Your Middle East staff
Last updated: 5 October, 2012

This week’s news brief: 5 October

The week was marked by continuing fighting in Syria including a military air strike killing 21 people and fierce clashes in Aleppo, with a large number of Syrian soldiers killed. The Syrian army launched an offensive on Damascus and Aleppo while rebels killed at least 15 troops.

Cross-border fire between Syria and Turkey sent tensions soaring. Turkey protested at the UN and NATO  after Syrian shelling killed five people in a town near the border, which resulted in return fire. The Turkish parliament authorised military action  against Syria, but insisted that it was not a mandate for war. 

In the beginning of the week Iran unblocked access to Gmail. Iran’s currency hit a low and stirred protest, calm was restored at the end of the week but moneychangers and most shops remained closed. Adding to the turmoil, protesters destroyed an Iranian police post protecting the French embassy in Tehran.

In Egypt, doctors went on strike, demanding better pay and working conditions. Demonstrations continued with demands for women’s rights  to be protected in the new constitution. An Egyptian court has ordered the release of two Coptic Christian children who have been accused of insulting Islam. In addition, Amnesty International urged Egypt’s President Morsi to reform the country’s police and army. After three months in office, Morsi has  sought to “reshape” foreign policy, however, his first 100 days have left Egyptians divided over his achievements so far. 

In Bahrain a protester jailed for taking part in anti-government protests  last year died in custody after being taken to hospital for treatment for a hereditary disease. Bahraini authorities released Shiite rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja from prison after serving two months in jail for destroying government property.

An Israeli court charged an Arab Israeli with gathering information for Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Israeli journalists protested over newspaper industry cutbacks.

At least 13 people were killed in a wave of Iraqi attacks. September thus marks the deadliest month in over two years. Baghdad has moved to end Turkey’s military presence in northern Iraq.

Two massive rival demonstrations were planned between supporters of King Abdullah II’s plan for reforms and the opposition Muslim Brotherhood. On Thursday, King Abdullah dissolved parliament and called early elections.

In Kuwait, riot police dispersed stateless demonstrators, who demanded citizenship and other rights, by using tear gas and smoke bombs. In addition, the Kuwaiti cabinet recommended dissolving the 2009 parliament. 

In eastern Lebanon nine people were killed in explosions, among them Hezbollah fighters. A Jerusalem monastery was spray-painted with anti-Christian graffiti in Hebrew.

Tensions were raised in Libya as deadly clashes killed one person near Bani Walid. The National Assembly rejected the government line-up by new Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur after protests stormed its headquarters.

Human Rights Watch accused Gaza’s Hamas of “extensive” rights violations.

In Morocco a Dutch “abortion ship” stirred debate with critics saying it attempted to circumvent Morroccan law by practicing abortions in international waters.

Saudi Arabia will restrain the powers of its religious police under a relatively moderate Sheikh, raising hopes that the force will ease draconian constraints in the Islamic country.

Tunisia saw protests against the government’s failure to improve living conditions in the beginning of the week. A Tunis judge questioned raped woman over “indecency”.

In Dubai, the property market seems to slowly recover from its fall during the global financial crisis.

Yemeni police has arrested two Al-Qaeda militants and Yemeni forces killed three suspected Al-Qaeda militants. In addition, a drone air strike killed 5 Al-Qaeda suspects at the end of the week.