Egypt's military is denying that its chief of staff, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah that he will run for president in elections that are still yet to be scheduled. The newspaper quoted him as saying he could "not reject the demand" of the people that he should stand. Former strongman Hosni Mubarak meanwhile said in an interview with an independent Egyptian journalist that al-Sisi would be the next president. "The people want Sisi and the people's will shall prevail," journalist Fajer al-Saeed quoted Mubarak as telling her at the armed forces hospital where he is being held in Cairo.
The UN Palestine refugee agency on Dec. 26 condemned Israel's latest demolitions of Bedouin homes in the West Bank. The new demolitions, "the most recent of which occurred on Christmas Eve," have "severely threatened" the livelihoods of the families that lost their homes, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunnes said in a statement. According to UNRWA, the demolitions at Ein Ayoub near Ramallah and Fasayil al-Wusta near Jericho displaced 68 in total, most of whom were refugees, and 32 of whom were children, "including a five year old girl who is paralyzed from the waist down." Added UNRWA: "Tents have been distributed by the Palestinian Red Crescent in coordination with the ICRC but this is hardly adequate considering night-time temperatures plunge to around zero. In addition, some 750 head of sheep and goats are without shelter at this crucial lambing season."
We've noted before that numerous experts have linked the Darfur conflict to climate change, but now a less obvious climate connection to the Syria crisis is persuasively argued by Peter Sinclair of the blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week. As the name suggests, it is generally dedicated to shooting down climate change denialism, but in this Sept. 5 entry he attempts to trace the Syrian explosion—indeed, the entire Arab Revolution—to an atmospheric phenomenon. Sinclair reminds us that in the summer before the wave of revolution swept through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and beyond, Russia experienced a "1,000-year heat wave" (Bloomberg, Aug. 9, 2010) that shrivelled its crops and prompted Moscow to halt wheat exports (Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2010).
At least 25 Egyptian soldiers were killed by militants in an ambush on two buses in north Sinai on Aug. 19. The soldiers were reportedly executed by militants after being forced to leave the buses, a correspondent for Ma'an News Service said. Three other Egyptian servicemen were injured in the attack. The soldiers were part of a central security unit deployed along the Israel-Egypt border and around Rafah, officials said. It is the deadliest attack on Egypt's armed forces since militants killed 16 soldiers near the Gaza fence last August. On Aug. 15, militants in the Sinai killed seven soldiers in an attack on a checkpoint. Since the military coup that toppled president Mohamed Morsi after massive nationwide protests against his rule, militant groups have launched almost daily attacks on troops and police in Sinai.
Egyptian militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed Aug. 10 that an air-strike that killed four of its fighters in the Sinai peninsula the previous day was carried out by an Israeli drone. But Egypt's military denied there had been any Israeli strikes in Egyptian territory, and later said its own aircraft had carried out the attack. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, with a following among the Sinai's Bedouin tribes, accused the Egyptian military of co-ordinating the attack with Israel. "Our heroes became martyrs during their jihadi duties against the Jews in a rocket attack on occupied lands," the group said in a statement. "How can the Egyptian army allow the Zionist unmanned planes to cross into Egyptian territory?" A motorcade funeral for the fallen fighters made its way through through several border towns in Sinai—with dozens of militants in pick-up trucks flying their black flag in defiance of the army. Egypt's armed forces have killed 60 jihadist fighters in the Sinai in the month since Mohamed Morsi was ousted. (AFP, Al Jazeera, Aug. 10)
Israeli forces used bulldozers to demolish the "unrecognized" Bedouin village of al-Araqeeb in the Negev desert on July 16—for the 53rd time in three years. The demolition came one day after thousands of Palestinian, Israeli Arab and Bedouin protesters took to the streets in towns across the West Bank, Gaza and inside the Green Line to oppose an Israeli bill that would forcibly expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from the Negev. Araqeeb, home to some 500 people, is one of about 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev not recognized by Israel's Land Authority. Following the 38th demolition of Araqeeb last year, villagers said they wanted apply with the Guinness Book of World Records to claim a record for the number of times Israel has demolished a village.
Egypt has declared a state of alert in the Sinai after extremist Islamist fighters set up a military base in the peninsula, Egyptian security officials said June 17. Egyptian forces and police have imposed curfews on Sinai cities el-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Military helicopters were seen hovering over the cities, a Ma'an News Agency reporter said. Militants from Egypt, Palestine and Mali affiliated to jihadist groups and al-Qaeda have deployed heavily in bunkers in a desert area in central Sinai, Egyptian security officials told Ma'an.