Middle East News Thread

This is a new regular feature compiling articles about the region from multiple sources. Post your news links and comments about the Middle East on this thread and we’ll start a new one every time the last one gets too full. Regards, The Agonist Team.

Israel’s shame: Children, the true victims

In Gaza, one-in-three of those killed or injured is under 18

The rockets slammed in, two in succession, just after 11.30 at night. When Huda Tawfil had shaken herself awake through the confusion and terror, her first thoughts were for her baby. Seeing what she did through the smoke and flames, she burst into tears.

Netanyahu leads Israel into isolation

The Iron Dome kept missiles at bay, but another ‘dome’ shields people from reality

Israelis are congratulating themselves on the success of their Iron Dome missile shield. But across Israel these past years has fallen a different kind of iron dome, one that isolates the country rather than protects it, which shields its people from the realities of the Middle East, from Gaza and the West Bank and Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world.

Baghdad and Kurds fail to defuse standoff

Both Baghdad and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region claim jurisdiction over oil rich territories

Iraq’s Kurdish region has sent reinforcements to a disputed area where its troops are involved in a standoff with the Iraqi army, a senior Kurdish military official said, despite calls on both sides for dialogue to calm the situation.

*Israel eases restrictions on Gaza fishing

*Hamas leaders in Egypt for  cease-fire talks involving Israel

*Egypt crisis hits stock exchange

*Clashes reignite between protesters, security forces in Cairo

*Syrian rebels report capture of air base near Damascus

*Spike in Syrian refugee numbers

*Nasrallah capitalizes on Gaza to promote Iran among Arabs

*Hezbollah says could hit all of Israel in future war

*Israel accuses Palestinian of spying for Hezbollah

*Iran’s influence comes to light in Gaza missile bunkers

(Image: Independent UK)



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  • Israeli Army’s Social Media Director Poses as Obama in Blackface

    The head of the IDF’s social media unit, lieutenant Sacha Dratwa, enjoys more than Twitter and Facebook. Apparently, he’s also into some good ‘ol fashioned Jim Crow styled blackface as well.


    Dratwa’s behavior may come as a shock to some, but it shouldn’t. There have been indications in the past that a number of Israelis harbor racist views toward black and brown people.

    In June of this year, Israel began a massive deportation of African migrants who said they were treated “like animals” during the process.

    More at the link

  • The suffering of Sderot: how its true inhabitants were wiped from Israel’s maps and memories

    The people of Huj – now almost forgotten – had helped the Jewish Haganah army escape the British. The thanks they got was to be sent into Gaza as refugees

    Guardian, By Robert Fisk, November 25

    I think I found the village of Huj this weekend – but the road sign said “Sederot”. The world knows it as Sderot, the Israeli city where the Hamas rockets fall. Even Barack Obama has been there. But Huj has a lot to do with this little story.

    By my map calculations, it lies, long destroyed, across the fields from a scruffy recreation centre near the entrance to Sderot, a series of shabby villas on a little ring road where Israeli children were playing on the Shabat afternoon.

    The inhabitants of Huj were all Palestinian Arab Muslims and, irony of ironies, they got on well with the Jews of Palestine. We have to thank the Israeli historian Benny Morris for uncovering their story, which is as grim as it is filled with sorrow.

    Huj’s day of destiny came on 31 May 1948, when the Israeli Negev Brigade’s 7th Battalion, facing an advancing Egyptian army, arrived in the village. In Morris’s words, “the brigade expelled the villagers of Huj … to the Gaza Strip”.

    Some thanks

    Morris elaborates: “Huj had traditionally been friendly; in 1946, its inhabitants had hidden Haganah men from a British dragnet. In mid-December 1947, while on a visit to Gaza, the mukhtar (mayor) and his brother were shot dead by a mob that accused them of ‘collaboration’. But at the end of May, given the proximity of the advancing Egyptian column, the Negev Brigade decided to expel the inhabitants – and then looted and blew up their houses.”

    So the people of Huj had helped the Jewish Haganah army escape the British – and the thanks they got was to be sent into Gaza as refugees.

    More at the link

  • Egypt crisis: Mohammed Mursi to meet top judges

    BBC, By Jon Leyne, November 26

    Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi is set to meet senior judges to try to ease a mounting crisis over the extent of his powers.

    A decree giving him sweeping new powers was announced on Thursday, sparking violent nationwide protests and leading to a 9% drop in Egypt’s stock market.

    Mr Mursi said on Sunday the decree was temporary and not intended to concentrate power in his hands.

    Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said he believed a resolution would be found.

    The president said earlier he was committed to finding “common ground” with other parties.

    He also hoped to reach consensus on a new constitution currently being drafted, he added, and the decree was intended to prevent democratically elected bodies from being undermined.

    More at the link

  • Syria cluster bomb attack ‘kills 10 children’.

    BBC, November 26

    Activists in Syria say a government jet has dropped a cluster bomb on a playground, leaving 10 children dead in the village of Deir al-Asafir, east of Damascus.

    Video posted on the internet showed children’s bodies on the ground with their mothers grieving over them, while further footage appeared to show cluster bomblets on the ground.

    Video at the link

  • Israel’s Defense Minister Barak resigns from politics

    NBC News, November 26

    JERUSALEM – Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a main architect of Israel’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program, said in a surprise announcement on Monday that he was quitting politics and would not run in the Jan. 22 national election.

    “I have decided to retire from political life and not to run for the next Knesset … I will end my term as defense minister once the next government is established, in about three months,” he told a news conference.

    “I want to dedicate more time to my family. I feel I have exhausted dealing with political life, which has never been a passion of mine, and I feel there is room to allow other people to serve in senior roles in Israel,” he said.

    More at the link

  • Analysis: Israeli defense chief Barak quits politics — but for how long?

    NBC News, November, 26

    TEL AVIV, Israel – Internet forums in Israel sprang to life when Ehud Barak made his surprise announcement that he would retire from politics in eight weeks. The overwhelming sentiment on Ynet and other newspaper forums — good riddance.

    But the key question is, does he mean it? Consider his background.

    Israel’s most decorated soldier, universally recognized as a brilliant special forces officer, in the army for 36 years. When he went into politics he became foreign minister within two years, then prime minister and now defense minister.

    And he’s 70 — not at all old in Israeli politics.

    Now think of the reasons he gave in his press conference to end his spectacular career in Israel’s military and political power centers: to spend more time with his family. “I want to study, write, live and have a good time,” he said.

    More at the link

  • Morsy edict divides Egypt but unifies opponents, critics and observers say

    CNN, By Melissa Gray, November 26

    (CNN) — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy’s decree last week giving him a host of new powers has divided society, but it has also unified opposition groups that fear any moves toward Islamic rule, critics and observers said Sunday.

    Morsy assures his people that his moves are only temporary and intended to clear the political obstacles posed by remnants of the old regime. An order banning courts from overturning any decisions he has made or will make in the next six months, Morsy says, will last only until a new constitution is put together.


    Peter Jones, a Middle East expert at the University of Ottawa, says it’s true that many Egyptians are frustrated with the lack of progress, but opponents feel Morsy’s actions are not the answer.

    “It’s not that the changes that Morsy is making are necessarily unpopular,” Jones told CNN. “It’s the way he’s doing it that has gotten people upset, because it reminds them of the way Mubarak used to govern.”

    One popular slogan during protests last week, The Independent newspaper said, was “Morsy is Mubarak.”

    “I don’t want another dictator,” Cairo resident and CNN iReporter Ahmed Raafat said after demonstrating in Tahrir Square. “I protested against Mubarak and the military council because they were dictators, so I will continue protesting against Morsy if it keeps him from following their footsteps.”

    Hamzawy and others say Morsy has created a deeply polarized society and forestalled a national dialogue on the next political steps.

    More at the link

  • Activists: Syrian rebels seize major dam in north

    Yahoo (via AP), By Bassem MRoue, November 26

    BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels on Monday captured a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates River in the country’s north after days of heavy fighting, seizing crates of ammunition from the government troops who were protecting the strategic facility in the latest battlefield success for opposition fighters, activists said.

    Also Monday, activists said rebels and pro-government Kurdish gunmen struck a truce to end days of fighting in the northern town of Ras al-Ayn near the border with Turkey that opposition forces entered earlier this month.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel fighters overran regime defenses and captured the Tishrin Dam, near the town of Manbij, before dawn on Monday. Observatory direction Rami Abdul-Rahman said the dam supplies several areas of Syria with electricity.

    “This is a major blow to the regime,” said Abdul-Rahman by telephone describing the dam as “strategic location” on the Euphrates, which flows from Turkey in the north through Syria and into Iraq.

    More at the link

  • Israel says successfully tested new missile defense system

    People’s Daily Online, November 26

    JERUSALEM, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — Israel has successfully tested a new missilbe defense system, which can intercept targets with a longer range than those downed by Iron Dome in the recent Israel- Gaza conflict, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.

    A Stunner missile launched by the David’s Sling system ” intercepts (the) target in (its) inaugural flight,” the ministry said in a statement.

    By conducting the successful interception test, “the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency completed the first phase of the development of the David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS),” it added.

    “This test included for the first time a successful interception by the Stunner Missile of the DSWS. The test was conducted by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems at a test range in the southern part of Israel,” the statement said.

    More at the link

  • Egyptian Revolutionaries Take on Radical Islam

    Spiegel, By Daniel Steinvorth and Volkhard Windfuhr, November 26

    Abd al-Galil al-Sharnubi says he can only laugh at the thought that there are people in the West who still see the Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate Islamists.” Sharnubi is a journalist and a Muslim — and he was a member of the Brotherhood for 23 years. He’s been familiar with the movement since he was 14, and he says that the Brotherhood could be the kiss of death for democracy in Egypt.

    Last year, Sharnubi, 38, left the Islamist organization. Since then, he says that his life has become a nightmare. “They tried to turn my family against me,” says Sharnubi. He’s sitting in a Cairo coffeehouse, keeping a careful eye on the front door: “They went to my home town and spread rumors about me, saying that I’ve become an atheist and that I drink alcohol. They told my wife that I frequent prostitutes.”

    As the former editor in chief of Ikhwan Online, the brotherhood’s website, Sharnubi went public shortly after his resignation. In talk shows he warned his fellow Egyptians that the movement was undemocratic and authoritarian, and that leading Muslim Brothers were no less corrupt than politicians from the old regime.

    Many accused Sharnubi of spreading panic, saying that the Islamists should be given a chance. But the former member of the Brotherhood says that last week’s events show that he’s been right all along. The president’s “coup,” says Sharnubi, provides just an inkling of the Brotherhood’s obsession with power.

    More at the link

    • U.N. poised to offer Palestinians ‘non-member observer’ status

      Washington Post, By Colum Lynch & Anne Gearan, November 27

      New York — The U.N. General Assembly is poised to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state” on Thursday, a move that will strengthen the Palestinians’ legal basis for pursuing possible war-crimes prosecutions against Israeli troops and set up a showdown with the United States and Israel.

      Supporters hope the vote will provide a desperately needed political boost to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party has been eclipsed in recent weeks by rival Hamas, the militant movement whose fortunes have risen with those of its Islamist allies in Egypt and elsewhere.

      The Palestinians are expected to win the Thursday vote by an overwhelming margin, according to U.N. diplomats. To date, 132 countries have recognized the state of Palestine.

      Luckily, Haaretz reports: Israel won’t punish Palestinians for UN statehood bid

  • Arafat’s body exhumed in murder investigation.

    The body of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was exhumed on Tuesday, eight years after his death, as part of an investigation into allegations he was poisoned, official Palestinian radio said.

    Arafat died in November 2004 in a French military hospital, a month after suddenly falling ill. Palestinian officials claim he was poisoned by Israel, but have not presented evidence. Israel has denied such allegations.

    French magistrates opened a murder inquiry in August into Arafat’s death in Paris after a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of radioactive polonium on his clothing.

    A team of international experts from Switzerland, France and Russia was due to take samples from Arafat’s body to see if they could detect any trace of poison.

    The corpse will be reburied later in the day with full military honours.

  • Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

    Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU ‘complicity’ through weapons sales

    The Guardian, By Chris McGreal, November 28

    Jerusalem – A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

    The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their “complicity” through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

    The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

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