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

Middle East News – July 9th

Oman’s sultan, Qaboos bin Said, is finally feeling the repercussions of last year’s Arab Spring has protests begin in his usually quiet gulf nation over rising unemployment

– Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged with two breaches of trust but acquitted on two charges of corruption and bribery in a mixed verdict that leaves his political future uncertain – CNN

– A government support report has stated that it wants Israel to create dozens of unsanctioned and illegal outposts on Palestinian land – Al-Jazeera

– The upheaval of the Arab Spring may finally be reaching the typically conservative and reclusive Omani sultanate where hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets in reaction to rising youth employment and broken government promises – BBC

– Egypt’s Morsi has ordered the dissolved parliament to reconvene in reaction to a court’s ruling denying him the right to do so – Al-Jazeera

– The U.S. State department has issued a statement urging Iraq to release a pastor detained for over a thousand days because he left Islam in his youth – CNN

– Dubai has announced the building of a massive and environmentally friendly Green Mosque to be ready sometime in late 2013 – Al-Jazeera

– A leading Bahraini protestor has been given a three month jail sentence for sending out a tweet critical of the reigning prime minister – Al-Jazeera

– The liberal Alliance of National Forces is predicted to win the recent Libyan election, with 75% of the votes having already been counted – Al-Bawaba

This Week in Middle East History

Events –

– Battle of Aqaba – July 6th, 1917 – Arabs rebelling against the Ottoman Empire, led by T.E. Lawrence and Auda Ibn Tayi, fought the first battle of the Arab Revolt.  They were victorious in present-day Jordan, the first of many successes for this motley army led by an Englishmen, but mainly composed of Arab tribesman.

Tel-Aviv Bus 405 attack – July 6th, 1989 – A Palestinian militant attacked a passenger bus traveling between Tel Aviv and Israel as it was driving on the edge of a cliff resulting in fourteen deaths.  This attack is widely regarded as the first use of ‘suicide’ attacks by Palestinians in their revolt against Israeli control.

– Israeli Knesset passes the Law of Return – July 5th, 1950 – The Law of Return was the fulfillment of Israel’s Zionist pledges made before it gained independence in 1948.  The Law stated that all people ‘born Jewish’ have the right to immigrate to Israel and will be helped by the Israeli government to do so.  When they reach Israel they will immediately gain citizenship and receive government stipends if they need them.  Over the years this law has been used to support the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world to Israel.

Ousting of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from office – July 5th, 1977 – Bhutto was the effective ruler of Pakistan from 1971 until his ousting by military coup in 1977. He negotiated two successful treaties with India that returned thousands of Pakistani POW’s and gave Pakistan a small piece of disputed Indian territory.  However his use of the Pakistani army to quell rebellions led to dissension and he was overthrown and then executed in 1979 by his political opponents.

Sharia law instituted in Iran – 1979 – Under the new government of the Ayatollah Iran made Islamic law (Sharia law) the law of the land, effectively creating a theocracy that still stands in Iran.

Battle of Hattin – July 4th, 1187 – Forces of Saladin, the ruler of Egypt, and the Crusader States of present-day Israel and Lebanon fought one of the most historically important medieval battles in the Middle East.  Saladin was decisively victorious which meant an end to the Crusader States in the Levant and therefore the end of European intervention in the area until World War I.

Operation Entebbe – July 4th, 1976 – A daring raid conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces to recover a plane hi-jacked a week earlier by Palestinian militants of the PLO containing 248 passengers.  The IDF soldiers traveled secretly from Israel all the way to Uganda where the plane was given asylum by Idi Amin.  The raid was a complete success and 102 of the 106 remaining hostages were rescued in one of the most spectacular military operations of the twentieth century.

Births –

Gazi Yasargil – A Turkish born scientist who became one of the most innovative neurosurgeons of the twentieth century while pioneering techniques for treating epilepsy and other ailments of the brain.  He invented the field of microneurosurgery through his use of tools that he made himself.

Nursultan Nazarbayev – A native Kazakh who has served as Kazakhstan’s only president since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  His reign has been marked by allegations of extreme corruption and rigged elections. However, he has also been instrumental in removing Soviet era nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan and allowing women to be involved in politics.

Georgios Grivas – The leader of the EOKA guerillas who strove to obtain independence for Cyprus from the British Empire after World War II.  Grivas became one of the most sought after guerilla fighters in the world and published many influential treatises on how to beat numerically superior armies with guerilla tactics during his years of fighting in Greece and Cyprus.

Middle East News – July 5th

Kuwait’s Emir Sabah who recently asked the reigning Prime Minister to form a new government and prepare for elections. Many believe this is a sign that the Sabah family will begin to relinquish power in Kuwait in the coming years.

– President Assad says that Syria’s protestors were unsuccessful in their attempts to generate the mass appeal of protests in countries like Egypt and Tunisa – CNN

– Wikileaks is releasing over two million e-mails from Syrian government officials that it says are ’embarrassing’ to the regime – BBC

– Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah, emir of Kuwait, has asked his Prime Minister to form a new government and prepare for new elections in the coming months – this is a further sign that the Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait for over 250 years, may finally be giving up its power – Al-Bawaba

– International charity Oxfam has issued a stern condemnation of Israel’s continuing settlement building in Palestinian territory.  The charity says that this is severely hampering economic development for Palestinians in the region – BBC

– Iraq’s foreign minister says that Al-Qaeda members are flooding into Syria as that country further descends into internal turmoil and is unable to fully police its borders – Al-Jazeera

– Tunisia has joined the call of Arab states for a renewed investigation into the death of form PLO leader Yasser Arafat amid reports that he may have been poisoned – Al-Jazeera

– A meeting of Syrian opposition groups to decide upon united strategic and political front in the conflict against the Assad regime ended in arguments and scuffles.  This showcases the disorganized nature of the Syrian resistance movements. – Al-Bawaba

– An 11-year old boy arrested in connection to protests in Bahrain has been released from jail today.  However, the government has declared that he must be closely watched as punishment for aiding in the ‘blocking’ of roads during a May anti-government protest – Al-Jazeera

– Archaeologists in Israel have discovered an immaculately preserved fourth century Synagogue with mosaics depicting Samon’s exploits from the Torah – This represents one of the finest mosaics ever discovered from this era – BBC

– More and more women are playing basketball in Saudi Arabia, going against the time honored taboo against females participating in sports – this comes on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would allow women to participate in future Olympic Games – CNN

Middle East News – July 3rd

Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity has been recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in a move condemned by the United States and Israel for political reasons

– The Human Rights Watch has released a monumental publication detailing the intricate state-sponsored torture of the Assad regime in Syria. According to the report there are twenty seven state facilities used to conduct horrifying torture on political dissidents and even senior citizens, women and children.  Though the Assad administration has continually denied such torture accusations, the mounting pile of evidence to the contrary makes these statements hard to believe – CNN

– Four members of the International Criminal Court have been allowed to leave Libya after they were briefly detained by the Libyan government on accusations of spying – BBC

– Assad has publicly apologized for Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet fighter and said that he will not allow the incident to bring the countries to war – Al-Bawaba

– Iran has begun to publicly discuss passing legistlation that would ban Western ships from entering through the Straits of Hormuz, which would be a monumental act for the consistently sanctioned country – Al-Bawaba – Iran has also shrugged off the latest oil embargo imposed against it by the UN, though outside observers say exports and profits are already falling – Al-Bawaba

– UNESCO, which recently added Palestine’s Church of the Nativity to its World Heritage List, has now agreed to give funds for the necessary repairs to Palestine’s hallowed religious site.  This happens over heated objections by Israel and the United States that UNESCO is doing this for political, and not cultural, reasons – Al-Jazeera

– Richard Falk, a key watchdog for Palestinian human rights for the United Nations, released a scathing indictment of the international community’s latest efforts in the region.  He says that the recent peace process is nothing more than a trick to allow Israel to continue building settlements in Palestine – Al-Bawaba

– In post-Gaddafi Libya there is already open warfare occurring between the splintered tribal groups that were once held together by Gaddafi’s strong armed rule.  This violence could succeed in destabilizing Libya’s new transitional regime and hampering further development – BBC

– Britain has sent a team of advisors to help the Bahraini government to investigate a 100 kg find of explosives.  This find could signal that the dissidents in Bahrain are ‘stepping up’ their resistance to the government with  more sophisticated weapons – BBC

Middle East News – May 31st

– An Iranian man who escaped Iran after being imprisoned has begun a journey to run across the entire Middle East (finishing at Mt. Everest) in order to raise awareness for peace and solidarity in the region – CNN

– Yemen, which relies primarily on tourism and oil for its economy, has witnessed a sharp decline in tourism in recent months as violence between Yemen’s government and Al-Qaeda militants heightens – Al- Jazeera

– Israel has returned the bodies of ninety Palestinians who have been killed in conflicts with Israel since 1967 after holding them against Palestinian will for decades – Al-Jazeera

– Hillary Clinton directly blamed Russia for propping up Asad’s Syrian regime and said that Russia could be one of the primary causes of an impending civil war in Syria – BBC

– An Israeli citizen has been jailed for attempting to become a Palestinian citizen, highlighting the extensive tensions that still exist between these two ‘countries’ – al-bawaba

– The rebels in Syria have said that they give Assad until noon on Friday to okay the peace plan put forward by the UN’s Kofi Annan – if he does not accept the plan the rebels will also not stick by the plan’s stipulations, probably leading to further escalations of violence – al-bawaba

– Iranian officials have admitted that they have been supplying Assad’s regime with weapons and supplies through the ue of civilian airplanes, propping up his floundering regime – al-bawaba

Recent Middle East News – May 7th, 2012

Three recent big stories going on now in the Middle East (courtesy of CNN)

– The hunger strike of around two thousand Palestinian prisoners continues in Israel – they are protesting Israel’s detention of them without any formal evidence or charges – Read more

– The parliamentary elections for Syria began this week – The military is offering heavy security while the opposition groups are calling for people to boycott the elections – Read more

– Amid the conflict in Syria the recent escalation of violence in Yemen has been largely forgotten – the USA-backed campaign against Al-Qaeda rebels in the northern part of the country has amped up in recent weeks – Read more