Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arab League urges Syria to end bloodshed

REUTERS - Arab states told Syria on Sunday to "resort to reason" and end months of bloodshed after some of the most intense protests in Damascus since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Arab League foreign ministers also agreed to send Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Syria to push for political and economic reforms in the country ruled by Assad's family for 41 years.
Their move came after Syria's closest ally Iran also said Damascus must listen to the "legitimate demands" of its people, adding, however, that any change in Syria's ruling system or a power vacuum in Damascus would be dangerous for the region.
The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since Assad sent in tanks and troops to crush the demonstrations that erupted in March after the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular protests.
But despite growing international condemnation, the threat of more Western sanctions, and escalating economic pressures because of the impact on tourism and investment, Assad's rule shows no sign of imminent collapse.
The Arab League council stressed "the importance of ending bloodshed and to resort to reason before it is too late".

Libya's transitional govt set to permanently join Arab League

Libya's transitional government will be represented in an upcoming meeting of the Arab League council as a permanent member of the organization, said Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby on Saturday.
Araby's statement came after he met with the head of the executive board of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), Mahmoud Jibril, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
Jibril said the Arab League's call for a no-fly zone over Libya had contributed to rescuing Benghazi from a bloody fate.
He added that the NTC believes that the league's decision to support the no-fly zone on 12 March will be remembered as a turning point in the organization's history.

Activists: Shehat not the real ‘Flagman’

The young Egyptian publicly lauded for pulling down Israel’s flag from its embassy in Cairo is not the real hero behind the adventure, two activists have said.
Osama Ezz al-Arab and Mohamed al-Desouky, two Egyptian revolutionaries, said that Ahmed al-Shehat, who reportedly climbed to the 22nd floor of the Israeli Embassy's building on 20 August, was not the hero.
Mostafa Kamel Gad Allah, a honey seller, replaced the Israeli flag with an Egyptian one, the pair told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The stunt took place during a demonstration in front of the embassy protesting the death of five Egyptian border officers in an Israeli raid on 18 August
Egyptian bloggers and internet users praised Shehat, nicknaming him Flagman.
But according to Ezz al-Arab, climbing the building was Gad Allah’s idea. He said that Gad Allah planned the daring move with Shehat and a third protester, Ahmed Yousry. Gad Allah tore down the flag and threw it to Shehat, who ran with it towards the jubilant protesters.
"I spoke with Shehat one day later, he told me that he did not steal the credit for Gad Allah’s effort intentionally,” Ezz al-Arab said. “Shehat said that Sheikh Safwat Hegazy, an Islamic preacher, took him to a satellite channel to recount his adventure. He could not deny the news before the media."
Desouky said that Hegazy is aware that Gad Allah was real man behind the incident. “Hegazy called Gad Allah and told him they will work the issue out so that revolutionaries would not appear to be liars,” Desouly said.
Desouky said a woman had phoned Shahat to say she possessed photos of the real climber, and threatened to submit them to the prosecution services.
The governor of Sharqiya, Shehat’s birthplace, has awarded him with an apartment and a job for his bravery.

Shortages hit Tripoli as rebels target Qadhafi bastion

TRIPOLI - Tripoli struggled with collapsing water and power supplies on Saturday as rebels now in control of most of the Libyan capital vowed to take Muammar Qadhafi's home town by force if negotiations failed.
More evidence emerged of summary killings during the battle for Tripoli, which erupted a week ago.
A correspondent for Britain's Sky News said he had counted about 53 bodies left in a burned-out warehouse, where they were apparently executed earlier this week.
"It is a scene of mass murder," Stuart Ramsay said at the scene, quoting witnesses as saying 150 people were killed there on 23 and 24 August as rebel fighters fought pro-Qadhafi forces.
A local resident told Sky the victims were mostly civilians and had been killed by Qadhafi's forces.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Defiant Saif al-Islam rallies loyalists

Saif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Gaddafi who was reported captured by Libyan opposition forces on Sunday, has made a defiant public appearance in Tripoli.
Television footage showed Saif, considered the most influential and politically active of Gaddafi's children, pumping his fists in the air, smiling, waving and shaking hands with supporters. At one point, he was pictured holding his arms aloft with each hand making the "V" for victory sign.
"I am here to refute the lies," Saif, 39, said on Monday in reference to reports of his arrest. He later visited the Rixos Hotel, where many members of the foreign media have been based since the conflict started, to speak to foreign journalists.
"We broke the back of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning," he said.

Explosions around Gaddafi compound

Heavy fighting is taking place in areas of Tripoli for a second day, with opposition forces concentrating their firepower on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound in the Bab al-Azizya district of the Libyan capital.
The al-Mansoura district was also the focus of fierce clashes between government forces and opposition fighters on Tuesday, two days after the rebels marched into the heart of the city, prompting scenes of jubiliation.
But Gaddafi's forces are reportedly fighting back using heavy weapons including mortars and shells fired in the direction of Green Square, which rebels have renamed Martyrs' Square, casting doubts on opposition claims that much of the city was under their control.
Al Jazeera's James Bays said he could see smoke rising into the sky from the vicinity of Gaddafi's compound. The Libyan leader's whereabouts is unknown.
"The battle is certainly not over. The city is on a knife edge," our correspondent said.
There have been reports of NATO planes flying very low on top of Gaddafi's compound.
In a dramatic development, Saif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, appeared in al-Mansouraearly on Tuesday morning to refute claims that he had been captured by opposition forces and rally government loyalists.
"There is confusion among the ranks of opposition fighters on the ground," Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reporting from Tripoli said. "Some people are asking whether the National Transitional Council has been infiltrated."
The head of Libya's opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) on Monday announced the end of Gaddafi's decades-long rule.
But the re-appearance of Saif, an influential figure who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has raised fresh questions about the NTC leadership's grip on a fast-changing situation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tunisia and the Libyan National Transitional Council

Tunisia on Sunday decided to recognise the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, the news agency TAP reported.

Ending the Era of Kadhafi

A rebel operation called "Mermaid" is underway Sunday in the capital Tripoli to isolate Moamer Kadhafi and force his surrender or departure, a rebel spokesman told AFP.

Casualties mount in Gaza-Israel violence

Two people have been injured, including one child, in the town of Beit Lahia in the Gaza Strip by a rocket fired from an Israeli drone, according to Palestinian medical sources.
Earlier on Sunday, rockets fired from Gaza fell in southern Israel in a continuation of days of cross-border air strikes and rocket attacks that have left at least 30 people dead.
At least 12 rockets landed on Sunday, but no serious injuries were reported, according to Israeli army officials.
An Israeli man was killed on Saturday by a rocket strike in the southern city of Beersheba, while Israeli air strikes on Gaza left a Palestinian man seriously wounded.
Israeli ministers held an emergency meeting on Saturday night to discuss the violence while the Arab League is expected to hold emergency talks on Sunday.
Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza have killed at least 15 people, among them gunmen and five civilians including three children, since gunmen killed eight people near the Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday. Israel blamed that attack on Palestinian fighters who had entered southern Israel from Gaza via Egypt.
The Israeli army's chief spokesperson, Yoav Mordechai, told Israel Radio on Sunday that Israeli forces would not "not hesitate to widen its actions and to respond with as much force as is needed".
Seven other people, including two children, were wounded by more than 50 rockets fired from Gaza on Saturday.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility for Saturday's deadly rocket strike in Beersheba. Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for another attack that destroyed a home in the town of Ofakim.
It was the first time in months that Hamas had declared its involvement in rocket attacks against Israel, after largely observing a de facto truce since the end of a three-week offensive in January 2009.
Al Jazeera's Cal Perry, reporting from Jerusalem, said that Israel held Hamas, which governs Gaza, responsible for the rocket attacks.
"Hamas has called off the ceasefire that was in place with Israel, largely due to the violence and the continued strikes that we see from Israeli aircraft, killing at least 15 Palestinians," our correspondent said.
"They do blame Hamas whenever anything originates from Gaza, be it a rocket attack from the south - we have seen 70 of those since Thursday - or an attack like we saw from southern Israel."
Akiva Eldar, cheif political commentator for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz told Al Jazeera: "I dont think that Hamas has any interest in this right now and I think they were doing everything to avoid taking the blame for undermining the diplomatic attempts."
World powers on Saturday expressed concern over the ongoing violence.
A statement in Brussels from the diplomatic quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States said they remained "concerned about the unsustainable situation in Gaza as well as the risk of escalation, and calls for restraint from all sides."

Egypt says Israel's regret is not enough

"The Israeli statement was positive on the surface, but it was not in keeping with the magnitude of the incident and the state of Egyptian anger toward Israeli actions," the official MENA news agency quoted a cabinet statement as saying on Sunday.
MENA said the cabinet insisted on a timetable for an Israeli offer of a joint investigation into the deaths on Thursday as Israeli troops pursued fighters who carried out attacks earlier in the Negev that killed eight.
"Egypt affirms its solicitude for maintaining peace with Israel, but Israel must also assume responsibility for protecting this peace," it said.
The reaction came as thousand of Egyptians protested late on Saturday outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo, housed in the top floor of a high-rise building.
Israeli flag removed
An Egyptian protester on Sunday clambered up to the embassy, took down its flag and replaced it with an Egyptian one as more than 1,000 people protested over the border deaths of their policemen.

Libyan fighting reaches streets of Tripoli

Sustained automatic gunfire and a series of explosions rang out in Tripoli overnight as rebels launched efforts to permanantly free the Libyan capital from Muammar Gaddafi's grasp, according to reports from witnesses and rebels.
Blasts and gunfire rocked the city after sunset on Saturday, and witnesses reported street protests and fighting in the eastern neighbourhoods of Souq al-Jomaa and Tajoura. Beginning at around 9pm local time, residents also took to the streets in the Fashloum, Fournaj, Sabah, Ghoud al-Shayal, Hanshir and Dahra areas, many of them emerging from mosques and chanting "God is great".
Expatriate Libyans speaking to family members in the capital said their relatives described men going out to protest, some with weapons, while children and women were asked to stay home. Meanwhile, NATO aircraft reportedly carried out bombing raids after nightfall.
Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said rebels had tried to attack Tripoli but had been "dealt with".
Ibrahim appeared on state television in the early morning hours in Tripoli's central Green Square, riding in a car and surrounded by tens of supporters. Gaddafi himself never appeared, though he released an audio message congratulating citizens for repelling an attack by "rats".
"Sure, there were some armed militants who escaped into some neighbourhoods and there were some scuffles," Ibrahim said. "But we dealt with it within a half hour and it is now calm."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rebels advance in their fight for Az Zawiyah

Fierce fighting between rebels and Muammar Gaddafi loyalists has broken out at Libya's only functioning oil refinery in the western city of Az Zawiyah.
The clashes on Wednesday are part of the rebels' push to cut fuel supplies to the regime's stronghold in Tripoli, the capital.
A rebel field commander in Az Zawiyah, Osama Arusi, said the fighting had shut down an oil pipeline to Tripoli and that rebels have surrounded the refinery.
"The pipeline from Az Zawiyah to Tripoli has been switched off," Arusi told the Associated Press news agency. "The man who is responsible for switching the pipeline off said it is not working."

Gunmen 'shoot at buses in southern Israel'

Three gunmen have fired at an Israeli bus travelling near the Egyptian border, wounding at least 10 people, according to Israeli media.
Israeli Army Radio reported that shots were also fired at a second bus shortly after three gunmen in a car opened fire on a bus near the Egyptian-Israeli border.
Regarding the first bus attack, the Israeli police spokesperson's office said "shots were fired at a bus on Highway 12 leading to Eilat from Mitzpe Ramon, near Netafim checkpoint", located approximately 20km north of Israel's Red Sea resort city of Eilat.
Police did not confirm the number of wounded but said their injuries were "light to medium".
Reports said most of the passengers on the first bus were Israeli soldiers who are residents of Eilat and were on their way from their respective bases to go home for the weekend.
According to Israeli media citing Eilat hospital spokespersons, approximately 10 people - six "light" and four "medium" - were wounded in the first bus attack.
There were conflicting reports over the exact number of people injured in the second attack.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bedouins killed in South Sinai ambush

Two Bedouin men were killed by central security personnel in South Sinai’s Abu Redeis, Egypt's media reported on Wednesday.
Eyewitnesses told Al-Masry Al-Youm that after the incident dozens of the victims’ families gathered on the highway leading to Cairo and blocked traffic, calling for retaliation.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported on its website that security services were responsible for the shooting. According to Al-Ahram, security staff ordered the men to stop on a road near Abu Redeis, and shot them in the head when they refused.
However, the Masrawy news website reported that the two men were killed by a member of the army in an ambush, and mentioned the frequency of clashes between armed Bedouins and the military.
Meanwhile, German news agency DPA quoted a senior security official in North Sinai as saying that police and other security services are not responsible for the deaths.
The victims’ families said the two men were not wanted by police and had no illegal possessions.

Syrian troops 'withdraw' from key cities

Syrian military and security forces are withdrawing from the city of Deir ez-Zor and key areas in Latakia, according to Syrian state media, following operations which anti-government activists say have left dozens dead.
Convoys of army vehicles were seen leaving Deir ez-Zor after the military cleared the area of "armed terrorist gangs," SANA, the state-run news agency, reported.
Journalists on a government-organised trip to the city on Tuesday reported armoured personnel carriers and other military vehicles were leaving, and footage showed pictures of crowds chanting and cheering as the soldiers left.
But only hours later, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that one person was killed when security forces opened fired to disperse an anti-government protest in the city when "hundreds of people" marched in Takaya street.

Residents said tanks were still present at the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor and that troops were raiding houses looking for wanted dissidents. Activists say at least 32 people have died since troops seized control of the city last Wednesday.
Al Jazeera's Nisreen el-Shamayleh reporting from Ramtha, on the Syria-Jordan border, said activists on the ground did not believe the government's announcements.
"[They said] a lot of the tanks have been moved to other suburbs on the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor, but did not exit completely ... They basically provide these accounts that challenge these statements from the Syrian government," she said.
Activists also told Al Jazeera that gunfire was heard near Freedom Square after Ramadan prayers on Tuesday night near, where two people were reported to be killed.

Israel kills 2 Palestinians in Gaza

JERUSALEM - The Israeli military killed two Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, one in an airstrike and another as he approached the Gaza border, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
The military said its aircraft struck five targets in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel Monday that exploded in the city of Beersheba. It said aircraft hit a group of armed men preparing to launch a rocket attack on Israel.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said one militant was killed and four people wounded in the Israeli strikes - three militants and a 5-year-old boy.
Late Tuesday, Israeli soldiers also shot a Palestinian when he approached the border that separates Gaza and Israel.
An Israeli military spokesman said the man had entered a no-go zone where "militants frequently set explosive devices or ambush soldiers on patrol nearby."
Abu Salmia said medics "retrieved the body riddled with bullet holes."
It was not immediately clear whether the man was armed or belonged to any militant group.
The border between Israel and Gaza has been mostly quiet since an Israeli military offensive in the winter of 2008 aimed at stopping almost daily Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli communities.
Violence continues sporadically since then along the border and Palestinians continue to launch mortars and rockets at Israel, but to a much lesser degree.

Brotherhood youths organize traffic in Nasser City

A number of youths from the Muslim Brotherhood, in coordination with traffic authorities in Nasser City, have organized a popular committee to help improve road traffic conditions in the area, which is plagued by congestion.
The civilian traffic wardens have donned custom-made T-shirts and caps, called out Brotherhood slogans, and distributed fliers to raise awareness among locals and drivers about the importance of obeying traffic rules.
The group has been working to improve safety for pedestrians and marked out routes for mircobuses. In cooperation with local residents, they claim to have found ways of better facilitating the flow of traffic.
“The story began with coordination between a number of Brotherhood youth volunteers and other citizens by way of Facebook pages under the slogan Your Hands In Ours To Organize Our Traffic,” said Ahmed Asmat, one of the youth organizers involved in the campaign.
Asmat says the group is talking with the General Traffic Administration about plans to launch public awareness campaigns throughout Cairo and other governorates.
“We thought about launching this campaign when we discovered traffic police were absent from the streets, which led to cars bumping into each other and being crowded on the main roads. It was our goal to begin the campaign during Ramadan, when the crowding and traffic is at its worst,” said Asmat.
The youths currently patrol the streets, directing the campaign from 10 pm until midnight. After Ramadan, their hours will switch from 7 pm to 10:30 pm.

Military's evolving media strategy shows who's boss

Hosni Mubarak’s last act as president was to hand over control of the state to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). With that gesture, the now-deposed president brought a secretive council of 20 military men out of the backrooms and into the spotlight.
The SCAF’s first public address was made while Mubarak was still in power. General Mohsen al-Fangary issued communiqué number one, which stated that the military council had convened.
Since then, the communiqués have proliferated and members of the SCAF have held numerous press conferences and appeared on television shows. While the tone was reassuring and conciliatory at first, it has recently become biting.
In an effort to keep the public onside, the SCAF initially stressed that the military was of the people and had its best interests at heart. However, as criticism mounted of the military's handling of affairs, and particularly its rough treatment of protesters, the tone of its media voice became more scathing, culminating in fierce attacks on anyone who dared "insult" the armed forces, branding them as treacherous saboteurs.
While the consensus is that most Egyptians fully back the army, some observers have become increasingly concerned by the military's media relations strategy and the attitudes it reflects.

President Saleh vows to return to Yemen 'soon'

SANAA - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Tuesday he would return home "soon" from his convalescence in Saudi Arabia after an assassination attempt and accused the opposition of hijacking a protest movement that is demanding he quits.
In a speech broadcast live to a gathering of tribesmen loyal to Saleh, he invited the opposition to go to the ballot box to end Yemen's political crisis, which has dragged into its seventh month.
"See you soon in Sanaa," said Saleh at the end of his speech, which was watched by an audience of some 6000 tribesmen in the Yemeni capital.
Saleh, who looked in visibly better health than in his last televised appearance from a hospital in Riyadh, attacked the opposition parties and tribesmen who have sided with them as "highway robbers" and "opportunists" and told protesters their movement had been hijacked.
"There is a political party in the opposition whose slogan claims it is the party of Islam. What Islam? They have distorted Islam," he said in reference to leading opposition party, the Islamist Islah party.
A member of Saleh's ruling General People's Congress party said this week that senior Islah member Hamid al-Ahmar, who owns Yemen's Sabafon mobile network, was the "prime suspect" in the assassination attempt. Ahmar has denied involvement.
Sitting at a desk, Saleh stopped short of accusing Islah of being behind the attempt on his life.
In a markedly stronger voice than the last time Yemenis saw him, Saleh said he was prepared to hand over power "via elections, not via coups."
Saleh's tenacity has frustrated thousands of Yemenis who thought they had seen the last of him when he flew to Riyadh for medical treatment following the bomb blast at his palace mosque in June.
While long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt have bowed to popular demands they quit, Saleh has proved a shrewd political survivor, defying international pressure and thrice backing out of a Gulf-brokered deal to ease him out of office.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Clashes in Yemen

Twenty three tribesmen were killed in overnight clashes with troops loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Arhab, northeast of the capital, a tribal source said Tuesday.

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza Strip

One person has been killed and five others have been wounded in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian medical sources.
The first raid, early on Tuesday, targeted Zeitun, east of Gaza City and injured three men involved in firing rockets at Israel, the medical sources told the Reuters news agency. One among them later died.
The warplanes also targeted two Hamas training camps, one east of Gaza City and another west of Khan Younis city.
Two people were reported to have suffered minor injuries, according to the AFP news agency, which carried images of an injured women arriving for treatment at a Gaza City hospital.
Three Palestinian civilians, among them a boy, were injured, sources said, in a separate air strike that targeted a tunnel beneath Gaza's border with Egypt.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the raids were launched in response to the firing of a rocket from the Gaza Strip at the southern town of Beersheva.
Aircraft "targeted four targets in the Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed," the statement said.
An Israeli police spokesman said a rocket had been fired at Beersheva, without causing casualties. Israeli public radio said a second rocket was also fired at the town, but it was not known where it fell.
Since last month there has been an increase in the number of rockets fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip followed by Israeli air force reprisal raids after several months of calm following a flare-up in April when an anti-tank missile hit an Israeli school bus, killing a teenager.
Israel responded to that attack with a series of air strikes that killed at least 19 Palestinians in the deadliest violence since Israel's devastating 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

'Thousands flee' Latakia assault

Syrian troops have kept up their assault on the coastal city of Latakia, reportedly killing three people and forcing thousands of residents, including many Palestinian refugees, to flee their homes.
Residents told Al Jazeera that the army was using heavy machine guns and tanks, and had rounded up many people in a sports stadium as they attempted to escape the city.
Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said 5,000 to 10,000 residents of a Palestinian refugee camp in the al-Ramel area of the city had been fleeing after the camp came under fire.
"As of 1pm (10:00 GMT), the army instructed all residents in southern and southeastern Latakia to evacuate", Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from the Jordanian side of the Jordan-Syria border, said.
According to activists, most people started fleeing to the heart of the city and there Syrian troops arrested many of them.

"They transported them on buses to the sports city stadium and there they're being held captured, stripped of their IDs and mobile phones," El-Shamayleh said.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gaddafi defiant as rebels claim gains in west

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has urged his supporters to fight for the country "inch by inch" as opposition forces launched a two-pronged offensive in western Libya that threatens to isolate the capital of Tripoli.
Facing the sternest challenge of his decades-long rule, Gaddafi on Monday called on Libyans to arm themselves to liberate the country from "traitors and from NATO" in a broadcast on state television.
The speech, which was broadcast in audio only with no images, was the first time Gaddafi had spoken in public since rebel fighters launched their biggest offensive in months.
"The Libyan people will remain and the Fateh revolution (which brought Gaddafi to power in 1969) will remain. Move forward, challenge, pick up your weapons, go to the fight for liberating Libya inch by inch from the traitors and from NATO," Gaddafi said.

"Get ready for the fight ... The blood of martyrs is fuel for the battlefield," he added.
Meanwhile, Egyptian airport officials say the Libyan interior minister has arrived in Cairo with family members.
The officials say the minister, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, landed just before noon on Monday at the Cairo international airport, with nine members of his family.
They say he arrived on a special plane from Tunisia and told Egyptian officials that he was "on a tourist visit''.
The airport officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the media.
Reports have been circulating for hours that the minister had defected from the side of Gaddafi, who is facing a possible breakthrough in a six-month-old rebel campaign to end his four decades in power.

No officials from the Libyan embassy in Cairo were at the airport to greet the minister. Libyan officials were not immediately available for comment.

Mubarak trial adjourned amid chaotic scenes

The trial of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former president, who faces charges over the deaths of protesters during the uprising that led to his toppling earlier this year, has been adjourned until next month amid chaotic scenes in a Cairo court
Trial judge Ahmed Rifaat said the court would reconvene on September 5 to hear evidence. He also ruled that the trial, which was being broadcast live by many channels and on big screens outside the court, should not be televised until sentencing.
Rifaat also ordered that Mubarak's trial should be merged with proceedings against his former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, whose trial had already been adjourned until September 5.
Mubarak, 83, who has mostly been confined to hospital since he was toppled by mass protests in February, was wheeled into the Cairo court on a stretcher as the trial resumed on Monday morning.

Scores of lawyers representing some of those killed during the protests that toppled Mubarak are attending the trial and Refaat struggled to maintain order amid chaotic scenes as the court convened.
Dressed in a navy blue sports sweater, Mubarak appeared inside the courtroom in a caged defendants' box, along with his sons, Gamal and Alaa, who face corruption charges, and answered, "Present", when the judge called his name.
Hundreds of riot police stood guard outside the court but scuffles broke out between supporters of the former president and those demanding that Mubarak be held responsible for those killed in the final weeks of his rule.
Defence lawyers have called for hundreds of witnesses to testify in the case, including the head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.
Tantawi's possible testimony on the former president's role in trying to suppress the 18-day uprising, in which more than 800 people were killed, is considered critical by many to the outcome of the case.
"Tantawi's testimony would help the court determine whether Mubarak gave orders to interior minister Habib al-Adly to fire at protesters or whether Adly was acting independently," said one member of the defence team, who asked not to be named.
Lawyers for the families of those killed have also demanded Tantawi testify in the trial.
"The defence team sees Tantawi as a compurgator, or a witness whose testimony would exonerate Mubarak. The plaintiffs' lawyers, however, expect him to testify that he received orders to fire, which is necessary to convict Mubarak," another lawyer handling the case said.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Syrian 'warships shell port of Latakia'

At least ten people have been killed and 15 injured after Syrian warships and tanks opened fire on the port city of Latakia in two residential districts, activists have said.
Sunday's deaths were reported as a military assault on Latakia extended into a second day.
On Saturday, at least five people were killed and several were injured as at least 20 tanks and armoured personnel carriers rolled into the city.

Shooting and explosions were heard in another neighbourhood, in Slaibeh on Saturday, according to the London-Based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC).In Damascus, activists reported a siege on Sa'aba, east of the capital, on Sunday, in an attempt to prevent funeral processions for two people who were killed on Saturday night.
Also on Saturday, scores of security agents and pro-government thugs, known as shabiha, entered the town of Qusair, near the border with Lebanon, and several nearby villages, arresting scores of residents, Rami Abdel Rahman, chief of the SOHR, said.

Gaddafi's Claims'

The Libyan government insisted Zawiyah was under the regime's control on Saturday, dismissing rebel claims of having captured the port city on the road to Tripoli.

Syria Victims

 At least six people were killed as the Syrian military opened fire on the port city of Latakia on Sunday, with warships and tanks joining the assault, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Libyan opposition launches new offensive

Opposition forces have launched a two-pronged offensive in Western Libya, increasing pressure to isolate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli.
Opposition fighters advanced toward the towns of Gharyan and Az-Zawiyah on Saturday, attempting to cut off the southern coastal route from Tunisia that Gaddafi uses for supplies.
Early in the day, rebel fighters claimed victory in Gharyan after Gaddafi's soldiers withdrew. However, regime forces returned several hours later and clashes continued.

Meanwhile, the battle for control of Az-Zawiyah raged along the coastal highway and at the gates of the city.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, who is in the south of Az-Zawiyah, said opposition fighters claim "they have managed to take 70 per cent of the town, despite the threat of snipers still in the area."
The gains are possible "because the Gaddafi forces' defences were weak and that fighters received help from inside the city. As they expected, residents took up arms and fought alongside them when they arrived.
"The town had previously risen up against Gaddafi, but government forces quelled that uprising.

"Today's victory would be the opposition's most significant in months because they were just 50 km from Tripoli, a mere half an hour's drive, if they could hold the territory and stave off a Gaddafi counter offensive," our correspondent said.
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim rejected the claims: "Az-Zawiyah is completely under our control. A very small group of rebels tried to enter from the south of Az-Zawiyah but they were stopped easily by our armed forces."
Rebel forces launched ground attacks after NATO planes hit targets in these areas.

Trial of Egypt's ex-interior minister resumes

Habib el-Adly, Egypt's former interior minister, has reappeared in court for the continuation of his trial which began in April.
Adly's attendance in court was screened on Egyptian state television on Sunday, as he faced charges regarding his alleged use of violence during the Egyptian uprising earlier this year.

The former minister and six senior security officials are accused of giving orders that led to the killing of about 850 demonstrators.
If convicted, Adly, who denies the charges, faces the death penalty.
Adly was the first member of Mubarak's government to be put on trial in another case where he faced charges of fraud and money laundering.
In that case, a judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison for money laundering and ordered him to pay about $2.3m.
The removal of Adly from office was one of the chief demands of protesters when they launched the revolution against Mubarak's regime on January 25.

On the first day of his trial last Wednesday, Mubarak pleaded not guilty to all the accusations against him.
Last Wednesday was his first public appearance since the day before he stepped down as president.
Mubarak, who is reported to be suffering from health problems, will remain in a hospital near Cairo until his trial resumes on Monday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Casualties in Beirut suburb explosion

A blast in a northern suburb of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, has killed at least two people, according to a police official.
"Two people were killed in the blast that took place in a parking lot, near a commercial centre," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The two victims were identified as Ihsan Dia and Hassan Nassar, the AFP news agency reported.
Lebanese television said Dia and Nassar were believed to have been handling explosives inside their vehicle when the blast went off in Antelias.
Marwan Charbel, the interior minister, told local news channel OTV that the two young men who were killed were car dealers, and that the blast had not targeted a judge, as some earlier reports had suggested.

"Our investigation so far does not point to an act of sabotage," he said.
Security officials said it was not immediately clear if the bomb went off by mistake or whether it had a timer.
"They were either holding the bomb or had explosives strapped to their bodies when the blast occurred," said one official. "Their bodies were torn apart."
"We also believe they were sitting inside a car or standing right next to it," he said.
A witness told AFP he saw rescuers carrying away from the site a man whose arm and leg had been torn off in the explosion.
A pool of blood could be seen on the ground in the car park.

Earlier violence
Earlier in the day, a police official said a car belonging to the son of Lebanese judge Albert Serhan was in the car park when the blast went off but initial reports were unclear as to whether it was targeted specifically.
"I don't think we were targeted and the car just happened to be parked there," Judge Serhan was quoted by LBC, a local television channel, as saying.
"My son is an engineer and he parks his car in that lot, along with his colleagues, near their office," judge Albert Serhan told AFP.

"I have never been threatened nor does anyone in my family dabble in politics," he added.
The blast occurred at about 11am local time. Army and police forces rushed to the site along with Red Cross medics and cordoned off the area.
Lebanon was rocked by a wave of assassinations from 2005 to 2008 which killed anti-Syrian journalists and politicians.
Rafiq Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, was killed in a massive Beirut bombing on February 14, 2005, along with 22 others.
The Hariri assassination led to a wave of mass protests which, combined with international pressure, forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending a 29-year deployment.
It also led to the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2007, created to capture and try those responsible for the murder.

Hariri tribunal judge appeals to suspects

The president of the UN-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, has called on the four suspects in the case to turn themselves in, promising they will get a fair trial.
In an open letter published on Thursday, the deadline following 30 days in which Lebanese authorities were given to search and arrest the suspects, Judge Antonio Cassese addressed the accused, informing them of the possibility of appearong via video-link during the court proceedings.
"If you do not wish to come to the tribunal in person, the option might be available - following the procedures in our rules - of appearing by video-link, thus participating in the proceedings without physically coming to The Hague," Cassese said.
He went on to insist on the need for the accused to obtain legal counsel, and that "substantial funds have been earmarked" specifically for the defence team, in case they cannot afford it.

Syrian security forces 'fire' at protesters

Syrian security forces have opened fire at protesters in Deir ez-Zor, Idlib and Deraa after Friday prayers, according to media reports.
Al Arabiya television said on Friday there were also demonstrations in the central city of Homs and the western city of Latakia.

Earlier, Syrian security forces killed at least 11 people in raids near the Lebanon border and in the country's Sunni tribal heartland.

Rights activists also said forces shot dead a man and a woman as they pursued a crackdown on a protest ahead of Ramadan Friday prayers.
The man was killed early on Friday while trying to flee when security forces began arresting residents in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the AFP news agency.

Nightly Ramadan prayers, or 'tarawih', which follow the breaking of the fast, have given more Syrians a focus for daily protest marches against 41 years of Bashar al-Assad family rule over the country of 20 million, activists said.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists since the five-month-old uprising against the government of al-Assad began, making it difficult to verify reports from both sides.

The crackdown came a day after Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, urged nations around the world to step up pressure on al-Assad to curtail his government's brutal crackdown on protests.
In a televised interview on Thursday, Clinton suggested that China and India impose energy sanctions on Syria.

Clinton also urged Russia to stop selling arms to Damascus, which has bought arms from Moscow for decades.

She said in the interview with broadcasters that the US has been "very clear" in its statements about al-Assad's loss of legitimacy.
"But it's important that it's not just the American voice. And we want to make sure those voices are coming from around the world," Clinton said.
"What we really need to do to put the pressure on Assad is to sanction the oil and gas industry. And we want to see Europe take more steps in that direction.
"And we want China to take steps with us. We want to see India, because India and China have large energy investments inside of Syria. We want to see Russia cease selling arms to the Assad regime," the top US diplomat said.
Clinton's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters earlier that she did not know when Russia last made an arms delivery to Syria.
But when asked if Washington had asked Russia to stop arms sales, Nuland replied: "We have repeatedly, yes, and over many, many years and more than one administration."
Clinton, meanwhile, welcomed the fact that China and Russia, after refusing to condemn Syria, backed a UN Security Council statement last week denouncing the regime's crackdown.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fighting rages on several Libyan fronts

At least three Libyan opposition fighters have been killed in clashes near the northern town of Zlitan, just 160km from Tripoli, the capital, as government troops fought rebel forces for control of the town.
Several other opposition forces were injured in the fighting on Sunday, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reported, as troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi continued an assault against anti-government fighters.
Opposition forces were also under attack in the newly captured town of Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic location in western Libya 85km from Tripoli, where Gaddafi forces launched an offensive to regain control of the town.
The opposition forces are attempting to get closer to Tripoli, and they expressed hope earlier this week that they would reach the capital before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Opposition 'better trained'
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Bir al-Ghanam just after rockets began falling on the frontline, said that there was a sense that the opposition fighters were better organised and better trained than earlier in their campaign to topple Gaddafi.

"Volunteers from all over the country are joining the fight. Not just people from the western mountains, rebels from Az Zawiyah and rebels from Tripoli."There is a sense that they know what they lack," she said.
"Bir Ghanem is such a strategic town that when they take that town they [will] have access to the main highway that reaches to Az Zawiyah, which is just west of Tripoli."

Saudi Arabia calls for Syrian reforms

Saudi Arabia's king has condemned a brutal crackdown on protests in Syria, recalling the country's ambassador to Damascus and calling on the Syrian government to implement political reforms.
"What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia," King Abdullah said in a written statement on Monday.
"Syria should think wisely before it's too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms," he said. "Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss."
The Saudi monarch's comments came a day after the Gulf Co-operation Council urged Syria to "end the bloodshed" and the Arab League, which had been silent since the uprising began, said it was "alarmed" by the situation and called for the immediate halt of all violence.
Hours after the statement from the Saudi king, Syrian activists said the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor came under new artillery fire.
Troops also entered Maarat an-Numan in the northern province of Idlib at dawn on Monday, activists said.
"Forces entered the city from its eastern side and they are preventing the residents from entering or leaving the city,'' the Local Co-ordination Committees said in a statement.
Some activists say more than 300 people have died in the past week, the bloodiest in the five-month uprisingagainst Assad.

Bahrain frees two former opposition MPs

Bahrain has freed two former parliamentarians from the Shia opposition and several other detained activists who were arrested in anti-government protests earlier this year.
The release on Sunday of ex-MPs Jawad Fairouz and Matar Ibrahim Matar, of the Al-Wefaq opposition party, follows a claim from the head of a state-appointed commission on the protests that Bahrain would eventually release about 150 detainees.

The move also comes after Bahrain's king accepted a series of political reforms drawn up by a government-sanctioned national dialogue committee created to address popular grievances, The Associated Press reported.
Bahrain has sentenced eight opposition members to life imprisonment for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests that spread across the island nation in March.
More than 1,000 people were detained by the government during the protests and at least four activists died in custody.
Vow to continue
The state news agency said the detainees were released because the time they spent in custody may amount to the sentence they would receive after trial.

The two resigned from parliament along with the rest of the Wefaq bloc in February following the government crackdown on anti-government protests.Fairooz and Matar were arrested in May on anti-state security charges and still face trial. Last month, the two pleaded not guilty to spreading false news and joining illegal gatherings.

"I am part of the peaceful opposition that will continue its legitimate demands for meaningful reforms,'' Matar told the AP after his release.
Also set free on Sunday was Mohammed al-Tajir, a human rights lawyer, who has was taken into custody in April.
The government crushed protests by implementing a series of emergency laws and with the help of foreign troops from neighbouring Gulf countries.

Activists and rights group say at least 32 people were killed during the uprising earlier this year.
Emergency laws were lifted in June, but activists and witnesses have told the AP that riot police still use sound bombs and tear gas on a regular basis to confront protesters.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Syrian security forces killed civilians

Syrian security forces backed by tanks killed four civilians and wounded several others on Sunday in a protest crackdown on the town of Hula in the central province of Homs, a human rights activist said.

Yemen President Saleh 'leaves Saudi hospital'

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left hospital in Saudi Arabia, more than two months after he was wounded in a bombing at his Sanaa residence, but will remain in Riyadh, a Saudi official told the AFP news agency.
The Saudi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "The Yemeni president left the military hospital this evening at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) after receiving the necessary treatment and was taken to a temporary residence for a recovery period".
A Yemeni government source said the wounded leader had vowed to return to Yemen but would remain in government housing in the Saudi capital "until his doctors allow him to return".
Abdo al-Janadi, the junior information minister, refused to confirm Saleh's release from hospital, merely telling AFP that "the president is following his treatment" in Riyadh.
Saleh was admitted to the Saudi military hospital the day after the June 3 attack on his official residence in which eleven people were killed and 124 others were wounded, among them senior officials.
He appeared on television on July 7 for the first time since the bombing, covered in bandages.
Three days later, he was shown on television receiving John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser. Saleh was in better shape than in his earlier appearance, although burns on his face were still visible.
The White House said Brennan had called on Saleh during the meeting to sign a transition plan sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that would see him cede power within 30 days in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Since Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, Yemeni Vice President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi has assumed power but has not been designated the de facto head of state.
The opposition, meanwhile, has called for the creation of an interim council, to prevent Saleh's return.
Since January, protesters across Yemen have been calling for Saleh to step down.
Uprising continues
The announcement about Saleh came as forces loyal to him fought in the capital with those of the Ahmar family, a major power within Yemen's Hashed tribal confederation, witnesses said.
The two sides were said to have traded fire in the Hassaba district of Sanaa, where prominent members of the Ahmar family reside.

The exchange marked a second day of confrontation in the area, though there were no reports of casualties.
Weeks of fighting between Saleh's forces and those of the Ahmar family have left parts of Sanaa in ruins.
The recent violence ends an uneasy ceasefire after the bombing of Saleh's compound in June.
Separately, one protester was killed and three injured in the southern city of Taiz, when forces loyal to the president opened fire to scatter an anti-Saleh demonstration, witnesses said.

Libyan rebels push towards Az Zawiyah

Libyan opposition fighters have captured a strategic town in western Libya, as they intensify a push towards the coastal city of Az Zawiyah.
Hundreds of rebels fought Muammar Gaddafi's forces in the battle for Bir Ghanem, 85km from the capital, Tripoli, on Saturday.
"Bir Ghanem is fully under revolutionary control. They are now combing the area for Gaddafi loyalists and landmines," Abdulrahman, a rebel spokesman said by telephone from Zlitan.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr said at least 14 opposition fighters were killed and 17 were wounded in the battle which lasted only a few hours.
"It was really fierce fighting," she said. "Since early morning we heard heavy exchange of rocket fire from both sides."
The offensive was part of the rebels' attempt to get closer to Tripoli. The rebels said earlier this week they hoped to reach the capital before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
"The most important thing for them now is to reach Az Zawiyah," our correspondent said.
"They know that they can get support from inside that city, that rebels there are ready to rise up against the Gaddafi regime but they need help from outside."
Az Zawiyah was the scene of a major uprising by protesters early on in the conflict, which began in February. The protesters took over the city and drove out Gaddafi's supporters, but were then brutally crushed in a long, bloody siege.
In their push towards Az Zawiyah, fighters have started an offensive against government troops near Surman in the Western Mountain area.
Libyan state television reported that NATO air strikes hit civilian and military targets in Tripoli early on Sunday morning.
Planes could be heard overhead following a series of blasts from 2am local time.
Town under siege
Elsewhere in the west, residents of al-Qusbat, a small town 100km from Tripoli, were said to be under siege.
A representative from al-Qusbat's rebel military committee told the AFP news agency that the town was surrounded by Gaddafi's forces and fears were growing of an imminent bloodbath.

"All roads going to al-Qusbat are blocked by Gaddafi's forces. They cut electricity and communications since yesterday," Khamis Nuri el-Kasseh said from Benghazi after contacting the town by satellite phone.
"Gaddafi's forces are not yet in control of the town, but we expect it will be bloody today," he said, adding there had already been a series of arrests in suburbs.
Al-Qusbat is cut off from other rebel positions in the west of Libya, with 70km separating it from the nearest positions at Zlitan to the east.
The rebels also launched a push to capture the coastal oil town of Brega, but were advancing slowly because Gaddafi's forces had sown minefields across its approaches.
"There's a big movement on all fronts around Brega, we are attacking from three sides," Mohammad Zawawi, a rebel spokesman said. 
Fighting on the eastern front of the civil war, which has ebbed backwards and forwards for the past months, has bogged down for weeks on the fringes of Brega, south of the rebel capital Benghazi on the eastern side of the Gulf of Sirte.
Zawawi said rebel forces were in sight of a residential area of Brega and believed they could take the town, some 750 kilometres east of Tripoli.
"It could be very soon, but we don't want to lose anybody so we're moving slowly but surely," he said.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Arab League discusses Palestinian statehood

Representatives of the Arab League are meeting in Qatar to discuss the Palestinian Authority's application to the United Nations for official recognition as a Palestinian state.

The two-day meeting began on Wednesday in Doha, the Qatari capital, and comes ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting in September.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said the application was a positive development for the peace process.

"Our request for UN permanent membership for the Palestinian State with 1967 borders and capital as Jerusalem doesn't aim any kind of confrontation or conflict but it is only to maintain the option of two states and to preserve the peace process," Erekat said.

He spoke after meeting Arab League representatives including the foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, the UAE, Syria and Qatar.
Independent state

At the next UN General Assembly meeting in September, Palestinian leaders plan to put forward a proposal for the UN to recognise an independent Palestinian state

The United States has said that it will veto any such proposal, and has pushed for another round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians instead.

The Palestinian leadership, however, has urged the US to reconsider that position.

"Veto on what, veto on the two-state solution? We're not out there to isolate anyone or to legitimise anyone," said Erekat.

"We're there to delegitimise the Israeli settlement activities and the Israeli occupation, and to legitimise the birth and the restoration of the state of Palestine on the geographic map."
Collapsed negotiations
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority resumed in Washington last September, but collapsed weeks later over Israel's refusal to stop illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi, reporting on the meeting in Doha, said: "No matter what happens behind those doors here in Doha, no matter what happens at the United Nations, Arab leaders know that that won't change the reality on the ground.

"The point of these meetings, the point of going to the UN for statehood recognition, is to build up international pressure on Israel; to build up international support for the Palestinian cause.

"Palestinian leaders hope the next time they sit down at the negotiation table, they can sit down with more power."