Your Middle East
Last updated: 19 October, 2012

This week’s news brief: 19 October

The news flow this week was marked by continuing violence in Syria as the death toll rises to over 33 000. UN envoy Brahimi urged a Syrian truce for the upcoming Muslim holiday warning Syria could set the whole region ablaze. The Syrian regime declared it was prepared to explore the truce proposal, announcing that Brahimi will arrive in Damascus on Saturday.

Brahimi visited Turkey as border tensions soar. Syria and Turkey continue a tit-for-tat strategy as Syria banned Turkish flights from its airspace followed by Turkey’s ban on Syrian flights. In addition, Turkey’s Kurdish rebels will retaliate to any Turkish attacks on Kurds in war-torn Syria.

At Tahrir Square in Cairo, pro- and anti-Morsi protesters clashed, leaving more than 100 injured. Egypt struggled to deliver a new constitution and the country’s highest court slammed the constitutional panel. In addition, an Egyptian civil judge decided to probe accusations against the former military rulers. Morsi agreed to letting state prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud stay and thus ended a crisis over his refusal to quit after being dismissed. In other news, an Egyptian teacher cut the hair of girls for not wearing a veil.

The EU has decided to step up sanctions against Iran, an initiative Israel welcomes. Iran blamed economic woes on the sanctions and announced that they will not give in at nuclear talks. However, Russia says Iran nuclear talks in November are “realistic”. In addition, US thinks Iran was behind a cyber attack on Saudi Arabia. Israel told Brazil to boycott Ahmadinejad while Iran mocked Israeli air defences after drone flight. Gas supplies from Iran to Turkey resumed after a blast.

Israel hit three Gaza sites after a rocket strike and asked UN to block a ship headed for Gaza. Israeli MPs poised to vote for snap election and the parliament was dissolved ahead of elections on January 22. Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to adopt a controversial report that proposes that the government legalises unauthorised settler outposts. In addition, Israel set calorie “red line” for Gaza Strip while the US and Israel prepare for a major joint military drill. In addition, Israel eased the Jordan Valley travel ban.

In Algeria a key Al-Qaeda militant was killed in an ambush by Algerian forces.

In Bahrain, King Hamad said at the opening of parliament that the government was open to dialogue with the opposition and urged to criminalise “violence”. At the same time, five Bahraini medics, jailed during last year’s anti-regime protests, went on hunger strike. In addition, Bahrain summoned the Iranian envoy over “interference” in its internal affairs.

In Yemen a drone strike killed 7 Al-Qaeda suspects.

Tunisia set a date for polls in June after striking a deal on a new constitution, in which there will be no blasphemy clause. Furthermore, fatal clashes occurred between the opposition and Islamists.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah held talks with Brahimi on ways to stop Syrian violence. Saudi also jailed 16 Qaeda suspects for up to 25 years.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has told the United States that he intends to resume peace talks with Israel if his bid to win UN non-member recognition for Palestine succeeds. In East Jerusalem Israel has granted final approval of 800 homes.

In Iraq, shootings and bombs killed at least eight. In addition, the country opened a central bank corruption probe.

Libya’s General National Congress elected Ali Zeidan as the new prime minister. Hillary Clinton took blame for her handling of the US consulate attack in Libya while Washington plans to help the country build a commando force. At the same time Libyan Islamist leader Ahmed Abu Khattala denied any role in US consulate killings.

The Kuwaiti police clashed with protestors and a toxic gas leak from oil well sparked an alert in the country.

Jordan set general election date for January 23 and arrested Zarqawi cousins on way back to Syria.