Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the League of Arab States Ahmad al-Qattan, center, attends the Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March, 29, 2012.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of having effectively declared war on his nation, saying they have been pushing sectarian attacks among Sunni militants in his country as well as neighboring Syria.
“These two countries are primarily responsible for the sectarian and terrorist and security crisis of Iraq,” Maliki added, saying they were buying arms for the groups as well as providing them “political, financial and media support.”
Maliki made the comments in an interview, and when pressed on the matter said he believes they are “openly hosting leaders of al-Qaeda.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has conquered much of the Anbar Province of Iraq, along with the town of Sulaiman Beg.
Though the two nations have open ties to Syrian rebel factions, they have insisted this doesn’t include AQI. It is unclear how the faction, the biggest in both Iraq and Syria by far, has managed to be so well funded.
(Source / 10.03.2014)
A Palestinian official who monitors settlement-related activities told Ma’an that a settler from the illegal Eli settlement tried to steal sheep from a Palestinian shepherd before a number of villagers arrived and captured him.
Ghassan Daghlas added that Palestinians notified officials in the Palestinian Authority who contacted the Israeli liaison department.
Just days earlier, villagers from Jalud and Talfit villages south of Nablus captured a settler but he managed to escape shortly afterward.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar last Wednesday after accusing the emirate of meddling in their internal affairs.
Egypt followed suit the next day, formalising a breach of diplomatic ties that began shortly after the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.
The move has added to Qatar’s isolation over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other allied Islamist groups in the region, who in recent months have seen the gains they made in the Arab Spring rolled back.
BBC correspondents describe below how Qatar is now viewed.
For the best part of a year, Qatar’s neighbours had banked on avoiding this escalation.
They had hoped the new Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, would offer a change from what they considered deeply unpopular policies in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia.
They had wanted a return to the days when the Arabian Peninsula’s most powerful rulers worked together to resolve crises rather than exacerbate them.
The message received by Qatar’s neighbours was that change was on its way. But, similar to when Mohammed Morsi ruled in Egypt, a perception grew of failure to fulfil promises.
Now those divisions are, unusually for the Gulf, laid bare in public.
The Emiratis and Saudis see members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists as “terrorists” threatening their ways of life, along with those of Bahrainis and Egyptians. The Qataris are accused of playing host to them and broadcasting anti-UAE sermons by one of their key figures.
People here are dumbfounded as to why Qatar has nailed its colours to the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups’ masts in the first place.
Warning shots were fired when the UAE’s foreign minister summoned the Qatari ambassador to Abu Dhabi and an alleged Brotherhood “cell” was put behind bars.
This high-profile joint action between Cairo, Riyadh, Manama and Abu Dhabi is the latest attempt to change Qatar’s behaviour.
But if the withdrawal of ambassadors, broadcasters and columnists from Doha does not get the message across, these political differences could tear apart valuable and important economic and security ties between the neighbours.
No-one is seriously predicting that yet, but the government here remains tight-lipped about how far they think this row will go.
It is no coincidence that the prime minister of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, telephoned the emir of Qatar shortly after the withdrawal of the Gulf ambassadors from Doha last week.
After the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt in July, Hamas was left with no other allies in the region.
Hamas’s relationships with Syria and Iran have been damaged by the decision of its political leader, Khaled Meshaal, to declare his support for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and to leave Damascus.
Hamas has had no choice but to seek to strengthen its alliance with Qatar.
Officials are under pressure and worried that the interim authorities in Egypt may try to kill two birds with one stone.
By stopping the transfer of building materials for Qatari-funded projects in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, they could hurt both Hamas and Qatar.
The projects, worth $450m (£270m), were announced by the former Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, while he visited Gaza in 2012.
Palestinians usually choose their friends or enemies according to which political party they support.
Supporters of Hamas believe that Qatar is a strategic ally, while the followers of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party believe the emirate is deepening political divisions by actively supporting one group and ignoring the other.
The governments in Tripoli and Doha maintain a cordial relationship, but the relationship between Qatar and the Libyan street has withered almost as quickly as it blossomed during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
Libyans do not take too kindly to foreign powers meddling in their internal affairs.
This reality has left Western countries and international organisations like the UN delicately tip-toeing around Libya and carefully considering the type of assistance they offer during what has been a very challenging and, at times, violent transition.
What has come across to many here as Qatar’s more overt and aggressive interventionist policy has not helped.
Qatar’s rise and fall in Libya is mainly linked to what many believe is their empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Libya’s problems are deeply rooted in its competing regional, social and political groups. But the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Justice and Construction Party, has been blamed for much of the political tension and insecurity in post-revolutionary Libya.
Trips to Qatar by senior Islamist figures have further fuelled suspicions.
In Benghazi, where anti-Gaddafi protesters once waved Qatar’s flag alongside those of France and the UK, an effigy of Qatar’s former emir was burnt to a crisp in 2012.
That sentiment has gradually spread across the country.
The ousting of President Morsi last year appears to have given Libyans further cause to harden their stance against the Muslim Brotherhood and – by association – Qatar.
The emirate is also seen as having waged a proxy-war on Libyan territory along with other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states.
Observers here believe – rightly or wrongly – that some of the most powerful and competing militia brigades, along with their local political backers, are being bankrolled by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Qatar has never been popular as far as the Egyptian government or people are concerned.
However, this changed in 2011, when the Qatar-based and -funded TV network, al-Jazeera, openly sided with the protesters at Tahrir Square and provided them with the media outlet they needed to show what was happening across Egypt.
Many Egyptians tuned in to see what their local media was not showing them, and Qatar’s reputation amongst Egyptians rose accordingly.
A year later, the Gulf state became the main ally of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today, the situation has not only gone into reverse, but Qatar’s status is now lower than during Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Since the military overthrew Mr Morsi in July, the Brotherhood’s popularity among many Egyptians has fallen and seems to have taken Qatar with it.
The military-backed interim government is openly critical of Qatar and general feeling among Egyptians is that Qatar is an enemy working to destabilise the country.
Although al-Jazeera played a key role in enhancing Qatar’s popularity after the 2011 uprising, it is now one of the main causes of the hostility directed towards the emirate.
For a while Qatar itself has not been outspoken in its public comments about the recent events in Egypt, its sponsorship of a channel that is seen by millions of pro-army Egyptians as biased and provocative appears to have caused it a lot of damage.
Reading through Egyptian traditional and social media, one quickly gets a measure of the level of hostility towards Qatar. For many, Qatar now tops their lists of most-hated countries – more unpopular even than Israel.
(Source / 10.03.2014)
An Israeli court has sentenced a Palestinian teenager to 25 years in jail over an alleged plot to bomb a passenger bus in Tel Aviv in 2012, a report says.
19-year-old Mohammed Mafarja has been convicted by a Tel Aviv court on Monday on charges of planting a bomb on a bus that wounded over a dozen people back in 2012, the district court stated.
Mafarja was sentenced three months after an Israeli court found him guilty of aiding the enemy during war, attempted murder, causing an explosion and wounding 24 people during the incident.
Court documents said the teenager placed an explosive device inside the passenger bus before getting off, while his accomplice, Ahmed Moussa, remotely triggered the bomb moments later.
Israeli officials said Mafarja plead guilty to a series of charges including attempted murder.
The two carried out “an attack to end the war in Gaza,” which began on November 14, 2012, the court said.
The trial of accomplice Moussa is still being heard in a military court.
The bomb was detonated on the last day of an eight-day Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip two years ago.
170 Palestinians including children and women were killed during the Israeli-waged war on Gaza.
Gaza has survived two Israeli wars amid a tight blockade.
Two years after Israel launched its eight-day war on Gaza, Tel Aviv continues to conduct limited incursions into the coastal enclave.
(Source / 10.03.2014)
The shooting took place at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. Palestinian security officials identified the victim as 38-year-old Raed Zeiter.
Officials in Amman confirmed he also held Jordanian nationality.
The Israeli military claimed that troops had opened fire after Zeiter allegedly tried to snatch a weapon from one of the soldiers.
A Jordanian security official said that Zeiter worked as a judge in Amman and had left for the West Bank early on Monday.
The Jordanian justice ministry confirmed the information, saying he worked at a magistrates court in the capital.
Family members in Amman expressed shock over his death.
“My son is peaceful and professional. I am shocked,” his 70-year-old father, Alaa Zeiter, himself a former judge said.
Palestinian security officials said he was originally from the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Following the incident, the terminal was closed but later reopened, an Israeli official said.
(Source / 10.03.2014)
Beirut // At four years old, Edmond Michael Abdel Nour can distinguish the sound of a bullet from that of a mortar hitting his Damascus neighbourhood.
A toddler when the conflict in Syria began, Abdel Nour has lived through war for most of his life, learning to correctly identify an outgoing shell from an incoming one before he’s even managed to master the alphabet.
“It’s the kind of knowledge I wish my son didn’t have,” said his mother, Manar Makhoul, 31. “There’s a whole generation of Syrian children who have been robbed of their childhood because of this crisis,” she said by telephone from Damascus.
Syria’s conflict enters its fourth year this month with no sign that the war that has killed more than 140,000 people will end soon. As on all battlefields, children have been the most vulnerable victims, living horrors beyond their years. At least 10,000 of them have died, more than a million are living as refugees and millions more are displaced inside their country, according to a United Nations report last month.
They’ve been summarily executed, recruited for combat, sexually abused, detained and tortured, according to the report. Both Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s government and the rebels trying to topple him are to blame, it said.
“We’ve had children say, ‘I don’t want to live anymore,’” said Anthony MacDonald, chief of child protection at the United Nations Children’s Fund in neighbouring Lebanon. “We’ve had experts Unicef has supported who are saying they have been in Afghanistan, in all these wars around the world, but this is one of the worst they have ever seen.”
While the world’s attention turns to the Cold War-style standoff over Ukraine, the death and destruction continue unabated in Syria. Plans by the US to intervene in the country last year were halted after Russia refused to agree, instead forcing Assad to give up chemical weapons and start peace talks.
The generation of Syrians shaped by the war now risk making any lasting peace and security more elusive.
“It’s not just a lost generation in terms of them being killed,” Mr MacDonald said. “It’s a lost generation who are psychologically and physiologically scarred. If their concerns are not addressed now, many of them will turn to other forms of criminal behaviour and antisocial behaviour as a way of coping.”
Economically, the price of having a chunk of Syria’s young population traumatised, poorly educated and badly injured will be steep in a country that has lost more than a third of its output, said Mohsin Khan, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
“These are the non-quantifiable costs of war,” said Mr Khan. “This will have an effect on the supply of skilled and professional labour for a considerable period of time, perhaps even as much as a decade. So we should not expect Syria to return to its original pre-2010 period for a long time.”
Before any recovery can begin, the conflict needs to end, a prospect that looks bleak with the collapse of peace talks in Geneva this year. The government and the opposition haven’t managed to agree on the agenda, and UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi hasn’t set a date for a new round.
In the meantime, clashes have intensified in the strategic mountainous Qalamoun region as Mr Al Assad’s troops try to sever a major supply route for opposition fighters. The government’s barrel bomb attacks on the northern city of Aleppo and the southern province of Daraa have escalated as has infighting between the fractured rebel groups.
Between January 22, when the talks opened, and February 15, when the second round ended, almost 6,000 people died, making it the bloodiest period of the war, according to Rami Abdurrahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On the main streets of Beirut and the Jordanian capital Amman, Syrian children can be seen on virtually every corner.
Pre-teen boys and girls run after passers-by or knock on car windows asking for money. Others sell boxes of tissues at traffic lights. Infants sit in their mothers’ laps on sidewalks. In rural areas, children have been put to work in agriculture.
“We’ve interviewed children as young as 8, 9 and 10 who are forced to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and work till 6pm,” Mr MacDonald said.
Ghourba Hajji, 33, fled her home in the northeastern Hasaka province three months ago with two daughters, aged 3 and 6. She turned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut for help. Both children have pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease, and she cannot afford to treat them.
“I don’t want them to die,” said Ms Hajji, as she waited for her turn to speak to a UNHCR official.
Mr MacDonald said instances of depression and post-traumatic stress are increasing among the children, manifested through erratic behaviour, broken sleep, bed wetting and aggression.
Fleeing the country and witnessing atrocities are among the causes. The other is the conditions they’re living in now, from becoming main breadwinners, to lack of access to basic services and growing tension at home, which can lead to physical and domestic violence in the family, he said.
Syria’s health ministry is training staff to deal with patients with psychological conditions and is working with the World Health Organisation to set up a strategy for post-conflict Syria, state-run Sana news agency reported this month.
The war was present in the drawings of children aged 7 to 14 at an art exhibition at the government-run cultural centre in Damascus last month. The works displayed featured the Syrian flag with blood dripping from it, children saluting the Syrian Army and a white dove flying.
“It’s a sign of the children’s awareness of what is happening around them,” said Afif Della, the centre’s director.
Ms Makhoul, like many Syrian mothers, stresses over the safety of her son and 7-year-old daughter. The family had a close call in November when a rocket crashed near her son’s school in Bab Touma, injuring five students from another school.
Abdel Nour and his classmates were rushed to the basement and were later given a three-week break. “When the time came for him to return to school, he clung to me, saying, ‘Mom, I’m scared. Bombs may fall.’”
She now limits their outings, and when they nag, she tells them: “There are loud noises outside. It’s too dangerous.
‘‘I don’t like doing that,” added Ms Makhoul. “The lives our children are living are too old for them.”
(Source / 10.03.2014)
A video of an Egyptian woman protester telling the U.S. President to stop interfering in Egypt’s affairs has attracted widespread attention on the internet.
“Listen your Obama. We are Egyptian women… Shut up your mouth Obama,” the woman tells the camera.
“Sisi yes. Sisi yes. Mursi no. Mursi no,” she adds, referring to the country’s army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who is tipped to run to in upcoming Egyptian presidential elections.
Since being published last week, the 15-second video clip has been remixed into a song.
The woman may have been referring to Washington’s soured relations with Cairo since Mursi’s ouster. The Obama administration has since withheld much of the annual $1.5 billion in military aid it had traditionally supplied to Egypt.
Sisi – who has a considerable base of supporters – led the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July last year, after massive protests against his rule.
Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, had served just one year in office as president.
Supporters of Sisi see him as protector of the nation from Islamist rule, while supporters of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood see the army chief as a traitor who deposed the country’s first democratically elected president.
(Source / 10.03.2014)