Your Middle East staff
Last updated: 12 October, 2012

This week’s news brief: 12 October

The news flow this week was marked by increasing tensions between Turkey and Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon warned of an escalation, while Syria rejected UN’s call for unilateral ceasefire and Turkey warned Damascus of a stronger response if shelling continues. In addition, Syria stopped buying electricity from Turkey while a Syrian passenger plane from Moscow was forced to land in Ankara on suspicion of carrying “illegal cargo”.

In the meantime regime shelling rocked rebel bastions across Syria leaving 20 dead while a suicide bomber hit a Syrian military HQ and a strategic town in a north-western province was seized by the rebels. The end of the week marked the death of 87 soldiers in the Syrian army’s highest toll during the war.

US President candidate Mitt Romney held a speech pushing back accusations that he has been vague on foreign policy, detailing his reactions to current events in the MENA region and vowing strong US leadership.

Algeria’s former President Chadli Bendjedid died at the age of 83.

In Bahrain, Human Rights Watch urged King Hamad to reverse the convictions of nine medics for the involvement in anti-regime protests last year. At the same time a Bahraini court denied a request to release Shiite rights activist Nabeel Rajab for his participation in anti-regime protests.

EU’s Ashton appeals to Iran to stay activist’s execution. Experts say that Iran could make an atomic bomb within 10 months. The Islamic republic’s economy continues to cripple – the country’s car output was reported to have plunged 42% in the past six months.

Iraq carried out six death sentences defying international calls for a halt to the use of the capital punishment. Russia unveiled $4.2 billion in arms deals with Iraq making it the Baghdad’s largest weapons supplier after the US.

Tunisia has sacked the governor of Sidi Bouzid after weeks of violence in the country’s central region, and citizens of Tala threaten to defect from the State. The head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party has advised radical Salafists to behave wisely, according to a video posted on the Internet.

Yemen arrested a member of Al-Qaeda allegedly linked to the assassination of an army general. Later in the week unidentified gunmen shot dead a Yemeni security official employed at the US embassy. 

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister pledged to satisfy global energy markets and to “moderate” prices. In other news, South Korea’s Hyundai has won a $3.2 billion deal with the Saudis.

Israel’s Netanyahu and his right wing-religious bloc are set for an easy win in a snap election early next year. Meanwhile, a number of tit-for-tat firing across the Gaza-Israel border occurred when Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed rocket fire into Israel after Israeli air strikes hit the Gaza Strip. Palestinian president Abbas backed EU statements as basis for peace talks.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for jihad to liberate Jerusalem from Israeli rule. On Tuesday thousands marched to mark one year since almost 30 people were killed in a Coptic Christian demonstration. The Brotherhood called for demonstrations demanding the retrial of those responsible for protester deaths during last year’s uprising against Mubarak. In addition, President Morsi sacked the prosecutor general who refused to resign.

The Libyan prime minister stepped down after rejection by National Assembly. Libya claims to have enough evidence to charge Moamer Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam with crimes against humanity. Seif’s lawyer told the ICC he would get a death sentence if tried in Libya.

Hezbollah says it sent an Iranian-built drone over Israel, causing anger in the Israeli camp.

Kuwait’s ruler dissolved the court-reinstated parliament. Opposition groups in the country issued warnings over election law and threatened with Arab Spring-style protests.

Jordan’s King Abdullah set up a constitutional court, named a new Prime Minister and sworn in a new cabinet ahead of early polls.