Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Hamas guard killed in rare suicide attack in Gaza Strip

August 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Adel Zaanoun | Islamist group Hamas has run Gaza for a decade but has been criticised by more radical Salafist groups in the Palestinian enclave

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – A suicide bomber killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza on Thursday, officials said, in what was seen as a rare Islamist attack against the Palestinian group that has run the impoverished enclave for a decade.

The incident occurred at around 1:00 am near the Gaza Strip’s lone crossing with Egypt along the Sinai Peninsula, where radical Islamists are waging an insurgency against Egyptian forces.

It would be the first time a suicide attack has targeted Hamas forces in Gaza, security sources said.

“Early this morning security forces stopped two people approaching the southern border (with Egypt),” a Hamas interior ministry spokesman said in a statement.

“One of them blew himself up,” it added.

Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum later referred to it as a suicide attack.

Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said field commander Nidal al-Jaafari, 28, was killed in the attack.

Qassam posted a series of photos of Jaafari in military fatigues carrying different weapons.

The group blamed “fundamentalist jihadists” for the attack, but further details on their backgrounds and motivations were still being investigated.

Security sources said the attack took place a few hundred metres from the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

The two men approached a small security position there and five guards tried to stop them before one blew himself up, they said.

The second man was moderately wounded, while the four other guards were also wounded, including one seriously, security sources said.

Eyewitnesses said hundreds of security forces deployed along the border after the explosion.

Islamist group Hamas has run Gaza for a decade but has been regularly criticised by more radical Salafist groups in the strip.

There have been threats of retaliation in recent months over arrests, according to security sources in Gaza.

– Blockaded enclave –

Hamas has recently boosted its forces along the border with Egypt as it seeks to improve relations with Cairo.

Radical Islamists are also fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza. There was no indication there was any link.

Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing mostly closed in recent years, though it opened it on Monday for four days to allow Muslims to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, as well as for some humanitarian cases.

Bozum said the crossing would be open on Thursday as planned.

Egypt and Israel are the only countries bordering Gaza.

Israel has maintained a decade-long blockade on the strip it says is necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas has occasionally sought to crack down on Salafist groups inside the Gaza Strip with arrests.

Such Salafist groups have in recent months claimed responsiblity for rocket fire into Israel, sometimes saying it was in revenge for Hamas’s arrests.

Some security sources questioned whether Thursday’s explosion was a new phase of the Salafists’ campaign.

The groups claim thousands of supporters in the Palestinian enclave of some two million people, while Hamas estimates there are dozens.

by Adel Zaanoun

Qatar’s economy still strong despite Saudi-led multi-nation boycott

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Aymeric Vincenot | Qatar’s economy has been hit by the sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led Arab bloc but the emirate’s economy is strong enough to survive, argue local and international analysts
DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s economy has been hit by the sanctions imposed by a Saudi-led Arab bloc but the emirate’s economy is strong enough to survive, analysts say.

Since June 5, Saudi Arabia and allies Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting “terrorists” and of being too close to Iran.

Qatar, denying the charges, accuses its Gulf neighbours of seeking to strangle its economy.

The heavily air-conditioned malls of Doha, a city in the throes of a $200-plus billion construction boom as it aims to make a splash on the world stage by hosting football’s 2022 World Cup, remain busy as ever, as do its roads.

To counter the sanctions and trading curbs, ally Turkey and neighbouring Iran have been pouring in food supplies by air and sea.

“In the medium- to long-term, perhaps people who live here will feel” the effects, but for the time being, “we haven’t felt any big difference”, said Mohamed Ammar, who heads the Qatari Businessmen Association.

For Rashid bin Ali al-Mansoori, CEO of the Qatar Stock Exchange, the worst is already over. The second most highly-capitalised bourse in the Middle East plunged seven percent on June 5 and lost almost 10 percent in the first three days.

“We were surprised and the market also was surprised, so the market really reacted to the news like any other market of course,” he said.

But “the Qatar economy is very strong, it’s the strongest economy in the region… investor trust and confidence in the market is still there,” said Mansoori.

The level, however, remains around six percent lower than during pre-crisis Qatar.

And analysts are predicting a long drawn-out crisis which will affect investor confidence, with Bloomberg assessing at the end of July that Qatar’s economy was showing “the strain”.

“Data released last week showed that foreign deposits at Qatar’s banks fell the most in almost two years last month as customers withdrew funds, pressuring liquidity available locally for businesses and the government,” it said.

Amy McAlister of consultancy firm Oxford Economics said central bank data showed reserves were running at their lowest level since May 2012, a slide of 30 percent compared with June 2016.

“Uncertainty will have prompted banks and portfolio investment funds to withdraw money from Qatar, leading to a fall in reserves as the central bank tries to ease liquidity pressures,” she said.

“The central bank will have also depleted reserves to support the currency peg to the US dollar, which has seen pressure since the dispute began.”

– ‘Most resilient in Mideast’ –

Oxford Economics has revised its growth outlook for 2017 down to 1.4 percent, compared with 3.4 percent before the Gulf crisis, and re-evaluated inflation at 1.8 percent, up from the anticipated 1.5 percent, because of higher import costs.

Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded their credit ratings for Qatar.

But analysts have faith in the capacity of Qatar, holder of the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves after giants Russia and Iran, to withstand a long crisis.

“Qatar is the most resilient country in the Middle East by far,” said Andreas Krieg, a strategic risk analyst and assistant professor at King’s College London university.

“They are very determined to see this through. Unlike the other countries, they have the most stable economy and the most stable financial situation.

“The per capita reserves they have are the greatest in the world. Even if they have to liquidate some of their investments overseas, they could do but, at this point, this is not on the books,” he said.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world’s richest on a per-capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

“It is worth pointing out that these reserves do not include the foreign assets of the sovereign wealth fund, so the wider impact may not be as significant as the sharp drop initially suggests,” said McAlistair.

For McAlistair, despite uncertainty over the timeframe of the crisis, “Qatar will likely be able to withstand economic sanctions for many years”.

by Aymeric Vincenot

‘Lot of time’ needed to rebuild trust in Gulf: Qatar FM

August 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by David Harding | “Qatar has always been one of the founders of the GCC organisation and we still consider that this has a great importance for all of us in the region,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said
DOHA (AFP) – Qatar’s foreign minister said Tuesday it will take a “lot of time” to rebuild any trust between sparring Gulf countries because of the region’s continuing diplomatic crisis.

As the impasse between Doha and four Arab states led by Saudi Arabia entered its 11th week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said regional relations had been transformed by the dispute.

“Qatar has always been one of the founders of the GCC organisation and we still consider that this has a great importance for all of us in the region,” he told reporters.

Created in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic union comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“This organisation has been built on a strategical security and been built on trust.

“Unfortunately, what happened lately with this crisis, this factor is missing now and needs a lot of time to rebuild the trust again.

“We hope that it’s restored.”

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 — accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with Iran — triggering the biggest political crisis in the Gulf for several years.

Doha denies the claims and accuses the other countries of an attack on its sovereignty.

The Saudi-led countries have also imposed sanctions including restrictions on Qatari aircraft using their airspace.

The foreign minister added that the conflict was unnecessary.

“Such a crisis is not needed in our region, we have enough problems and enough conflict.

“A region like the Gulf region, which was considered the most stable region in the Arab world is now destabilised because… of a crisis without a solid foundation.”

However, he added that diplomatic efforts led by regional mediator Kuwait were continuing.

“We have received a letter from the Emir of Kuwait a few days ago. And this letter is a continuous effort… to encourage the parties to engage in dialogue.”

Despite this, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar was still waiting to hear from its rivals.

“Put up your claims and put up your evidence. We told them (Saudi-led countries) anywhere you want, whatever evidence you have, just put it on the table.

“Now its been 72 days since the first day of their measures and we have not been provided with a single document.”

Experts have speculated that the diplomatic uncertainty in the region will lead to the demise of the GCC.

One, Andreas Krieg, a political risk analyst at King’s College London, told AFP that the GCC was “dying by the day”.

“The Kuwaiti emir is a great believer in the GCC and will do everything he can to resolve the crisis to save the GCC.

“However, realistically, the GCC cannot survive this crisis,” he said.

by David Harding

Egypt discovers three 2,000 year old tombs

August 15, 2017

AFP

© EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES MINISTRY/AFP | Egypt archeologists have discovered three ancient tombs containing sarcophagi in the south of the country

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt archaeologists have discovered three ancient tombs containing sarcophagi in the south of the country in a cemetery dating back about 2,000 years, the antiquities ministry said on Tuesday.The tombs excavated in the Al-Kamin al-Sahrawi area in Minya province south of Cairo were in burial grounds constructed some time between the 27th Dynasty and the Greco-Roman period, the ministry said in a statement.

The team found “a collection of sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes, as well as clay fragments,” the statement quoted Ayman Ashmawy, head of the ministry’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, as saying.

One of the tombs, which was reached through a shaft carved in rock, contained four sarcophagi each sculpted to depict a human face

Another tomb held the remains of two sarcophagi and six burial holes, including one for “the burial of a small child”.

Clay fragments found at the site “date the tombs between the 27th Dynasty (founded in 525 BC) and the Greco-Roman era (between 332 BC and the fourth century),” the statement said.

The discovery “suggests that the area was a great cemetery for a long span of time,” it quoted Ashmawy as saying.

In one of the three tombs, excavators found bones believed to be the remains of “men, women and children of different ages”, Ali al-Bakry, head of the mission, was quoted as saying in the statement.

This shows that “these tombs were part of a large cemetery for a large city and not a military garrisons as some suggest,” he said.

This work follows previous excavation at the site, which began in 2015.

“Works are underway in order to reveal more secrets,” the statement said.

Egypt boasts an array of ancient sites including Pharaonic temples and the famed Giza pyramids that draw millions of tourists every year.

Kushner to Meet With Mideast Leaders in Latest Attempt at Peace Deal

August 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will soon travel to the Middle East for yet another foray into trying to forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, one of the most difficult diplomatic assignments of the Trump administration.

Mr. Kushner, who traveled to the region in June, will be accompanied on the trip by Jason Greenblatt, a special representative for international negotiations, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser. No date was announced.

The three will hold meetings with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, said a White House official. The discussions will focus on resolving the impediments to peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, but will also cover combating extremism, the official said.

That topic could take Mr. Kushner even deeper into territory generally reserved for Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. A bitter feud between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over how to combat extremism has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, putting a host of American priorities in the region at risk. Mr. Tillerson spent hours on the phone and days on the ground in the Middle East recently in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the standoff, which led Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states to slap an embargo on Qatar.

Mr. Tillerson’s efforts were repeatedly undermined by Mr. Trump, who largely sided with the Saudis. A frustrated Mr. Tillerson said he had set aside the matter, but Mr. Kushner’s wading into the issue could cause tensions in an administration already rived by internal disputes.

In most administrations, crucial diplomatic efforts are given to the secretary of state, but Mr. Trump gave the task of forging a Middle East peace deal to Mr. Kushner, who is also expected to focus on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

By talking to multiple players in the region, Mr. Kushner may be hoping to recruit Arab countries to offer outlines of a deal that would be difficult for either the Israelis or Palestinians to reject, known as the “outside-in” approach.

Mr. Kushner was criticized when he said in a talk given to interns, which was later leaked, that he did not want to focus on the region’s complex history. “We don’t want a history lesson,” Mr. Kushner said. “We’ve read enough books.”

Many in the region see their history as crucial to the dispute as well as any resolution, so critics saw the remarks as a sign of inexperience.

Among the challenges Mr. Kushner could confront on the trip are the myriad legal problems facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which have begun to threaten his political standing.

Qatar Crisis Redraws Red Lines and Frays Age-Old Gulf Ties

August 12, 2017

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — It’s early morning at a fishing port in Dubai. A group of mostly retired fishermen are playing cards, eating dates and drinking coffee at the port’s majlis, a traditional meeting space.

Here, the Emirati fisherman say they aren’t too worried about the political fallout with Qatar that’s gripped the region since early June, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with the small Gulf state, accusing it of supporting extremists.

“When it comes to politics, it’s not our business,” Thani Obeid said. “If everyone walks around saying their opinion there will be chaos.”

Obeid, 65, and Salem Jomaa, 70, say they have faith in the “wisdom” of the region’s rulers because “we are one family.”

“The Gulf is one home. From Saudi Arabia to Ras al-Khaimah (in the UAE) to Oman. We are all brothers, cousins, friends,” Jomaa said. “We are all Muslims.”

Centuries-old ties that bind families to tribes and tribes to ruling sheikhs underpin the Arabian Peninsula, but that kinship is now under strain.

The crisis has also upended some red lines, making what was once illegal now legal, and vice-versa.

Chief among them was an understanding — enshrined in tradition and government enforced — that criticism of another Gulf country or its esteemed ruler could lead to automatic imprisonment and hefty fines.

After the row erupted June 5, those rules changed. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain warned instead that anyone who sympathizes with Qatar or criticizes the measures taken against it would be imprisoned and fined.

Qatari citizens were also expelled from the three countries after years of visa-free travel throughout the Gulf. Transport links with Qatar were cut and Saudi Arabia sealed shut Qatar’s only land border, impacting food imports.

Saudi and Emirati officials insist the measures are not aimed at Qatari citizens, but at the government. That distinction has meant little to Qataris who say the blockade on their country and the assault on their leadership is like an attack on the whole society.

Image may contain: one or more people, indoor and food

Qatari Food companies step in to fill the void

“If they talk about our emir, it’s like they are talking about us. The siege and blockade and making it illegal to sympathize with Qatar, this is against us,” Ahmed al-Khayli, a 36-year-old Qatari said.

Speaking by phone from Qatar, al-Khayli said he believes the relationship between Qataris and others in the Gulf has become “more sensitive.”

Many Qataris — who number around 270,000 citizens — believe their small, energy-rich country is standing up for itself, refusing to surrender its sovereignty. Patriotic fervor has swept through the country. Towering images of its 37-year-old ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, are plastered on cars, billboards and storefronts across the capital.

In Qatar and the UAE, where foreigners far outnumber locals, many talk with sincere admiration for their rulers. It’s a relationship that harkens to a time when tribal elders were responsible for the security of their communities, which relied on pearl diving and fishing for survival. Then, as now, tribes in the Arabian Peninsula intermarried.

The expulsion of Qataris separated mixed-nationality families, parents from their children and husbands from their wives. After public outcry, the three Gulf countries said exceptions would be made for immediate family members, though rights groups say students and families are still being affected.

 None

Hamad al-Kulaib, a 38-year-old Kuwaiti businessman, said the crisis “feels like a battle of the egos” between high-ranking officials. Kuwait, which has remained neutral, is trying to mediate the crisis.

“The tension between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc is certainly putting all our social relationships in danger,” he said.

Though there have been fallouts in the past between Gulf states, this is the most severe crisis in decades.

Saudi and Emirati media have unleashed a barrage of critical reports about Qatar, accusing it of sedition, lying, sponsoring terrorism and trying to destabilize the region. Qatar’s support of opposition Islamist groups and its ties with Iran has unnerved its neighbors. Qatar says accusations it backs extremist groups are politically motivated and denies it has ever sponsored terrorism.

Meanwhile, Qatari-affiliated press upped their critical coverage of Saudi Arabia since the row erupted. Qatar and the UAE have also traded accusations of hacking.

In the years before the crisis, state-linked news channels and papers did not criticize a fellow Gulf nation’s ruler or policies.

Officially, at least, Qatar has kept a modicum of decorum in place. The emir congratulated the Saudi king and his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, when he was elevated to crown prince in late June. The emir also sent a cable of condolences to King Salman on the death of his elder brother.

Image result for Dubai's harbor fishermen, photos

Those acts sparked a hashtag on Twitter in support of Qatar, and another hashtag said Saudis still welcome ties with Qatari citizens. Twitter is also where people have rallied behind their governments.

Emirati social media star Taim al-Falasi hit back at accusations that citizens in the UAE were being paid to support the moves against Qatar. In a fiercely-worded post, she asked Qataris how they could continue to support their emir after all the allegations made against Qatar.

At the majlis in Dubai’s harbor, the fishermen shake their heads when the mention of Twitter comes up. They disapprove of the fierce words being traded online.

Image result for Dubai's harbor fishermen, photos

“If you add fuel to a fire, the fire will grow,” Obeid said.

In Kuwait, 27-year-old Barrak al-Dakhail says the crisis has polarized opinions there and made relationships among people in the Gulf “awkward.”

“If the situation continues to escalate, it might create a bigger wedge between the people … and that’s certainly something we don’t want,” he said.

__

Associated Press writer Hussain al-Qatari contributed from Kuwait City.

Dozens killed after two trains collide in Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria

August 11, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Egyptian security forces stand guard at the site of a train collision in the area of Khorshid, in Egypts Mediterranean city of Alexandria, on August 11, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-08-11

At least 36 people were killed as two trains collided Friday outside the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, in one of the deadliest in a string of such accidents in Egypt, the health ministry said.

The crash also injured 123 people, the ministry said in a statement.

Footage on the state broadcaster showed one train had partly keeled over in the crash, and medics were seen moving the dead and injured to ambulances.

Transport ministry officials, quoted on state television, said the crash was probably caused by a malfunction in one train that brought it to a halt on the rails. The other train then crashed into it.

One of them had been heading from Cairo to the northern city of Alexandria and the other from the canal city of Port Said, east of the capital, to Alexandria.

The dead and injured were initially placed on blankets by the sides of the tracks amid farmland on the outskirts of Alexandria.

Assistant health minister Sharif Wadi told state television that most of the injured had been taken to hospital.

Egypt’s transport minister has ordered an investigation into the crash, pledging to “hold accountable” whoever was responsible, state television reported.

It was the deadliest train accident in the North African country since a train ploughed into a bus carrying schoolchildren in November 2012, killing 47 people.

That accident had jolted the government which ordered an investigation and sacked the transport minister and the head of the railway authority.

The accident was blamed on a train signal operator who fell asleep on the job.

The probe, however, did not prevent further accidents. Months later a train carrying military conscripts derailed, killing 17 people.

Almost a year later, a collision between a train and a bus killed 27 people south of Cairo.

They had been returning from a wedding when the train ploughed into their bus and a truck at a railway crossing.

Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with chronic transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines.

There have been many other fatal crashes on the busy rail network.

In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwest Egypt when a runaway truck hurtled into bus, truck and several cars waiting at a level crossing, shunting the vehicles into the path of a train.

In August 2006, at least 58 Egyptians were killed and 144 wounded in a collision between two trains travelling on the same track.

In the wake of that crash, an Egyptian court sentenced 14 railway employees to one year in prison for neglect.

The deadliest accident on Egypt’s railways dates back to 2002 when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of the capital.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Agree on Al Jazeera

August 11, 2017

There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends

By Robert Fisk

The Independent 

may-saudi.jpgTheresa May has already suppressed a report so it wouldn’t upset the Saudis. And we wonder why we go to war with the Middle East AFP

When Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel has both the Saudis and the Israelis demanding its closure, it must be doing something right. To bring Saudi head-choppers and Israeli occupiers into alliance is, after all, something of an achievement.

But don’t get too romantic about this. When the wealthiest Saudis fall ill, they have been known to fly into Tel Aviv on their private jets for treatment in Israel’s finest hospitals. And when Saudi and Israeli fighter-bombers take to the air, you can be sure they’re going to bomb Shiites – in Yemen or Syria respectively – rather than Sunnis.

And when King Salman – or rather Saudi Arabia’s whizz-kid Crown Prince Mohammad – points the finger at Iran as the greatest threat to Gulf security, you can be sure that Bibi Netanyahu will be doing exactly and precisely the same thing, replacing “Gulf security”, of course, with “Israeli security”. But it’s an odd business when the Saudis set the pace of media suppression only to be supported by that beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights and liberty known in song and legend as Israel, or the State of Israel or, as Bibi and his cabinet chums would have it, the Jewish State of Israel.

So let’s run briefly through the latest demonstration of Israeli tolerance towards the freedom of expression that all of us support, nurture, love, adore, regard as a cornerstone of our democracy, and so on, and so on, and so on. For this week, Ayoob Kara, the Israeli communications minister, revealed plans to take away the credentials of Al Jazeera’s Israeli-based journalists, close its Jerusalem bureau and take the station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers.

Al Jazeera exclusive: Former leader of al-Nusra Front confirming split from al-Qaeda

This, announced Ayoob Kara – an Israeli Druze (and thus an Arab Likud minister) who is a lifelong supporter of the colonisation by Jews of Israeli-occupied Arab land in the West Bank – would “bring a situation that channels based in Israel will report objectively”. In other words, threaten them. Bring them into line.

Bibi Netanyahu long ago accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence in Jerusalem, especially in its reporting of the recent Jerusalem killings – but since just about every foreign journalist in and outside Israel who has dared to be critical of the state has at one time or another been accused of incitement as well as anti-Semitism and other lies, this is just par for the course.

Personally, I have found Al Jazeera’s reporting from Israel pretty pathetic, its fawning reverence for the state all too painfully illustrated when its Qatar anchorwoman expressed to an Israeli government spokesman live on air her channel’s condolences on the death of Ariel Sharon, the monstrous Israeli ex-defence minister who was held responsible for the massacre of up to 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres of 1982.

Ayoob Kara, however, has actually taken his cue from his fellow Arabs. And he admits it. Israel had to take steps, he said, against “media, which has been determined by almost all Arab countries to actually be a supporter of terror, and we know this for certain”. So the Israelis, it appears, now receive lessons on media freedoms from “Arab countries”. Not just the Saudis, of course, but from “almost all Arab countries” whose unfettered media – one thinks at once of the untrammelled liberal press of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria and yes, “almost” the entire media of the Gulf – are bastions of truth-telling, hard-hitting opponents of authoritarian regimes, constitutionally protected from dictatorial abuse. Forgive the hollow laughter. But is this really how Israel wants to define itself?

Well, yes it is, I suppose. For if an unwritten alliance really exists between Saudi Arabia and Israel, then all options – as US presidents and secretary Hillary Clinton used to say – are “on the table”.

Imprisonment without trial, extrajudicial executions, human rights abuses, corruption, military rule – let’s say this at once: all these characteristics belong to “almost all” Sunni Muslim Arab nations – and to Israel in the lands it occupies. And as for being a “supporter of terror” (I quote Israeli minister Kara again), one must first ask why Sunni Gulf Arabs have exported their fighters – and their money – to the most vicious Sunni Islamists in the Middle East. And then ask why Israel has never bombed these same vile creatures – indeed, ask why Israel has given hospital treatment to wounded fighters from the Sunni al-Nusra – in other words, al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11 – while attacking Shiite Hezbollah and Alawite (Shiite) led-Syria, and threatened to bombard Shiite Iran itself which is a project, I should add, of which Kara himself is all in favour.

Nor must we forget that America’s insane President and his weird regime is also part of the Saudi-Israeli anti-Shiite confederation. Trump’s obscene $350bn arms sales to the Saudis, his fingering of Iran and his hatred of the world’s press and television channels makes him an intimate part of the same alliance. Indeed, when you look at one of Trump’s saner predecessors – George W Bush, who also hated Iran, kowtowed to the Saudis and actually talked to Tony Blair of bombing Al Jazeera’s own headquarters in Qatar, he who made sure the wealthy bin Laden family were flown out of the States after 9/11 – this American-Saudi-Israeli covenant has a comparatively long history.

Being an irrational optimist, there’s an innocent side of my scratched journalistic hide that still believes in education and wisdom and compassion. There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahhabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends. They are our oppressors or masters, suppressors of the truth and allies of the unjust.

Netanyahu wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Jerusalem. Crown Prince Mohammad wants to close down Al Jazeera’s office in Qatar. Bush actually did bomb Al Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. Theresa May decided to hide a government report on funding “terrorism”, lest it upset the Saudis – which is precisely the same reason Blair closed down a UK police enquiry into alleged BAE-Saudi bribery 10 years earlier.

And we wonder why we go to war in the Middle East. And we wonder why Sunni Isis exists, un-bombed by Israel, funded by Sunni Gulf Arabs, its fellow Sunni Salafists cosseted by our wretched presidents and prime ministers. I guess we better keep an eye on Al Jazeera – while it’s still around.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/al-jazeera-saudi-arabia-israel-policy-terrorism-isis-iran-prince-mohamed-netanyahu-a7885851.html

Four Policemen Killed in Attack in Egypt’s North Sinai: State Newspaper

August 9, 2017

CAIRO — Four Egyptian policeman were killed on Wednesday when gunmen fired at a patrol car in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

Authorities in Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, were on the hunt for the attackers, the paper said.

Attacks on security forces have been frequent in Egypt since the army, led by general-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

The violence has been concentrated in the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt is fighting an insurgency, but has also expanded to hit Egypt’s Coptic Christians, the country’s largest minority.

On Tuesday, a group of gunmen killed two police officers and wounded another in a village north of Cairo, al-Ahram had said.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Alison Williams)

Two Policemen Killed in Attack North of Cairo — Attacks on security forces have become common in Egypt

August 8, 2017

CAIRO — Two Egyptian policemen were killed and one wounded when a group of wanted criminals opened fire on security forces in a village north of Cairo on Tuesday, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

The paper gave no details of what the men were accused of, but attacks on security forces have become common in Egypt since the army led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Sisi was elected president in 2014.

Authorities in the Nile Delta province of El-Menoufia stepped up security after the attack and the wounded were transferred to hospital, Al-Ahram said, citing a security source.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Alison Williams)