11 were arrested. During the evening hours, large police forces raided houses in Silwan and carried out additional arrests. (Mondoweiss)

Watch more stories at #NakbaSurvivor.

Reinventing the Palestinian struggle

Khaled Diab writes: With the world’s attention focused on the tumultuous changes gripping Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria, one may be excused for thinking that all is quiet on the Palestinian-Israeli front.

So why haven’t Palestinian youth risen up like their counterparts elsewhere in the region to demand their rights?

Well, it is not for want of trying. Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, and following the date-based example of counterparts elsewhere in the Arab world, a new youth movement dubbed by some as the March 15 movement has emerged in Palestine.

The date refers to the day when organisers employing social media, text messaging and word of mouth managed to draw thousands of protesters on to the streets of Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank, as well as Gaza City.

However, in contrast to other popular uprisings in the region, their demands were not wholesale regime change, despite the undoubted failings of both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, and the absence of a democratic mandate for both parties.

“Our top priority is to end the divisions within Palestinian society. This is the only way to deal with the occupation,” explained Z, one of the founders of the movement in Ramallah, who wished to conceal his identity for professional reasons.

Some of the others involved in March 15 are also reluctant to reveal their identities, partly as an expression of the decentralised and “leaderless” approach preferred by Middle Eastern protesters tired of authoritarianism, and partly to avoid popping up on the radars of security services run by the PA, Hamas or Israel.

Despite its relative success on 15 March, the movement has not managed to replicate the most successful ingredient of the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain: constant pressure from the streets. This is partly due to the two-tiered nature of the oppression facing Palestinians, and the restrictions on their movement imposed by the occupation. “Unfortunately, we have two levels of repression in Palestine: Israeli and domestic,” says Z, who is in his early 20s.

In addition, there is the psychological barrier of widespread despair and disillusionment afflicting wide swaths of the population, which the Arab spring is just beginning to chip away at. Most Palestinians I have met since I moved to Jerusalem a few weeks ago speak enthusiastically and excitedly about the Egyptian revolution.

“The problem among Palestinians is that revolutions are nothing new, yet nothing changes or things get worse,” Z observes. “Neither uprisings nor negotiations have worked, Palestinians believe – we’re still under occupation.” (The Guardian)

Mashaal: Egyptians are not required to march to Gaza Strip

Khaled Meshaal, the head of the political bureau of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, said that for the time being Egyptians are not required to march to the Gaza Strip in support of the Palestinian cause.

Egyptian activists had called on Egyptians to march to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on 15 May. The event, which has been dubbed “March to Palestine Day”, is intended to mark the 63rd anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel.

In statements published on the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, Meshaal said that, “advocating the cause by taking a political stance, sending relief aid, boycotting and sending prayers is a must at the moment. We do not ask you to march.” (Al-Masry Al-Youm)

Gaddafi dismisses claims he was injured

Libyan state television has aired what it says is a statement by Muammar Gaddafi, in which the Libyan leader denies reports that he has been wounded.

In the audio message, broadcast on Friday evening, Gaddafi said he is alive and well despite air strikes from the NATO military alliance on his Bab al-Aziziyah compound in the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday.

Gaddafi said he is in a place where NATO bombs can not reach him. (Al Jazeera)

Fears grow for photographer not seen since his capture in Libya 39 days ago

Concern is growing over a British-based photographer who has been missing for 39 days after being captured in Libya by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Anton Hammerl, an award-winning photographer, was captured on 4 April and his family have had no concrete news about him since then.

The regime has, however, allowed access to three other journalists who were captured with him. (The Guardian)

Protesters take to Syria’s streets despite crackdown

Thousands of protesters in Syria defied a ferocious crackdown and returned to the streets Friday, even in towns that the military had besieged only days before, in a relentless contest of wills that a leading dissident described as an emerging stalemate.

For successive weeks, Fridays have served as a weekly climax in the challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Calls for demonstrations this Friday came after a withering wave of repression that has killed hundreds and detained thousands in towns and cities stretching from the Mediterranean coast to Damascus’s outskirts and the poverty-ridden south.

While some of the country’s most restive locales remained relatively quiet — namely Baniyas on the coast and Dara’a in the south — protesters took to the streets in at least five neighborhoods in Homs, Syria’s third largest-city and a center of the two-month uprising. Activists said protests ranged in numbers from hundreds to thousands, and at least two people were killed when security forces opened fire.

“We don’t like you!” crowds chanted in Homs, referring to the president. “You and your party, leave us!” (New York Times)

Signs of chaos in Syria’s intense crackdown

Syrian forces carried out raids in towns on the outskirts of Damascus and a besieged city on the coast on Thursday, as the number of detainees surged in a government campaign so sweeping that human rights groups said many neighborhoods were subjected to repeated raids and some people detained multiple times by competing security agencies.

The ferocious crackdown on the uprising, which began in March, has recently escalated, as the government braces for the possibility of another round of protests on Friday, a day that has emerged as the weekly climax in a broad challenge to the 11-year rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Residents have reported that hundreds of detainees are being held in soccer stadiums, schools and government buildings in various towns and cities across the country, some of them arrested in door-to-door raids by black-clad forces carrying lists of activists. (New York Times)

Crime wave in Egypt has people afraid, even the police

The neighbors watched helplessly from behind locked gates as an exchange of gunfire rang out at the police station. Then about 80 prisoners burst through the station’s doors — some clad only in underwear, many brandishing guns, machetes, even a fire extinguisher — as the police fled.

“The police are afraid,” said Mohamed Ismail, 30, a witness. “I am afraid to leave my neighborhood.”

Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a crime wave in Egypt has emerged as a threat to its promised transition to democracy. Businessmen, politicians and human rights activists say they fear that the mounting disorder — from sectarian strife to soccer riots — is hampering a desperately needed economic recovery or, worse, inviting a new authoritarian crackdown.

At least five attempted jailbreaks have been reported in Cairo in the past two weeks, at least three of them successful. Other attempts take place “every day,” a senior Interior Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly.

Newspapers brim with other episodes: the Muslim-Christian riot that raged last weekend with the police on the scene, leaving 12 dead and two churches in flames; a kidnapping for ransom of a grandniece of President Anwar el-Sadat; soccer fans who crashed a field and mauled an opposing team as the police disappeared; a mob attack in an upscale suburb, Maadi, that hospitalized a traffic police officer; and the abduction of another officer by Bedouin tribes in the Sinai.

“Things are actually going from bad to worse,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, the former international atomic energy official, now a presidential candidate. “Where have the police and military gone?” (New York Times)

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One thought on “News roundup — May 13

  1. Christopher Hoare

    It would seem that the military government of Egypt is back to it’s old tactic of removing the forces of law and order and employing criminals and agents provocateurs to frighten people into allowing them to recreate the dictatorship. The revolution will not be over until the generals are all under lock and key.

    One has to wonder why Obama has to give the speech to inform the State Department about the lack of desired developments that has caused Mitchell to resign. Perhaps the administration does not want to give him a venue where he might speak the truth?

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