Middle East Eye

Subscribe to Middle East Eye feed
Updated: 5 days 12 hours ago

Chile's president refuses credentials of Israeli envoy after Palestinian killed

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 12:18
Chile's president refuses credentials of Israeli envoy after Palestinian killed
Gabriel Boric did not attend meeting with ambassador after Israeli forces shot dead a teenager in the West Bank overnight
MEE staff Fri, 09/16/2022 - 13:18
Last year, Boric, 36, became the youngest president in Chile's history (AFP)

Chile's President Gabriel Boric refused on Thursday to accept the credentials of Gil Artzyeli, the new Israeli ambassador to the country, after being angered by the Israeli military's killing of a 17-year-old Palestinian overnight.

Government sources told the Chilean news site Ex-Ante that Boric, 36, decided not to see the ambassador "because today is a very sensitive day due to the death of a minor in the Gaza Strip".

The teenager, Uday Salah, was in fact killed in the occupied West Bank after being shot in the head by Israeli forces.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Artzyeli as saying that Chile's foreign minister had later apologised to him and that the ceremony had been postponed until October.

In a tweet, Comunidad Judia de Chile, which represents Chile's 18,000-strong Jewish community, condemned Boric's refusal to accept the envoy's credentials as a "serious diplomatic incident".

The American Jewish Committee also criticised the move as "unprecedented" and said Boric must apologise or risk irreparable harm to Israel-Chile ties.

However, the Chile Palestine Community group thanked Boric for his decision in a statement, saying it "values enormously the decision of the president of the republic... to postpone the reception for the credentials of the new Israeli ambassador in Chile, because on the same day the Israeli occupation army assassinated a minor, Oday Salah, in Kafr Dan, Jenin".

It added that the president's gesture should be an example for the world to follow in response to Israeli war crimes and the killing of children.

'Return the illegally occupied territory'

Boric, a left-wing leader who has been sharply critical of Israel and also supports boycotts against goods from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, was elected president last year in a landslide victory.

Chile: Pro-Palestinian lawmaker elected president
Read More »

In 2019, after receiving a gift for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hoshanah from Comunidad Judia de Chile, Boric responded by tweeting: "I appreciate the gesture but they could start by asking Israel to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territory."

Chile hosts one of the largest Palestinian populations outside of the Arab world, with a community of between 300,000 and 500,000 people of Palestinian descent living in the country.

In his victory speech last year, Boric, who at 35 became the youngest president in Chile's history, promised to "firmly fight against the privileges of a few".

"I guarantee that I will be a president who cares for democracy and does not risk it, listens more than speaks, seeks unity, and attends to the needs of the people daily," he said.

Lebanon: Multiple banks held up by people desperate to withdraw their own money

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 10:07
Lebanon: Multiple banks held up by people desperate to withdraw their own money
The incidents on Friday mark the eighth time this week depositors have tried to retrieve their own money frozen in banks
MEE staff Fri, 09/16/2022 - 11:07
People stand outside a Blom Bank branch in the Tariq al-Jdideh neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon 16 September 2022 (Reuters)

At least eight banks were held up by depositors seeking access to their own money frozen in the banking system in Lebanon on Friday, in an escalating spate of such incidents this week.

Local media reported that over a span of a few hours on Friday morning, at least eight bank branches across Beirut and other towns were stormed by people looking to withdraw their own money.

'The war to recover deposits has begun'
- Depositors Union

According to the Lebanese TV channel, LBCI, two men stormed a branch of Byblos Bank on Friday in Ghaziyeh town in southern Lebanon.

In the capital, people stormed two branches of BLOM Bank in the Tariq el-Jdide and Concord areas. Branches of the Lebanon and Gulf banks were targeted in Ramlet al-Baida, while three branches of the Libano-Francaise bank in al-Hamra, al-Kafaat and al-Dahieh areas were stormed.

A branch of Bankmed in Chhim, south of Beirut, and a branch of Fransabank - which was founded in 1921 and is one of the oldest banks in Lebanon - were also stormed. 

Lebanon has witnessed 10 such incidents since Wednesday, highlighting people’s frustration over a spiralling financial crisis with no end in sight.

Bank closures

On Friday morning, a Lebanese man had stormed and held up a branch of the Byblos bank in the southern town of Ghaziyeh.

A man in his 50s threatened bank employees with a gun, emptied a jerrycan of fuel on the floor, and asked for his frozen money to be released.

Lebanese media said he carried a fake gun and walked away with around $19,200 before army forces arrested him.

On Friday, the Lebanese banks' association announced that banks around the country would be closed for three days due to "repeated attacks" and the physical harm they could cause employees and clients.

The association said banks would shut their doors from 19 September to 21 September.

"The association insists on rejecting violence in all its forms because violence is not and will not be the solution," it said in a statement.

The Depositors Union called on the Lebanese security forces to protect depositors who had gathered in front of the banks.

"The war to recover deposits has begun," the Union, which was formed after the economic crash in 2019, said in a statement.

"We will not be silent until our rights are fully restored," it added.

Financial meltdown

Since the onset of the crisis in 2019, commercial banks in Lebanon have frozen depositors out of their savings and restricted access to their accounts as part of informal capital controls.

Last month, an armed man held up a branch of the Federal Bank in west Beirut's Hamra Street, before surrendering to security forces after nearly seven hours of negotiations.

Lebanon bank drops charges against hostage taker
Read More »

Bassam Sheikh Hussein, 42, took six people hostage and threatened to set the bank on fire if he was not given access to more than $200,000 stuck in his account.

During the incident, protesters gathered outside the bank in solidarity with Hussein, chanting "down with the rule of the banks".

Federal Bank later dropped charges against him and public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat announced Hussein’s release from prison without charges or future prosecution related to the case.

Lebanon is in the third year of a financial meltdown that has left an estimated 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line and which the World Bank has said is deliberate and may be one of the three worst economic crises of modern times.

Yemen: STC forces take advantage of Houthi truce to turn fire on al-Qaeda

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 09:23
Yemen: STC forces take advantage of Houthi truce to turn fire on al-Qaeda
Southern Transitional Council, backed by government forces and tribal leaders, suffer heavy casualties after launching operation in Abyan
MEE correspondent Fri, 09/16/2022 - 10:23
Brigadier General Abu Bakr Hussein Salem, third left, the governor of Abyan, inspects the bodies of al-Qaeda fighters killed during an attack on a security checkpoint on 6 September 2022 (AFP)

Since late last month, when it launched operation Siham al-Sharq (Eastern Arrow), Yemen's Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by government forces and tribal leaders, has been battling a militant group in their Abyan province stronghold.

So far the operation against Ansar al-Sharia, created in 2011 by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as its local arm, has succeeded in taking control of some areas in Abyan, including the Mudeyah district, but with a high rate of casualties.

'Ansar al-Sharia are well equipped and they have military camps where they were trained in fighting skills, so it was not easy for the southern forces to advance'

- STC fighter

The STC has said the offensive, one of several similar military operations in the last decade, will be expanded to include Shabwah, the other main province where al-Qaeda fighters have spread, and may ultimately arrive at Hadhramout.

In response, on Wednesday Ansar al-Sharia announced its own military operation against the STC and its allies.

Saudi Arabia leads a western-backed military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the government, which was kicked out of power in the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi rebels in 2014.

Ansar al-Sharia fighters have at times fought alongside coalition forces against the Houthis in Aden and other parts of the south. However in recent years the group has take advantage of the tensions between the different groups in the southern provinces to reunite themselves and strengthen their position.

In light of that growing strength, the STC and its allies appear to be taking advantage of the current truce between Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the Houthis to focus their efforts against Ansar al-Sharia.

The truce, which originally began in April, was extended in early August, with the offensive against Ansar al-Sharia beginning less than three weeks later on 23 August. 

'Fighting skills'

Mohammed*, originally from Abyan and a fighter with the UAE-backed Giants Brigade, crack troops known as al-Amaliqa in Arabic, told Middle East Eye that the STC forces, fighting shoulder to shoulder with tribal leaders and government forces, had achieved major successes in Abyan.

“The southern forces liberated major Ansar al-Sharia areas in Abyan, especially Omoran valley in Mudeyah district, and that cost the southern forces a lot [of casualties],” he said.

Arabic press review: Saudi Arabia detains senior commander in Yemeni army
Read More »

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, Mohammed said Ansar al-Sharia fighters had different kinds of weapons and had planted many landmines in the roads leading to their strongholds, and that was the main reason behind the casualties among the southern forces.

“Ansar al-Sharia are well equipped and they have military camps where they were trained in fighting skills, so it was not easy for the southern forces to advance,” he said.

On 6 September, al-Qaeda fighters killed around 20 Yemeni security force members in an assault in Abyan province, before all eight attackers were killed.

The fighters used rocket-propelled grenades, light and medium weapons and military vehicles in the ambush on a security checkpoint in Ahwar district.

“The main challenge now how is how the southern forces can secure the liberated areas, rather than advances,” said Mohammed.

During the last decade, the defence ministry and other government forces have liberated Abyan and Shabwah a number of times, but later failed to secure those areas, allowing al-Qaeda forces to return to their strongholds.

“Ansar al-Sharia fighters are Yemenis, and they usually flee and become normal people following military operations, but later they return to their strongholds," said Mohammed.

"Any operation should take into consideration how to secure the areas after liberation.”

Mohammed, who participated in a former operation against Ansar al-Sharia fighters in Abyan and Shabwah, said he was happy to see such another operation against the fighters.

Longing for peace

Munther*, a resident of Abyan province, told MEE that al-Qaeda in Abyan was just one of several militias that were depriving Yemenis of the peace they were longing for.

“When there are Ansar al-Sharia fighters in one area, that means that area will witness explosions, assassinations and other kinds of crimes which leaves the area in chaos,” he said.

'Ansar al-Shariah is a headache in Abyan, and we hope that the STC and other forces can liberate the province and the whole of Yemen from them'

- Abyan resident

“Residents of Abyan have been calling for peace, and when there is a military operation against Ansar al-Sharia, they don’t hesitate to join because by the end these campaigns help them to stay in peace.”

Munther said the Ansar al-Sharia fighters can be seen moving around markets and that people feel terrified while the security forces are unable to do anything about their presence.

“Ansar al-Shariah is a headache in Abyan, and we hope that the STC and other forces can liberate the province and the whole of Yemen from them,” he said.

“If the different groups in Yemen get unified against extremists, they can’t continue but when they leave them freely, they get stronger.”

'Hidden danger'

Veteran journalist Mohamed Ali told MEE that this was the best time for the STC and government forces to liberate southern areas from Ansar al-Sharia as there is currently a truce with the Houthis.

“There is no fighting with the Houthis nowadays, and the STC knows there are extremists in Abyan and Shabwah and those extremists consider the STC and the government as targets,” he said.

Did Israel attack a Houthi camp in Yemen during the Gaza fighting?
Read More »

“Extremists are a hidden danger that threatens the STC and the government and it is normal that the STC launches this operation at this time.” 

Ali said it will not be easy to liberate the south from Ansar al-Sharia but at least they could besiege them in specific areas where they can’t leave them freely.

“We see tribal leaders and government forces fighting shoulder to shoulder with the STC and that is because both parties want to send a message that they are against extremists and because they are targets of extremists,” he said.

The operation is still ongoing and there has been no announcement of when it will end, but Ali believes that if fighting with the Houthis resumes, the forces may have to stop the operation in Abyan and go to fight the rebels.

*Not their real names

Aden, Yemen
Southern forces take advantage of Houthi truce to turn fire on AQAP in Abyan

Sabra and Shatila massacre survivors: 'It can’t be unseen'

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 09:00
Sabra and Shatila massacre survivors: 'It can’t be unseen'
On the 40th anniversary of the mass killings in Beirut's Palestinian refugee camps, witnesses recall the horrors that continue to weigh on their lives
Rita Kabalan Fri, 09/16/2022 - 10:00
Wafaa Ali Afif, 68, outside her home in Shatila refugee camp. Wafaa got married in Shatila and raised a family of eight children (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

On 16 September 1982, fighters belonging to the Kataeb party’s Lebanese Forces militia entered the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

They were accompanied by their allied Israeli soldiers, who had recently taken west Beirut after Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) fighters had withdrawn.

For three days, under the watch of Israeli soldiers, the Christian militiamen slaughtered men, women and children. The vast majority were Palestinian civilians, but a significant number were people of other nationalities. Up to 3,500 were killed.

Forty years on, Middle East Eye speaks to the massacre's survivors.

Nouhad Srour al-Mirei, 52

'He shot at us - bullets piercing our bodies'

Nouhad Srour al-Mirei in Shatila refugee camp (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Nouhad Srour al-Mirei in Shatila refugee camp (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

//--> //--> //-->

Nouhad was born in 1965 in south Lebanon. She is a Palestinian refugee and lived in Shatila with her husband. She has seven children.

We all gathered in the entrance. I was holding on to my father. We opened the door for them because they didn’t sound like Israelis. They asked my father if he was a fighter. He showed them his arm injury to show he couldn’t possibly fight and told them to search the house for weapons.

A young man with light hair came in carrying a gun. My father kept telling me not to be scared, that they would ask us a few questions and leave. I looked at their green uniforms and saw, in black writing, "Lebanese Forces". There were many of them outside. A man with darker hair came in. "What is in your hands?" he asked me. I was holding my baby sister, Shadia, who was one year and two months old, in one arm and carrying her nappies in the other, thinking they would make us leave.

He finally told us to go up against the wall, on mattresses. He then told his men: "Spray them”. He disappeared, then returned. "You haven't sprayed them?" The other guy wasn't able to - I was looking directly at him. "Spray them! Give it to me," and he shot at us - bullets piercing our bodies.

My baby sister who I was holding was hit in her head. I didn't want to drop her. I gently slid down to the ground, and played dead, but eventually let her go. She was still alive and went towards my mother, she cried "Mama, mama" twice. We heard a single bullet after that and then we didn't hear her voice anymore.  

Shadia died along with our dad, brothers Shady (three), Farid (five), Nidal (13), and our neighbour Leila, who was staying with us because her husband was away. She was nine months pregnant. 

//--> //--> //-->

Hassan Ali Sukkar, 80

'It can’t be unseen. People decapitated, without limbs'

Hassan Ali Sukkar was born in Yaffa in 1942. He wants the future for the youth to be better than what he went through (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Hassan Ali Sukkar was born in Yaffa in 1942. He wants the future for the youth to be better than what he went through (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

Hassan was born in Yaffa, Palestine in 1942. He was forced out of Palestine to Beirut in 1948 by the Arab-Israeli war, and is now married with seven children. He used to work in wood finishing/refining. 

I was very young in 1948, so I don’t have clear memories of the Nakba. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel as heavy as the massacre. That was the worst thing that I have witnessed in clear memory. It can’t be unseen. People decapitated, without limbs. 

I was in disbelief when I heard there was a massacre happening. My wife and I took the kids and stayed in a mosque in the nearby neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jdideh until things calmed down.

My home was deep enough inside the camp that they didn’t reach it to loot. The massacre started in the Arsal area. They surrounded the area and killed the Lebanese there, many of our Shia brothers and sisters - many in the Miqdad family. Then they entered towards Gaza Hospital to kill Palestinians, to kill whoever they wanted to kill and do whatever they wanted to do. 

I don't have a future anymore. I'm 80-years old. What matters now is the future of the next generation, the young people, the students getting degrees and then having to work in garbage collecting to feed their families. We see them with our own eyes. We want civil rights. To me, that’s more important than naturalising and being allowed to become Lebanese citizens.

//--> //--> //-->

Rajaa Issa Ismael, 55

'People were shot while they were in their pyjamas'

Rajaa Issa Ismael at her home in Shatila. She holds workshops for women's rights and raises awareness against violence (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Rajaa Issa Ismael at her home in Shatila. She holds workshops for women's rights and raises awareness against violence (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

Rajaa was born in Lebanon 1967. She works with the NGO al-Najdeh and holds workshops for women's rights and raises awareness against violence.

I was 16-years old turning over dead bodies with my mother to find out if one of them was my brother. Ismael was 13. He followed the sound of bullets and was hit in both of his legs and arm by the Israeli forces and was taken to Gaza Hospital, but we couldn’t find him there after the massacre.

My mother asked me what he was wearing and I couldn’t remember, maybe jeans and a shirt. We found people slaughtered, people shot while they were in their pyjamas.

I found my friend's dead body and she was obviously raped. I found the body of a man who ran the grocery store near us and his leg was gone. Amal, a woman we knew, who was pregnant, was stabbed in her belly and killed. All the photos of men you see fallen forward were actually lined up and executed with gun fire.

When the Red Cross came, they were not able to remove the dead bodies - they had decomposed under the hot September sun for three days. They used bulldozers to move them. We lost hope of finding Ismael. 

On Sunday, my father’s friend Souad came to our relative’s house and brought Ismael with her. She had seen the Lebanese Forces and Israelis removing people from Gaza Hospital in groups so she pulled him out suspecting they were taking the wounded out to kill them. She’s not sure why they allowed her to pull him out but suspected that had they shot at them, the rest of the people going (who had assumed they were going to a safe place) would know otherwise and run. 

//--> //--> //-->

I find the need to talk about this day. We are not going to forget it. We have yet to feel peace. Our entire family is separated. Every sibling in a different country. I’m the only one who is still here. I want things to be different for the new generation.

Riddah Ali Fayad, 67

'I never found the bodies of my mother or sisters'

Riddah Ali Fayyad’s at his home in an area referred to as Horsh, where the massacre started (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Riddah Ali Fayyad’s at his home in an area referred to as Horsh, where the massacre started (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

Riddah was born in Lebanon in 1955. His family lived in an area known as Horsh (Forest) adjacent to Shatila camp, a name that came from the trees it once had, although few remained at the time of the massacre. He worked for the Beirut municipality in the sanitation department cleaning and is married with eight children. 

After I fled the killings, my brother Abbas went back to the camps to carry his injured friend Ali to Gaza Hospital. I don't know why Abbas went back, because he had seen them killing people. Abbas went home and started cooking eggs and potatoes because he was hungry - as if it was any other day. That meal was left on the fire and he never ate it.

When the militias shouted for them to surrender, my brothers, Abbas and Hamza, and my dad went outside. They lined everyone up along the street and just filled their bodies with bullets. They killed Abbas. They shot Hamza in the legs. All the bodies lined next to him fell on top of him. He remained quiet and didn't make a sound. My father was shot seven times but he survived.

I heard they had lined up Nuha and Najah, my sisters, and mother Tamimi further down, but there were so many bodies. As I searched, I saw a Pakistani man in a room praying with the Quran over the body of his dead brother. I told him he needs to go, but he couldn't understand me.

I saw a Palestinian woman whose clothes were ripped. She told me she got away because she destroyed her Palestinian ID by eating it and told them she was from a random village in the south, a place she had never been to.

//--> //--> //-->

I was with my Syrian friend, Khaled. We would hide in the pine trees near our house when the Kataeb came close. We would sit there all day without food or water and take our chances to come down at night. We did that for maybe four days. I remember my lips sticking together from dehydration. I never found the bodies of my mother or sisters. We buried Abbas in our village in the south.

Wafaa Ali Afifi, 68

'No one is with the Palestinian people except God'

Wafaa Ali Afif outside her home in Shatila refugee camp (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Wafaa Ali Afif outside her home in Shatila refugee camp (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

Wafaa was born in 1954 in Beirut’s Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp, and moved to Shatila where she got married. She raised a family of eight children.

I had four children at the time. My husband wasn’t home, we heard they were going to kill the men, so I told him to leave. When I found out they were killing women and children, I grabbed the four kids and left the house.

Each one of them was grabbing at a section of my dress and running with me. People were leaving in masses. My daughter, Mnawar, who was only five-years old, got lost in the shuffle. For three days I searched for her. I was hoping she was killed instead of what I was imagining happening to her.  

Every place I took the kids wasn’t safe. I ended up crossing to Mazraa, north of the camps, where I found my husband, and we stayed in an abandoned building for three days wondering what happened to our daughter and how to find her. Eventually we heard that someone from the camp had brought in a lost little girl. It was Mnawar. We were reunited shortly after and went back home. 

There were dead bodies everywhere. Emotionally, I can't think about it without the hairs on my arms standing up. I tell myself “may those days never come back”, but look at what’s happening in Palestine. Every country's leadership is against us. No one is with the Palestinian people except God. 

//--> //--> //-->

Mnawar lives in south Lebanon's Saida now and has eight children of her own. She tells them about the massacre and the time she was lost and found her family again.

Yasmine Ahmad Hazineh, 28

'It weighs on our generation emotionally'

Yasmine Ahmad Hazineh in front of her family’s home in Shatila. Yasmine wants to pass the stories of the massacres down to her children (MEE/Rita Kabalan)
Yasmine Ahmad Hazineh in front of her family’s home in Shatila. Yasmine wants to pass the stories of the massacres down to her children (MEE/Rita Kabalan)

Yasmine was born 1993 in Shatila. She is married with two children, and manages a kindergarten and the Baylsan Theatre in the camp.

My dad is Palestinian, born in Syria. He was a fidai who came to Lebanon at the age of 13 to fight and free Palestine. Palestinians are born from the womb as fighters for Palestine. Not because we choose to: we are born without a land so we're searching for ways to get back to our land and to live with integrity. 

I started social work at the age of 13 or 14 - tutoring kids and later teenagers. I found out about the massacres then. My father would tell me what happened from the people he knew. I felt heartbroken at the injustice. The people who were living in Shatila wished for the most basic rights. Suddenly on top of everything they were already dealing with, there's a massacre: people murdered between night and day. My feelings were not ones I can describe with words.

The new generation hears these stories, that their ancestors were killed, and then they’re walking in the same spot that their relatives were slaughtered. Imagine thinking: "My grandfather was killed here. My neighbour here. A pregnant woman was attacked here? My neighbour covered her body with the dead body of her sister in order to not be seen."

Imagine, to cover a corpse that belongs to someone you love? I'm shaking as I’m talking. It weighs on our generation emotionally.

Every day we have a massacre in Shatila. The drugs that are available here that kill our young people. The conflicts happening daily. Shootings for no reason. There is so much oppression and trauma, sometimes if two neighbours fight, they may shoot and kill people. The water we are drinking, the food we are eating. What can I tell you? Massacres are unending. 

'It can’t be unseen': The survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

Queen Elizabeth: Saudi crown prince ‘to travel to London to deliver condolences’

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 08:31
Queen Elizabeth: Saudi crown prince ‘to travel to London to deliver condolences’
Mohammed Bin Salman is reportedly due to lead his country's delegation, but attendance at Queen’s funeral remains 'unconfirmed'
MEE staff Fri, 09/16/2022 - 09:31
In this file photo taken on 7 March 2018, late Queen Elizabeth II greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Buckingham Palace in central London (AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will travel to the UK to deliver condolences for the death of Queen Elizabeth II, according to a report by the Guardian on Friday.

There is no confirmation, however, whether the Saudi royal will also attend the funeral service at Westminster Abbey on Monday, an unnamed source has told the British newspaper.

The visit will be the first by Mohammed bin Salman to the UK since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a former columnist for Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018. 

The UK has sanctioned 19 aides to the crown prince suspected of murdering Khashoggi, including former top bin Salman aide Saud al-Qahtani. 

Following Khashoggi's death, Middle East Eye revealed that Qahtani was part of the command structure of a Saudi death squad, which operated under the guidance and supervision of the crown prince.

A US intelligence report has concluded that the crown prince was responsible for Khashoggi's murder, something that bin Salman denies. The United Nations rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has also accused the crown prince of responsibility for the killing. 

The detailed plan for the Saudi royal's London visit remains unknown, with the Guardian reporting that “sensitive judgments are still being made on whether his attendance at the funeral would represent an unacceptable security threat or a distraction from the commemoration of the Queen due to the protests his presence may provoke.”

Since becoming de facto ruler of the kingdom in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman has overseen a crackdown on critics and human rights activists, with many arrested and jailed. Several mass executions have been carried out including one in March, when 81 people jailed for various crimes were put to death.

Saudi crown prince ‘to travel to London to deliver condolences’ for queen's death

Calls to ban 'divisive' Hindu activist Sadhvi Rithambara from UK speaking tour

Fri, 09/16/2022 - 08:31
Calls to ban 'divisive' Hindu activist Sadhvi Rithambara from UK speaking tour
Modi ally and Hindu nationalist has been accused of stoking communal tensions and violence towards India's minority groups
Areeb Ullah Fri, 09/16/2022 - 09:31
Sadhvi Rithambara meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2013 during a visit to the city of Gandhinagar in the Indian state of Gujarat, where Modi was previously state minister (Supplied)

Calls are mounting for the British government to ban a controversial Hindu activist accused in India of inciting anti-Muslim hatred from entering the United Kingdom for a speaking tour next week.

Sadhvi Nisha Rithambara is the leader of the Durga Vahini organisation, the woman's wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu nationalist movement, and a close ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Rithambara was scheduled to visit Hindu temples in Birmingham, Bolton, Coventry, Nottingham and London from 20-24 September as part of a tour organised by Param Shakti Peeth UK, a UK-registered charity founded by Rithambara.

'Sadhvi Rithambara is a hugely divisive figure, known for her xenophobic speeches and rhetoric, in particular against the Muslim community in India'

- Sam Tarry MP


Param Shakti Peeth UK released a statement on Friday afternoon, saying that it will postpone Rithambara's UK tour due to her poor health. 

MEE understands that one scheduled event at a temple in east London at which Rithambara was due to speak has already been cancelled.

The VHP was designated by the CIA as a "religious militant organisation" in 2018 and forms part of an umbrella group of Hindu nationalist groups close to Modi's ruling BJP party. 

Known to her followers as Didi Maa, Rithambara has courted controversy with calls for a "Hindu Rashtra" or "Hindu nation" by inciting violence towards minority groups in India - particularly Christian and Muslim communities. 

Indian police arrested Rithambara over accusations that she had incited communal violence that led to the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid in 1992 and the death of 2,000 Muslims in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state.

In 2009, the Liberhan Commission, a 17-year investigation commissioned by the Indian government into the Babri mosque demolition and subsequent violence, concluded that Rithambhara was among several people guilty of leading the country "to the brink of communal discord".

But a special court in 2020 acquitted all those accused over the destruction of the mosque, citing a lack of evidence.

MPs call for ban on Rithambara

Those calling for Rithambara to be prevented from entering the UK include Sam Tarry, a Labour MP for Ilford Sorth in east London, who has called on Suella Braverman, the home secretary, to ban due to her previous rhetoric towards Muslims.

In a letter seen by Middle East Eye sent to Braverman and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Tarry wrote: "Sadhvi Rithambara is a hugely divisive figure, known for her xenophobic speeches and rhetoric, in particular against the Muslim community in India. 

Indian organisers apologise for 'divisive' bulldozer at New Jersey parade
Read More »

"It is my constituents' and my belief that her Islamophobic rhetoric has no place within our multicultural and diverse community of Ilford, and I am deeply worried about the potential stoking of communal tensions, should her visit be allowed to progress." 

MEE understands that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Ilford Hindu Centre has since cancelled the event, though Rithambara could yet be rescheduled to speak at a different venue.

Labour's Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, called on Braverman to block Rithambara's visit and said academics had described her speeches as "the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence in India". 

Muslim advocacy group Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) urged Muslims to write to their MPs and elected officials to demand that Rithambara be barred from entering the UK.

Mend spokesperson Aman Ali told Middle East Eye: "We are deeply concerned that Sadvhi Rithambara will jeopardise the present harmony in the UK between Hindu and Muslim populations and believe that her hateful and Islamophobic rhetoric has no place within our multicultural and diverse communities."

Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has witnessed an uptick in violence towards its Muslim population and other minority groups. 

Growing tensions

Last month, violence broke out between Hindu and Muslim groups in Leicester after a cricket match that saw India beat Pakistan in the Asia Cup. 

Images posted online showed groups of Hindu men shouting "death to Pakistan" and beating a 19-year-old Muslim man after the game. 

The violence led to concerns among community leaders, who called for urgent meetings with Leicester's police to address the spike in violence between Hindu and Muslim groups.  

A spokesperson for the Ilford Islamic Centre, close to where Rithambara had been scheduled to speak, told MEE that the speaker's presence in Britain set a dangerous precedent and could stoke violence between different groups in his community.

'We have seen worrying reports of rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, where Muslims have faced attacks by violent Hindu mobs'

-  Ilford Islamic Centre spokesperson

"The Muslim community has and always will stand up to violence against any minority. The Modi government has a track record of persecuting Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and we will not tolerate that rhetoric taking place in diverse communities across Britain."

"We have seen worrying reports of rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, where Muslims have faced attacks by violent Hindu mobs," said the spokesperson.

"Extremist figures like Rithambara have emboldened these groups, and the last thing we need is similar incidents taking place in Redbridge and other parts of the country."

The UK Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases. 

Over the last two months, Rithambara has toured parts of the United States, where she is fundraising for her organisation by giving speeches in various Hindu temples across the US. 

Earlier this week, a church in New Jersey cancelled a scheduled event hosting Rithambara after learning about the speaker's violent rhetoric. 

The event, however, did take place in a nearby hotel. 

Victims' families call for war crimes probe into jet shot down by Iran

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 19:53
Victims' families call for war crimes probe into jet shot down by Iran
Families turn to International Criminal Court after expressing frustration over lack of accountability in 2020 attack
MEE staff Thu, 09/15/2022 - 20:53
Mourners attend an outdoor vigil for the victims of Ukrainian passenger jet flight PS752 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 8 January 2022.
Mourners attend a vigil for the victims of Ukrainian passenger jet flight PS752 in Toronto, Canada, on 8 January 2022 (AFP)

The families whose relatives were killed in the destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, shot down by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, have put forward a submission urging the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into whether the incident was a possible war crime.

The lawyers representing the families placed the request on Wednesday, and the filing comes after the families expressed frustration at the lack of progress in their pursuit of accountability.

"We have waited nearly 1,000 days for progress to be made in our pursuit of justice for our loved ones whose lives were horrifically ended," said Hamed Esmaeilion, 752AFV association president and spokesperson.

Iran's downing of Ukraine jet 'act of terrorism' rules Canadian court
Read More »

"In the absence of concrete action from affected countries and a complete lack of accountability from the Iranian regime, it falls on our shoulders to take this to an international forum where they can be held accountable."

In a statement from the coalition of the victims' families, the request lists a number of crimes including "the war crimes of wilful killing, intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or civilian objects, outrages upon personal dignity and pillage, as well as the crimes against humanity of murder and 'other inhumane acts'".

The flight was shot down by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on 8 January 2020, shortly after it had taken off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.

All 176 aboard were killed, including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The Iranian government later said the incident was a "disastrous mistake" by its forces at a time when they were on high alert in a regional confrontation with the United States.

Last year, a Canadian court ruled that the shooting down of the plane was a deliberate "act of terrorism", a move that paved the way open for compensation.

However, Ottawa did not launch a criminal investigation, instead opting for a forensic probe that concluded the government did not have evidence to prove the incident was "premeditated".

Then, in November 2021, the families released a fact-finding report alleging that Iran deliberately kept its airspace open to use civilian air passengers as human shields against a possible American attack - a claim denied by Tehran.

Iran is not a party to the ICC's Rome Statute, however, the lawyers representing the families say that Ukraine - the plane is registered to Kyiv - has accepted the court's jurisdiction.

"The International Criminal Court was created to end impunity for crimes which have evaded justice," Haydee Dijkstal, a barrister at 33 Bedford Row Chambers in London and a lawyer on the submission's legal team, said in a statement.

"The goal of raising this case before the ICC is to find the truth and seek justice for the victims of flight PS752 and their families."

Turkish and Syrian spymasters held multiple meetings in Damascus: Report

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 19:14
Turkish and Syrian spymasters held multiple meetings in Damascus: Report
Russia reportedly nudging its Syrian ally and Turkey closer together as it looks to shore up its position amid fighting in Ukraine
MEE staff Thu, 09/15/2022 - 20:14
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (2nd L), Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar (2nd R) and Turkish Intelligence chief Hakan Fidan at the Kremlin in Moscow on 24 August 2018 (AFP)

Turkey's intelligence chief has held multiple meetings with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus over the past few weeks, according to a report from Reuters on Thursday.

A regional source aligned with Damascus told the news agency that Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk met as recently as this week in the Syrian capital.

The move reportedly comes at the behest of Russia, which hopes to secure its position in Syria as it girds itself for continued conflict in Ukraine and the need to potentially redeploy troops from the Middle East. 

Turkey has recently stepped up its attacks on Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria and has threatened a new invasion of the country. In August, Turkish air strikes on a border post run by Syrian government forces killed 17 fighters. 

Russia's 2015 military intervention in Syria is widely credited with turning the tide of the civil war in favour of Moscow's ally, Bashar al-Assad. Syria helped Russia bill itself as an alternative power to the US in the region, and provided it with key warm water ports in the Mediterranean.

When the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, Turkey backed the Syrian opposition. Today, it continues to support rebel groups in their last bastion of territory in northwest Syria. 

'Always dialogue'

More recently, Turkey's President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has indicated a new willingness to accept Assad as leader of Syria, saying in August that Turkey was not seeking his removal. He also suggested there was dialogue ongoing between Ankara and Damascus.

"You have to accept that you cannot cut the political dialogue and diplomacy between the states,” he said. “There should always be such dialogues.”

Erdogan says Turkey does not seek removal of Assad in Syria
Read More »

Over the years, Turkey has launched several invasions into northern Syria. Along with its local military proxies it is believed to control about 10 percent of Syrian territory, stretching along Turkey's southern border with the country.

The recent discussions between Turkey’s Fidan and Syrian spymaster Mamlouk have reportedly centred on laying the groundwork for a potential meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers, according to a senior Turkish official and a Turkish security source.

"Russia wants Syria and Turkey to overcome their problems and achieve certain agreements... which are in the interest of everyone, both Turkey and Syria," the Turkish official told Reuters.

One obstacle has been Turkey's request to include Syrian rebels in any talks with Damascus, the official added.

Iran concerns

One of Turkey’s main concerns is seeing Iranian backed-forces fill any void left by Russian troops who have been pulled out of the Middle Eastern country to address manpower shortages in Ukraine.

Russia is believed to have already pulled some troops from Syria, prompting the Kremlin to ask Turkey to normalise ties with Assad and "accelerate a political solution" in the country.

Russia 'tolerates' Israeli strikes in Syria, but has little appetite to restrain Iran
Read More »

A Damascus-allied source told Reuters that Russia had also asked Syria to enter talks with Ankara as Moscow seeks to shore up the position of its ally in the event it must redeploy forces to Ukraine.

A senior Turkish official said neither Russia nor Turkey wanted to see Iranian or Iran-backed forces, which already control large swathes of Syria, take the place of departing Russian troops.

Fidan travelled to Syria as recently as August to discuss the issues with his Syrian counterpart.

An unnamed regional source aligned with Damascus and quoted by Reuters said Turkish-Syrian relations had begun to thaw and were moving towards a stage of "creating a climate for understanding".

Libya: Khalifa Haftar faces new lawsuit over Tripoli academy drone attack

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 18:39
Libya: Khalifa Haftar faces new lawsuit over Tripoli academy drone attack
Relatives of three cadets killed in 2020 drone strike on military academy file lawsuit in US court, accusing Haftar of being responsible for their deaths
Umar A Farooq Thu, 09/15/2022 - 19:39
Damage on the concrete and clothing from a drone strike is seen at a Military College in Al-Hadaba region in the Libyan capital Tripoli, on 4 January 2020.
Damage from a drone strike at the Military College in the Al-Hadaba region of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on 4 January 2020 (AFP)

The relatives of three military cadets killed in a 2020 drone strike in Tripoli, Libya, have filed a lawsuit in a US court against Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, blaming him for the attack that left 26 cadets dead and more than a dozen others wounded.

The legal filing seen by Middle East Eye states that Haftar "intentionally directed, knew, or reasonably should have known that his targets were not legitimate military targets and that his forces engaged in a pattern and practice of gross human rights abuses".

"On January 4, 2020, a group of around fifty young unarmed cadets were attacked while marching at a military college in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. As the cadets stopped to tum their procession to the left, a missile slammed into the center of the crowd and exploded. Twenty-six of the cadets perished," the lawsuit says.

Libyan families seek tens of millions of dollars in damages from Khalifa Haftar
Read More »

"The airstrike that killed them was launched under Hifter's authority."

Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) quickly denied responsibility for the strike, insisting the military academy was marked as out of bounds for artillery and air forces.

However, a BBC investigation revealed that a Chinese-made Wing Loong II drone, supplied to Haftar's forces by the United Arab Emirates, was responsible.

"This egregious crime happened in January of 2020 and caused the deaths of 26 students as well as permanent injury to about 18 of them. It shook the world," Esam Omeish, president of the Libyan American Alliance, a lead consultant on the lawsuit, said during a press conference held via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.

"The world has taken condemnation of it. But unfortunately, nobody was brought into justice. Nobody was held accountable for this crime."

Haftar's legal woes

The lawsuit comes just a month after a US district judge issued a default judgment against Haftar, saying he was liable for war crimes after a years-long legal battle with multiple families who say the Libyan commander was responsible for the death and torture of their relatives.

Haftar had tried, unsuccessfully, to have the lawsuit thrown out under the guise of immunity as a head of state.

The recent court ruling has serious potential ramifications both inside Libya and around the world for Haftar, who has for years been vying to become the leader of the North African country.

'No matter how big you are, no matter how powerful you are, you're going to have your day in court'

- Mongi Dhaouadi, Libyan American Alliance

The cases against Haftar could create diplomatic issues for him, especially with his role in Libya's relationship with Washington. It also creates a precedent for other victims of Libya's civil war, or of Haftar's 2019 assault on Tripoli, to come forward with similar lawsuits.

Just like the other legal battle by Libyan families against Haftar, the lawsuit filed on Thursday similarly uses the Torture Victim Prevention Act of 1991, a law that allows non-US citizens to seek compensation from individuals acting in an official capacity for any foreign nation.

"We will pursue every legal avenue that we can, and that the law allows us to get justice to these people. No matter how big you are, no matter how powerful you are, you're going to have your day in court," Mongi Dhaouadi, executive director of the Libyan American Alliance, said during Thursday's press conference.

A former CIA asset and US citizen, Haftar returned to Libya following the country's 2011 uprising and served in the internationally recognised government until 2014, when civil war broke out in the country.

In 2019, he mounted a 14-month campaign to take control of the capital, Tripoli. Fighting soon devolved into a proxy conflict with his Libyan National Army (LNA) receiving support from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Chadian and Sudanese fighters, as well as other mercenary groups.

Haftar was eventually pushed back after Turkey intervened by providing fighters, combat drones and military equipment to support the government in Tripoli.

Following a ceasefire in October 2020 and the establishment of a unity government, the country was headed towards elections in December 2021, but polls were delayed and Libya continues to remain divided politically.


Putin says Russia 'doing everything' to help Iran join Asian security bloc

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 17:21
Putin says Russia 'doing everything' to help Iran join Asian security bloc
Iranian leader trumpets cooperation with Moscow to overcome Western isolation
MEE staff Thu, 09/15/2022 - 18:21
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022 (AFP).

Russia is accelerating Iran's bid to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a central Asian security bloc dominated by Moscow and Beijing, and designed as a counterweight to Western influence in the region.

"We are doing everything to make Iran a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday in Uzbekistan during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi.

Iran applied for membership in 2008 and is one of four observer states in the SCO. Last year, the security body approved Iran's application for accession, overcoming concerns about letting a country under UN and US sanctions into the group.

The group has eight full members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow's quest for Middle East arms deals upended by fighting
Read More »

On Wednesday, Iran signed new documents to advance its full membership.

"By signing the document for full membership of the SCO, now Iran has entered a new stage of various economic, commercial, transit and energy cooperation," Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran's top diplomat, wrote on social media.

Grigory Logvinov, deputy secretary-general of the organisation, told Russian state TV that Iran would now be able to take part in the bloc's meetings, although it is still some way from achieving full membership.

Russia looks East

The move is the latest sign of Russia and Iran inching closer to each other. For years, Moscow has been able to trumpet its larger size, economic ties to the West and sophisticated defence industry as advantages over its historic and more isolated partner.

However, following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has become more isolated in the West. Its defence industry, long a source of pride for leaders in Moscow, has been hamstrung by Western sanctions and battlefield losses.

Russia has since turned to Iran for assistance in acquiring armed drones and sidestepping Western sanctions. On Thursday, Putin said a delegation of 80 large companies would visit Iran next week.

For its part, Iran has welcomed the growing proximity of Moscow, particularly as it finds itself more isolated in the West with the near-collapse of talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Speaking alongside Putin on Thursday, Iran's Raisi said cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries would be beneficial to both.

Ukrainian fighters unfazed by Iran drone supplies to Russia
Read More »

"The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the US, such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger," Raisi said.

"The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped; their perception is a wrong one."

Raisi added that his country was "seriously determined to develop bilateral strategic relations" with Russia in the fields of politics, economy, trade, and aerospace.

Many business and political leaders in Iran expected to benefit from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with a rise in oil and commodity prices.

Yet Russia has been forced to slash prices for its goods as it contends with Western sanctions, meaning that even as Tehran and Moscow align closer in the political realm, they have been forced to compete with each other in markets such as China and Central Asia.

Egypt prosecution orders release of dozens, including lawyer and Al Jazeera journalist

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 17:04
Egypt prosecution orders release of dozens, including lawyer and Al Jazeera journalist
The releases come as part of a new initiative to grant presidential pardons to political prisoners, but thousands remain in custody
MEE staff Thu, 09/15/2022 - 18:04
Lawyer Haitham Mohamedin was released from prison on Thursday after more than four years in custody (Screengrab/Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms)

Egypt’s public prosecution has decided to release 46 prisoners, including the prominent left-wing activist and lawyer Haitham Mohamedin and an Al Jazeera journalist, officials and lawyers said.

Mohamedin, a member of the Revolutionary Socialists movement, has already been released, according to photos posted on Facebook by lawyer Khaled Ali.

He had been in custody since May 2018 on charges of affiliation to “a terrorist group", a charge commonly levelled at critics of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi since he came to power in 2013.

The list of names included in the prosecution decision has been published by pro-government media.

On Wednesday, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network said the public prosecution also ordered the release of one of its journalists held in Egypt, Ahmed al-Najdi, but that three of his colleagues, Hisham Abdel Aziz, Bahauddin Ibrahim, and Rabie el-Sheikh, remain in pre-trial detention.

The news came on the second day of President Sisi's visit to Doha, but it was not immediately clear whether the release was linked to the visit.

'No' political prisoners

Sisi has repeatedly denied that his country holds any political prisoners, but his administration has recently launched an initiative to pardon prisoners detained in connection with political cases. 

More than half of all prisoners in Egypt are political, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

The number of prisoners in the country totalled 120,000 in March 2021, at least 26,000 of whom were held in pre-trial detention.

A Presidential Pardon Committee, tasked with facilitating prisoners’ release, was launched on 26 April during Ramadan, the month when presidential pardons have traditionally been handed out.

The new release decision comes as part of the work of the committee, according to its member Tarek el-Awadi. 

The work of the committee has been criticised by several Egyptian rights groups as insufficient.

Sisi rose to power after ousting Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, in a 2013 military coup.

Since then, his government has targeted members and supporters of Morsi's administration in a widespread crackdown. More recently he has also targeted the secular opposition.

Arabic press review: Egypt mediates to calm West Bank tensions

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 16:00
Arabic press review: Egypt mediates to calm West Bank tensions
Meanwhile, new Sudanese syndicate condemns attacks on journalists and a Jewish group sues Israeli leaders for war crimes
Mohammad Ayesh Thu, 09/15/2022 - 17:00
Palestinian protesters flash victory signs amid clashes with Israeli security forces in the city center of Hebron in the occupied West Bank (AFP)

Abbas asks Cairo to mediate in West Bank 

Egyptian intelligence officials have, in the past few days, led extensive efforts to calm the situation in the occupied West Bank, which has significantly escalated with near-daily Israeli raids since the start of the year, Palestinian sources told Al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently asked Cairo to mediate with the Israeli government to reach an agreement to stop incursions in Palestinian towns and cities, the sources said.

Trump offered West Bank to Jordan's King Abdullah in 2018, says new book
Read More »

“[The raids] have made the PA appear weak before its people and further weaken its influence on the Palestinian political scene in favour of other factions like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” the sources were quotes as saying.

They added that the Egyptian mediation aims to "rectify the status of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to prevent an explosion of the situation there in a way that also limits the role of its security services."

The recent Egyptian mediation coordinated a high-level meeting between prominent Israeli security officials and the chief of the PA’s intelligence service Majed Faraj and Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh to discuss an agreement that guarantees the Palestinian security services their role in the West Bank, especially in northern cities.

“Israeli forces stressed that they will loosen their security grip until after the end of the upcoming Jewish holiday period, despite Egyptian warnings against security escalation in the West Bank and its danger to the entire Palestinian situation,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, a Hamas source said the movement had relayed “strongly worded warning messages” to the Israeli government through the Egyptian mediator regarding the situation in Jerusalem and the area surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque in the coming period.

Hamas has warned against allowing Israeli ultra-nationalists to storm the mosque, which they have been doing on a near-daily basis, the source added.

Sudanese syndicate condemns journalist attacks

The newly-formed Sudanese Journalists Syndicate on Wednesday condemned the Sudanese forces' assault on journalists while performing their duties, insisting on their right to unconditionally cover and report on events, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.

The syndicate stressed its rejection of targeting press freedoms, denouncing what it described as the "intended campaign against media professionals and photographers."

Sudan: Opposition and protesters reject Burhan’s deal to end military rule
Read More »

It also pledged to "defend the right of public opinion to receive information," vowing to "stand firmly against the intimidation of journalists or any attempt to detract their legal and constitutional rights, starting with the right to obtain information"

The syndicate pointed out that it would "work hard to ensure the consolidation of these rights," calling on the police, security and military services to "respect the freedom of expression, the freedom of reporting and the freedom of the press in general, as rights guaranteed by local laws and international and humanitarian conventions."

Journalist Omar Ibrahim suffered a severe jaw wound have being hit by a tear gas canister on Tuesday while covering protests against the military rule.

The police also forcibly took journalist Amira Saleh to a police station as she covered the same protest.

This follows the banning of journalist Aya Sabbagh from working after she hosted members of the journalists' syndicate on her radio programme.

Most Sudanese newspapers have stopped publishing after the military coup that upended the country's transition to civilian rule last October.

Jewish group sues Lapid and Gantz for war crimes

The Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East group has filed a lawsuit in Germany against Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, accusing them of war crimes committed during Israel's military campaign on Gaza in August, The New Khalij reported.

As a medic during the Sabra and Shatila massacre, I saw horror and defiance
Read More »

The group said the lawsuit demands that Lapid and Gantz be held accountable for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

As an Israeli group, the Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East stressed that the Israeli government does not represent or speak on behalf of all Jews.

The group was founded by German and Israeli Jews in 2003, with the aim of sending a message that not all Jews fully support Israel and its policies, in particular its oppression and persecution of Palestinians.

It also states that many Jews around the world support the right of Palestinians to live freely and without oppression.

*Arabic press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

Iran nuclear: No new deal before US midterms, predicts Israel

Sun, 09/11/2022 - 19:02
Iran nuclear: No new deal before US midterms, predicts Israel
Some Israeli commentators say US President Joe Biden is reluctant to allow Republican rivals to use a new deal in their domestic campaigns against Democrats in November
MEE and agencies Sun, 09/11/2022 - 20:02
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) attends a press conference with Josep Borell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (L) on 25 June (AFP/File photo)

Israel does not anticipate a renewal of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers before the US mid-term elections in November, an Israeli official said on Sunday, after European parties to the negotiations voiced frustration with Tehran.

Israel supported then-US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018 but deemed the move too limited. Now, it has been advocating against a re-entry to the deal sought by the current US administration and its European partners, which stood firmly against the withdrawal.

How Albania-Iran rift could benefit Israel and US Republicans
Read More »

On Saturday, Britain, France and Germany said they had "serious doubts" about Iran's intentions after it tried to link a revival of the deal with a closure of UN watchdog probes into uranium traces at three of its nuclear sites.

Tehran called the European statement "unconstructive".

"At this point in time, it appears that a nuclear agreement with Iran will not be signed at least until after the (US) mid-term elections," the Israeli official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Some Israeli commentators saw the remark as anticipating reluctance by US President Joe Biden to enter a deal close enough to the vote for Republican rivals to use it in their domestic campaigns against his Democratic Party. 

Briefing the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid thanked the European powers "for their forthright stand".

"Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic drive to halt the nuclear deal and prevent the lifting of sanction on Iran," he said. "It's not over yet. The road is long. But there are encouraging signs."

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear arms, has since the US walkout itself breached the 2015 deal with ramped-up uranium enrichment, a process that can create bomb fuel down the line. 

Israel is not a party to the Vienna talks. But its worries about Iran and threats to take military action against its arch-foe if it deems diplomacy a dead end keep Western capitals attentive.

UAE tourism revenues top $5bn: Officials

Sun, 09/11/2022 - 13:47
UAE tourism revenues top $5bn: Officials
An economic boost is also expected from hosting fans attending the World Cup in neighbouring Qatar this winter
MEE and agencies Sun, 09/11/2022 - 14:47
A man walks past Dubai's Museum of the Future on 7 February 2022 (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates' tourism sector's revenues surpassed $5bn in the first half of this year, officials said on Sunday, with a strong performance expected this winter when neighbouring Qatar hosts football's World Cup.

Hotel occupancy was up more than 40 percent in comparison with the first half of 2021, when the country's tourism suffered a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said after a cabinet meeting in the capital, Abu Dhabi.

Qatar World Cup 2022: How football became a game-changer for the Middle East
Read More »

"The total number of hotel guests reached 12 million, achieving 42 percent growth, and we expect a strong tourism performance in this winter season," Sheikh Mohammed said, according to the official WAM news agency.

Dubai plans to host large numbers of football fans during the World Cup in November and December due to a shortage in accommodation in the small emirate of Qatar, which is expecting 1.2 million visitors to the event.

The UAE last month followed Saudi Arabia in announcing that it will offer multiple-entry visas to football fans at the World Cup.

Dubai is one of the Gulf cities operating daily shuttle flights to and from Qatar during the World Cup, allowing fans to stay outside the wealthy state and still attend games.

Sheikh Mohammed said this year's economic growth has exceeded 22 percent and foreign trade is more than one trillion dirhams ($272bn). That compares with $229bn pre-pandemic.

Palestinian dies days after being shot during Israeli raid in Jenin camp

Sun, 09/11/2022 - 09:02
Palestinian dies days after being shot during Israeli raid in Jenin camp
Hamad Abu Jelda was shot during a raid to demolish the house of Raad Hazem, who killed three Israelis in April
MEE staff Sun, 09/11/2022 - 10:02
A day of mourning was declared in Jenin camp over Hamad Abu Jelda's death (social media)

A Palestinian died from his wounds on Sunday, five days after being shot by the Israeli army during a home demolition in the city of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.

In a statement, the ministry confirmed "the death of the young man, Hamad Mustafa Hussein Abu Jelda, 24, after being shot by the Israeli occupation forces in Jenin camp a few days ago".

Dozens of the city's residents headed to the Jenin Governmental Hospital, where Abu Jelda died, while a day of mourning was declared in the camp and a strike announced across the Jenin governorate.

Israeli forces shot Abu Jelda last Tuesday during a raid on the Jenin camp to demolish the home of Raad Hazem, who killed three Israelis and wounded several others in a shooting attack in Tel Aviv's busy Dizengoff Street on 7 April.

Hazem was shot and killed after a nine-hour manhunt. His father Fathi and brother Hamam are now both wanted by Israel.

Israeli forces killed another Palestinian and wounded 15 others during the raid to destroy Hazem's house.

The supreme court on 30 May rejected a petition by Hazem's family to prevent the demolition, a policy that Israel carries out against the homes of suspected attackers. Rights activists have repeatedly condemned the practice as collective punishment.

Israel has carried out near daily raids on West Bank towns and cities, killing dozens of Palestinians, since a series of deadly attacks on Israeli targets, mostly by Palestinians, early this year.

Separately, Israeli border guards arrested a Palestinian woman for allegedly approaching them with a knife near the Givat Ze'ev settlement in the West Bank.

Hamas leader Haniyeh visits Russia with high-level delegation

Sun, 09/11/2022 - 08:45
Hamas leader Haniyeh visits Russia with high-level delegation
A senior Hamas delegation arrives in Moscow for talks with the Russian foreign minister to discuss mutual ties
MEE staff Sun, 09/11/2022 - 09:45
Hamas's top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, visits Moscow to hold high-level talks with Russian officials (Reuters - File Photo)

The head of Hamas's political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Moscow on Saturday to hold high-level political talks with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

According to a statement by the Palestinian movement, Haniyeh was accompanied by Hamas deputy chief Saleh Arouri and members of the political bureau Mousa Abu Marzouq and Maher Salah. 

A Hamas spokesman said that Moscow had invited the movement to visit Russia to discuss mutual ties and the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The trip follows a visit to Moscow in May by a Hamas delegation, headed by Abu Marzouq, amid heightened tensions and violence surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

Moscow has previously attempted to help reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, the leading party of the Palestinian Authority, hosting both sides in Moscow in March 2020, in what was seen as a Russian bid for regional influence.

Tense time

The visit, which is set to last for several days, comes amid tense relations between Moscow and Tel Aviv over Israel's support of Kyiv during the ongoing Russian campaign on Ukraine and its air strikes in Syria, where Russia maintains a military base.

It also comes a month after an Israeli military campaign against the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is the de facto ruler. 

On 1 August, Israel arrested Bassam el-Saadi, a senior Islamic Jihad (PIJ) member, in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Although the group did not respond, Israel carried out  three days of attacks on Gaza allegedly to try to prevent retaliation by the PIJ. 

The Israeli army announced Operation Breaking Dawn on 5 August, initially with the aim of targeting PIJ members.

The assault on Gaza ended on 7 August, after killing 45 Palestinian civilians, including 15 children and senior PIJ member Tayseer Jabari, and destroying dozens of homes and buildings.

In a statement at the time, the Russian foreign minister said that new "cycles of violence between Palestine and Israel can be effectively prevented through the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, which would leave in peace and security with Israel".

Israel: How delayed exit permits kill Palestinian patients in besieged Gaza
Read More »

In May, Moscow Russia condemned Israel for its "anti-Russian" remarks after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid defended his country's vote to suspend Moscow from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Russia's foreign ministry described Lapid's statement as "regrettable" and accused Israel of using the Ukraine conflict as a distraction from the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

"We have taken note of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's aggressive statement," the foreign ministry said, according to Russia's Tass news agency. 

"The Israeli foreign minister's statements evoke regret and rejection. There was a poorly camouflaged attempt to take advantage of the situation in Ukraine to distract the international community's attention from one of the oldest unsettled conflicts - the Palestine-Israeli one." 

Moscow also condemned Israel for its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which it noted was backed by the United States. 

World Cup final stadium tested with first sellout crowd

Sat, 09/10/2022 - 22:40
World Cup final stadium tested with first sellout crowd
The 80,000-capacity Lusail Iconic Stadium was full for the pre-match concert by Egyptian superstar Amr Diab and the game in which Al Hilal beat Egyptians Zamalek
MEE and agencies Sat, 09/10/2022 - 23:40
Egyptian singer Amr Diab performs ahead of the Lusail Super Cup football match between Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal and Egypt's Zamalek at the Lusail Stadium on 9 September (AFP)

The $675m stadium that Qatar will use for this year's World Cup final was put through its first sellout test Friday with a match between the Egyptian and Saudi champions.

Seventy-two days from the start of the tournament, organisers said the 80,000-capacity Lusail Iconic Stadium was full for the pre-match concert by Egyptian superstar Amr Diab and the game in which Al Hilal beat Egyptians Zamalek on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Lusail was the last stadium to be officially inaugurated and Hassan al-Thawadi, head of the Qatari organising committee, said it was "an emotional moment".

Qatar World Cup 2022: How football became a game-changer for the Middle East
Read More »

"It is the culmination of a 13-year journey," he told beIN Sports.

The stadium, shaped like a traditional Arabic bowl, is at the heart of a new city being built north of the tiny Gulf state's capital. It will host 10 World Cup matches, including the 18 December final.

No more games are planned before the tournament starts on 20 November however.

The game was a test run for security, the border immigration system and the multi-billion dollar driverless train metro that will take the strain, ferrying more than one million fans around Doha during the World Cup.

To take pressure off the main international airport, Qatar this week reopened an old airport that had been kept for use by the ruling family and other VIPs.

Hundreds of Saudi and Egyptian fans crossed the Abu Samra frontier in buses, after leaving their cars on the Saudi side.

All had to apply for a special fan ID, the Hayya card, that all supporters will need to enter Qatar during the World Cup.

The processing system in a tent at Abu Samra was being used for the first time. Qatari authorities are expecting thousands of Saudis to support their national team during the tournament.

"We entered with just our passport and the Hayya card," said Muhammad Mujahid, an Egyptian living in Saudi Arabia. "It was simple and well-organised."

"We hope that this is a promising start for a good World Cup for all the Arab world," said another Zamalek supporter Ahmed Mohi El-Din Othman.

Fifa's decision in 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar has been criticised because of the mega-rich nation's treatment of foreign workers and the LGBTQ community.

But Fifa president Gianni Infantino has said it will be the "best-ever" World Cup and that foreign fans will have an experience like a "child going to Disneyland for the first time and seeing the attractions and the toys".

Fifa says that 2.45 million of the three million tickets have been sold and that a final round of online sales will be held later this month.                

Syria Kurds seek UN help after three die of cholera

Sat, 09/10/2022 - 17:03
Syria Kurds seek UN help after three die of cholera
The disease has spread in parts of Deir Ezzor after local authorities stopped distributing chlorine to water pumping stations, says Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
MEE and agencies Sat, 09/10/2022 - 18:03
A girl looks on while holding a water container as members of the Syrian Kurdish Asayish security forces inspect tents at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp on 28 August (AFP/File photo)

Three people have died of cholera in northern and eastern Syria, the region's Kurdish administration said on Saturday, appealing for international help to contain the outbreak.

Health authorities warned of "a large number of cholera cases in Raqa province and the western countryside of Deir Ezzor province".

Cholera is generally contracted from contaminated food or water and causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It can spread in residential areas that lack proper sewage networks or mains drinking water.

Cholera outbreak forces anxious Yemenis to change daily routines
Read More »

The Kurdish administration called on international agencies, "especially the World Health Organization, to provide necessary support to limit the spread of cholera".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the disease had spread in western parts of Deir Ezzor after local authorities stopped distributing chlorine to water pumping stations.

The Britain-based group, which has a wide network of sources in Syria, said that hundreds of people in the area were complaining of vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches.

The Deir Ezzor water authority has begun distributing 1,000 litres of chlorine to water stations in rural areas of the province, the Kurdish administration said on Saturday.

"This step is a precautionary measure to prevent cholera," it added.

More than a decade of civil war has devastated Syria's water supply and sewerage infrastructure.

Nationwide, the war has damaged two-thirds of water treatment plants, half of pumping stations and one-third of water towers, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said.

Nearly half the population relies on alternative and often unsafe sources of water while at least 70 percent of sewage goes untreated, Unicef said.

An outbreak of cholera hit neighbouring Iraq this summer for the first time since 2015.

Worldwide, the disease affects between 1.3 million and four million people each year, killing between 21,000 and 143,000 people.

Albania accuses Iran of a second cyberattack

Sat, 09/10/2022 - 12:47
Albania accuses Iran of a second cyberattack
The accusation follows US sanctions on the Iranian intelligence ministry over a July cyberattack on Albanian digital systems
Elis Gjevori Sat, 09/10/2022 - 13:47
The Iranian flag flies at the country's embassy in Tirana after diplomatic staff were ordered to leave within 24 hours, 7 September 2022 (Reuters)

Albania on Saturday accused Iran of being behind a second cyberattack, days after it cut diplomatic ties with Tehran over an assault on its digital systems in July.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a tweet that "another cyberattack by the same aggressors" on the country's border system had been recorded, adding that Albania was working with allies to add further defensive measures.

The latest accusations will likely heighten tensions between Albania and Iran, which have traded accusations of damaging each other's national security.

On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security over what it called "malign cyber activities" in Albania on 15 July. Iran has condemned the move and accused Washington of orchestrating the diplomatic fallout with Tirana.

"America's immediate support for the false accusation of the Albanian government... shows that the designer of this scenario is not the latter, but the American government," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, said on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Rama cut diplomatic ties with Iran over the July cyberattack following an investigation with "irrefutable evidence" that Tehran was behind it.

The alleged attack was believed to have sought to paralyse public services and access data and government communications systems but ultimately failed.

Kanani said Albania's behaviour was "contrary to international law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Rights, and the responsibilities regarding its violation fall on the government of Tirana".

'Not a wise policy'

The claimed digital attacks on Albania coincided with the run-up of the World Summit of Free Iran, a two-day event organised by the Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), whose members the Balkan country agreed to host at the request of Washington and the United Nations in 2013.

'Albania should refrain from becoming a proxy for a domestic power struggle in Iran or putting itself within an international conflict involving other countries'

- Mentor Beqa, professor of international politics

The conference was postponed to a later day because of unspecified "terrorist" threats.

"​​Albania and the US have declared that they have proven beyond doubt that Iran stands behind such malign cyber activity," said Mentor Beqa, professor of international politics at the Aleksander Moisiu University of Durres, speaking from Albania. 

"Of course, Albania has no capacities in place to track and prove such activity, so we have to rely on the information provided by the US, UK and Nato," Beqa told Middle East Eye.

Labelled a terrorist group by Iran, the MEK was also listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department up until 2012

While relations between Albania and Iran have never been particularly significant, Beqa said that relations have ​​been "deteriorating since Albania volunteered to host the Iranian opposition group".

Albania has also been caught up in the wider struggle between Russia and Iran on the one hand and the US on the other.

"Albania should refrain from becoming a proxy for a domestic power struggle in Iran or putting itself within an international conflict involving other countries," said Beqa, warning that the country is "small and vulnerable and as such exposing it towards great power politics is not a wise policy".

Rehabilitating the MEK

The US had designated MEK as a terrorist organisation because it killed several US servicemen who worked on defence contracts in Iran during the shah's reign. 

Washington eventually cultivated a secret relationship with the MEK leadership, and in 2003 confined the group to a military base in Iraq, then under US occupation. 

How Iranian MEK went from US terror list to halls of Congress
Read More »

US politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties have grown to view the group as a useful tool against the current Iranian government. 

In 2013, following growing hostility towards MEK in Iraq amid growing Iranian influence, the US pressured Albania into hosting more than 4,000 members of the group, which the Rand Corporation has described as an "exiled Iranian cult dissident group". As a consequence, that has also brought the ire of Iran to Albania. 

After the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at the hands of the Trump administration in 2020, Iran's powerful Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: "In a very small European country but an evil country in Europe, there are American elements with some Iranian traitors, they got together to conspire against the Islamic Republic."

Those comments were widely interpreted to mean Albania, as host to the MEK. As a result, the Albanian government at the time expelled two Iranian diplomats

In 2018, Albania also expelled the Iranian ambassador, whom it accused of "damaging its national security". Iran accused the country of acting under pressure from the US and Israel. 

Taken together, Albania's hosting of the MEK has placed it in the crosshairs of Iran's leadership and made the country an unusual but new source of tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Drunken Rudy Giuliani went on Islamophobic rant, new book claims

Fri, 09/09/2022 - 19:28
Drunken Rudy Giuliani went on Islamophobic rant, new book claims
Former New York mayor and Trump confidante mistook Jewish man wearing a yarmulke for a Muslim and called founder of Islam 'a murderer'
MEE staff Fri, 09/09/2022 - 20:28
Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani, former lawyer for Donald Trump, shown during a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, 21 July 2022 (AFP)

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and confidant of former US President Donald Trump, lashed out with Islamophobic comments during a dinner party, according to a new book. The outburst likely contributed to his being overlooked for the position of secretary of state.

At a 2016 dinner, an inebriated Giuliani mistook a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke for a Muslim and called out: "I'm sorry to have tell you this, but the founder of your religion is a murderer," according to a new book by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York.

Giuliani went on to share a "wholly inaccurate, alt-right history of the creation and development of Islam, stating that it was an inherently violent religion from its origins to today", Berman writes.

The former New York mayor pulled his phone out to guests and "showed the group drawings of violent acts purportedly committed by Muslims".

"It was unbelievable," Berman said. "Rudy was unhinged. A pall fell over the room."

The incident was first reported by The Guardian, which obtained a copy of Berman's memoir, Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent US Attorney's Office and its Battle with the Trump Justice Department.

US: Trump's former national security adviser says he 'helped plan coups' in other places
Read More »

Allegations of Giuliani's drinking have been reported previously and featured in testimony before the House January 6 committee investigating Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Giuliani was a former US attorney for the Southern District of New York and served as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, winning praise among many as "America's Mayor" for his leadership following the 9/11 attacks.

He was a close adviser to Trump during his 2015-2016 presidential campaign and later served as a key confidant and personal attorney to the US president.

In May 2016, when Trump first proposed his idea for a ban on Muslims entering the US, claiming that "radical Islamic terrorism" was "a real problem" for the country, he suggested Giuliani should lead the initiative.

"In fact, I'm thinking about setting up a commission perhaps headed by Rudy Giuliani to take a very serious look at this problem," he said.

According to another book, Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America's Mayor, by Andrew Kirtzman, reports about Giuliani's drinking eventually contributed to then-President Trump deciding not to appoint the former mayor to the role of secretary of state.