Middle East News – August 1st

Ultra-Orthodox Jews previously exempt from Israel’s military conscription are no longer exempt with the passing of new legistlation

- An interactive guide to track officials who have defected from Assad’s regime in the past few months – Al-Jazeera

- A new Egyptian cabinet has been officially declared, over a month after Mohammad Morsi became Egypt’s president – Al-Bawaba

- Kofi Annan has resigned as the UN’s special envoy to Syria, citing disappointment with the lack of change he has been able to exert from that position – CNN

- Israel’s army has been told to begin preparations to draft ultra-orthodox Jews who were previously exempt from military conscription – Al-Jazeera

- New videos show that Syrian rebels have performed public executions of soldiers still loyal to Assad’s regime – Al-Jazeera

- Hamas is resisting pressure from the UN that Holocaust history be taught in schools run by the UN in Palestinian territory – BBC

- President Obama has signed a secret order allowing the CIA to provide aid to Syrian rebels and those trying to leave the Syrian civil war – Al-Bawaba

- Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all sent their first women in history to the London Olympics, see how they are doing – CNN

Middle East News – July 31st

Mitt Romney has been accused of racist comments against Palestine after his recent visit to Israel

- Four people tried in the biggest bank fraud in Iraq’s history have been sentenced to death in a historic ruling – Al-Jazeera

- Iran has warned Turkey that it will not idly sit by if Turkey intervenes in the Syrian civil war – Al-Bawaba

- Palestinians have accused Romney of being a ‘racist’ after comments where he implied that Palestinian ‘culture’ was to blame for its economic inferiority to Israel – BBC

- A new report has indicated that the United States ‘wasted’ over $200 million on an unwanted and unneeded Iraqi police program – Al-Jazeera

- Even as the government offensive enters its fourth day the Syrian rebels continue to hold substantial areas in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city – CNN

Middle East News – July 29th

The Syrian armies offensive into Aleppo has been met with the most violent fighting in the year long civil war

- An exchange of prisoners in Syria grew contentious and nearly resulted in further violence – CNN

- The Syrian army offensive into Aleppo has been met with unprecedented bloodshed, leaving almost 20,000 dead in the last couple days – Al-Bawaba – The Syrian Foreign Minister also announced that the rebels defending Aleppo would surely be crushed in the coming days – Al-Bawaba

- A Kurdish leader in northern Iraq has declared that any cuts in funding to the Kurdish sections of the country would amount to a ‘declaration of war’ – Al-Jazeera

- Though the firepower of the Syrian rebels has increased exponentially in the past few months it still remains far short of what is necessary to fully combat the Assad regime’s forces – CNN

- Jordan has opened its first official refugee camp for Syrians fleeing that countries’ civil war – The camp will house nearly fifty thousand refugees in the coming months – Al-Bawaba

- An Italian embassy staffer has been kidnapped in Yemen, further proof that security in that country is quickly unraveling – Al-Jazeera

- In a speech yesterday in Jerusalem Mitt Romney declared the United States has a moral duty to block Iran’s building of nuclear power plants – BBC

Middle East News – July 28th

A group of dedicated Star Wars fans have restored the ranch from Episode IV: A New Hope in a remote Tunisian desert

- President Obama has signed into law a bill that will sent $70 million to Israel in the next year to build a state of the art missile defense system – The signing was timed to overshadow Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem – Al-Jazeera

- A group of hardcore Star Wars fans have restored the Tunisian ranch that was used for the Tatooine scenes in the original trilogy – CNN

- Syrian rebel and government forces are preparing for a climactic battle in the city of Aleppo in what could be the decisive battle of the civil war – BBC

- Libyan rebels who fought against Gaddafi’s regime have moved to Syria to help the rebels there in their fight against the Assad regime – CNN

- Saudi Arabian security forces opened fire on Shi’ite protesters in the western part of the country yesterday – Al-Jazeera – In the western Qatif region government forces have arrested a number of protesters who were on a short list of trouble makers the government wished to arrest – CNN

- Dubai’s police chief has warned Gulf states that there may be a vast conspiracy to overthrow the existing governments in that region, though he did not cite his source – Al-Bawaba

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Middle East News – July 24th

Hesham Qandil, the newly appointed prime minister of Egypt tasked with forming a new coalition government

- Assad’s forces have launched a counterattack in the important city of Aleppo, large areas of which were recently seized by rebel forces – BBC

- Egyptian president Morsi has named former irrigation minister Hesham Qandil as the new Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a new government – Al-Jazeera

- Yesterday was the deadliest day of 2012 in Iraq as 103 people were killed around the country in a series of clashes – CNN

- The trial of Iraq’s ex-vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, accused of running death squads under Saddam Hussein, has been delayed after the prosecutions attempts to call the reigning president of Iraq to the stand was denied – Al-Jazeera

- Bulgarian officials have announced that the bomber implicated in last week’s Burgas bombing was part of ‘a group’ – BBC

- Libyan diver Soyan al Gadi is hoping to be the first Libyan olympian to earn a medal in the upcoming 2012 Olympics – Al-Bawaba

- Iraqi officials have announced that Al-Qaeda members are again fomenting civil unrest in Iraq – CNN

- Another Syrian diplomat (this one to Cyprus) has defected from the Assad regime, becoming the third diplomat to defect in the last month – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 23rd

Syria’s recent admission of having chemical weapons stockpiles has prompted stern international consternation.

- Members of the Arab League have offered Syrian president Assad a ‘safe haven’ if he hands over power to a new government in the coming days – Al-Bawaba

- Syria has announced that it will not use its chemical weapons stores against its own civilians, but only against foreign powers should they choose to intervene in the countries’ civil war – BBC – CNN

- Saudi parents have begun asking for sex education classes in schools, another sign that the conservative leanings of the state are slowly beginning to unravel – Al-Bawaba

- In addition to the devastating civilian losses Damascus residents are mourning the loss of the symbolic cactus forests on the outskirts of town that were seen as one of the last vestiges of normalcy in the war torn capital – BBC

- Many Muslims who are otherwise not devoutly religious grow more spiritual and filled with faith as the holy month of Ramadan descends on the Muslim world – Al-Bawaba

- A wave of bombings in Iraq have killed 107 in the past couple days, further signs that the Iraqi regime is not yet stable or wholly in control of the country – BBC

- Hundreds of Egyptian farmers are bringing the reigning agricultural minister to court over lands that were seized from them in the 90’s.  The farmers say they were never compensated for this illegally taken land while the agricultural minister says they were compensated long ago – Al-Jazeera

- A disabled Israeli veteran is in critical condition after lighting himself on fire in an act of self-immolation yesterday in Tel-Aviv.  The soldier was protesting the mal-distribution of wealth in present-day Israel and the lack of reforms as promised by current prime minister Netanyahu – BBC

- In an unprecedented move Egypt has announced the lessening of restrictions on Palestinians hoping to travel from the Gaza Strip into Egypt – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 20th

Rafik Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon assassinated in 2005

- A UN backed court has set a date to begin the trial (March 25th, 2013) concerning the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri – Al-Jazeera

- Assad forces have regained control of a key Damascus suburb after the bloodiest day yet of fighting during the Syrian civil war – Al-Bawaba

- An opinion column from CNN warning the United States to heed its previous experience interfering in Lebanon in the early 1980’s when considering Syrian intervention – CNN

- Soldiers in the Free Syria army have taken control of key border crossings on the Syria-Iraq border, including the crucial Damascus-Baghdad highway – Al-Jazeera

- Israel has released Aziz Dweik, a senior Hamas official and a member of Palestine’s Parliament.  Aziz had been held without charges since early January – Al-Jazeera

- The United States and United Kingdom have issued stern rebukes to Iran after Iran closed the strategic Straits of Hormuz – Al-Bawaba

- The UN has agreed to extend the observation mission in Syria that is supposed to oversee and help along the peace process – Al-Jazeera

- The use of drones and how they will affect the future legality of warfare – Al-Jazeera

This Week in Middle East History – July 15th – 21st

Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan who was deposed in July 1972 after forty years of peacefully ruling Afghanistan

- Siege of Jerusalem – July 15th, 1099 – The Crusaders from Western Europe ended a month-long siege of Jerusalem by storming the city walls and taking control of the entire city.  Once the Crusaders entered the city they proceeded to forget their holy intentions and massacre most of the inhabitants of the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew.  By taking Jerusalem the Crusaders fulfilled their original objective and began a series of European kingdoms in the Levant that would last for almost two centuries.

- Beginning of the Islamic Calendar – July 16th, 622 – The Islamic calendar began its reckoning from the day that Muhammad left Mecca on his way to the city of Yathrib (to be renamed Medina).  This lunar calendar is used by all Muslims around the world and compromises the second most used calendar system to the European Gregorian calendar.

-Abdul Rahman Arif is deposed – July 17th, 1968 – Arif, the third president of Iraq (from 1966 to 1968) was overthrown in a bloodless coup orchestrated by members of the Baath party that would later become infamous as the original party of future dictator Saddam Hussein.

- Mohammed Zahir Shah is deposed – July 17th, 1973 – Zahir Shah was the last king of Afghanistan who ruled for over four decades until he was overthrown by an ex-Prime Minister while in Italy undergoing eye surgery.  Following his fall from power Afghanistan became a republic for the first time in its history.

- Birth of Ismail I – July 17th, 1487 – Ismail I was the first leader of the Safavid dynasty that would come to rule over much of Iran and neighboring countries until its fall in the mid 18th-century.  The Safavids brought about a rebirth in Iranian culture and power while also contesting the Ottoman Empire as the most powerful Muslim empire in the world.

- Battle of Mirbat – July 19th, 1972 – A battle occurring during the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman that pitted the democratic, British supported, Omani government against the communist Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman that was supported the communist government of South Yemen.  Mirbat signified a significant victory on the Omani government’s long road to eventual total victory against the rebels within its territory.

- Siege of Jerusalem – July 70 AD – The Roman forces, led by future emperor Titus, succeeded in capturing the city from the Jewish rebels who had revolted against Roman control three years earlier.  When the Romans entered the city they massacred many of the inhabitants, with estimates ranging up to almost one million killed.  They also destroyed the Temple of Solomon, which dealt a psychological blow to the Jewish people that still resonates to this day.

Middle East News – July 19th

The suicide blast on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria has been blamed on Iran by Israeli media sources. Iran’s government has called these claims ‘ridiculous.’

- Russia and China voted yesterday against a UN resolution to introduce further sanction on Assad’s embattled Syrian regime.  Their veto prompted angry responses from Western nations who are ‘appalled’ by both countries’ apparent lack of concern for the Syrian situation – BBC

- Israel has announced that they will actively try to stop Syrian refugees from entering into Israel through the Golan Heights – Al-Bawaba

- Assad emerged on a state-wide Syrian television broadcast yesterday amid speculation as to his whereabouts following deadly attacks on high up members of his cabinet in the capital of Damascus – CNN – Meanwhile, Assad is staying away from Damascus due to the heavy fighting occurring there – Al-Bawaba

- Naharri Mohammed Ali Naharri, a 13-year old imprisoned for the last fourteen months for her role in Arab Spring protests in Yemen, has been released and spoken out about her jail sentence.  She says she was tortured and blindfolded repeatedly and showed off her many scars to the cameras. – Al-Bawaba

- Jews worldwide mourn the death of Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, age 102, a prominent orthodox rabbi who was one of the most respected voices on Torah law in the world – BBC

- Iran has denied Israeli claims that it was involved in the recent suicide attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, calling these claims ‘ridiculous’ – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 18th

- Tens of thousands of textile labororers in northern Egypt have gone on strike to ask for higher wages.  This will be the first significant test for newly elected Mohamed Morsi, as spreading labor unrest will further handicap Egypt’s ability to pay back its international debts – Al-Jazeera

- Yesterday three top officials in the Assad regime were killed in Damascus, prompting US officials to declare that Assad is slowly ‘losing control’ of the country – BBC – Assad’s brother-in-law was among the dead in Damascus – Al-Bawaba

- An interesting spread about the Olympic athletes who persevered through the turmoil of the Arab Spring and hope to proudly represent their countries in the rapidly approaching London Olympics – CNN

- A bomb attack has killed seven Israeli tourists traveling near the Bulgarian city of Burgas.  The Israeli government has blamed Iran for this attack, the latest in a series of attacks blamed by Israel on Iran – BBC

- Relatives of three Americans killed in drone strikes on Al-Qaeda forces in Yemen have filed suit against the US government.  They allege that the attacks were illegal and unconstitutional – BBC

- Yemen’s president has announced the detainment of a group of terrorists apparently funded by Iran.  Following this arrest he released a strongly worded statement warning Iran to stay out of Yemen and quit interfering – BBC