Greater Middle East

Yemen: war comes to capital

Yemen's ongoing internal war briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a suicide bomber and gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked the defense ministry building in the capital, Sanaa, killing 52 people. One attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the gate of the ministry's compound, then gunmen in another vehicle sped in and opened fire on soldiers and medical staff working at a hospital within the compound. Seven foreign doctors and nurses—from Germany, India, Veitnam and the Philippines—are among the dead. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but authorities of course suspect al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The attack came as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser is on a visit to Washington. (Reuters, BBC News, Dec. 5)

Lebanon: army seizes strife-torn Tripoli

​Lebanon's government has ordered the coastal city of Tripoli placed under army control amid growing sectarian clashes. The move was announced after a 15-year-old boy was among four killed Dec. 3. It marks the first time since the end of the country's civil war in 1990 that the military has been ordered to take full control of a city. The new violence  broke out when Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood began flying Syrian flags to demonstrate their support for Bashar Assad, and Sunni residents of nearby Bab el-Tebbaneh raised the flag of Syria's rebel coalition. The four killed were Alawites, persumably slain by Sunni gunmen, and sparking Alawite protest marches. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 3; AFP, Dec. 1)

Egypt: blogger arrested in protest crackdown

Police in Egypt on Nov. 28 arrested prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdul Fattah who had taken part in a rally outside the upper house of parliament two days earlier, where protesters were calling for repeal of a new law that bans unauthorized demonstrations. Abdel-Fattah was arrested at his home, according to a statement by supporters. "They [the police] had no search warrant and when his wife, Manal, demanded to see it they were both beaten," read the statement, adding that the couples' computers and phones were confiscated in the raid. "Their two-year-old son, Khaled, was asleep in the next room," the statement said.

Bahrain arrests two ex-Guantánamo detainees

Bahraini authorities on Nov. 23 arrested and charged two former Guantánamo Bay detainees for plotting an attack in Bahrain. Reports indicate authorities caught the former detainees as they attempted to cross into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia on the King Fahad Causeway using forged passports. Bahrain's Interior Ministry has yet to identify the arrestees but noted that both were found to be carrying large amounts of money. The ministry also noted that the arrest comes just days before Bahrain hosts the 32nd meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organization of six Gulf states seeking to effect "coordination, integration and inter-connection" between member states "in all fields." There is, however, no express indication that the former detainees plotted to attack the GCC meeting.

Sinai car bomb kills 12 Egyptian soldiers

At least 12 Egyptian soldiers were killed and dozens injured in a car bomb Nov. 20 near the Sinai city of El-Arish, security officials told Ma'an News Agency. A car laden with explosives hit two buses carrying around 100 Egyptian soldiers, the officials said. Egyptian security sources told Ma'an that a Hyundai Verna was parked on the right-hand side of the main road between Rafah and El-Arish, and had signaled that it had broken down. The car was then remotely detonated as four unarmored personnel carriers passed by. Egyptian officials said the militants who detonated the car bomb were being updated by others about the movement of the vehicles, which were loaded at a site in Rafah.

Egypt: journalists charged for 'slanderous' interview

Egypt's Middle East News Agency (MENA) announced on Nov. 11 that Judge Hisham Genina and two journalists will be prosecuted for allegedly insulting other judges. Genina gave an interview to Moammed el-Sanhouri, a reporter for Al-Masry Al-Youm daily in 2012, in which the judge accused the head of the Egyptian Judges' Club, a social club for jurists, of corruption. Both the judge and the reporter are now being charged with libel, along with the news publication's Chief Editor Magdi el-Galad.

Israel bombs Syria —again

The Israel Air Force was responsible for an Oct. 30 attack on a military base in the Syrian city of Latakia, according to a Reuters report that cited an opposition source. The target was named as a strategic missile battery near Ain Shikak village—and particularly a new shipment of Russian SA-8 surface-to-air missiles destined for Hezbollah. The Saudi news outlet Al-Arabiya said Israeli planes also struck an unnamed target in Damascus. Israel warplanes were also reported to have raided a missile warehouse near Latakia in July, and a military site near Damascus in May. Israel has not confirmed or denied any of the air-strikes. (Haaretz, Maan News Agency, Nov. 1)

Experts begin evaluation of Syria chem arsenal

A team of disarmament experts from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Oct. 6 began overseeing the destruction by the Syrian government, and will verify that the process is correctly handled. The disarmament team will destroy the chemical weapons arsenal, its storage sites and the facilities which manufacture them in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (PDF8), which adopts and orders the Syrian government to comply with the Sept. 27 decision of the OPCW Executive Council. The decision requires Syria to identify the types, quantities and locations of all chemical weapons in its stockpile, as well as all chemical weapon storage facilities, production facilities, and research and development facilities, and provides a deadline of mid-2014 to complete their destruction.

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