Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 25 July 2011


News Summary

NORTH AFRICA

Tripoli (Libya). Germany said it was making available to the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) up to 100 million euros ($144 million) in loans for civilian and humanitarian purposes. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini met here on 22 July with Libya rebels’ Transitional National Council (TNC) deputy prime minister Ali al-Isawi on the Libyan crisis developments and aid package that Italy was ready to offer. Frattini informed that the Italian government was ready to allocate a 350-million-Euro (about $ 494 million) fund in financial aid and oil provisions to help assist the TNC and Benghazi’s population.

Tripoli and its environs were shaken by new NATO airstrikes in the early hours of 24 July, Xinhua informed. Libyan state-run TV said “imperialist crusaders” have attacked the southeastern suburbs of the capital. Blasts were also heard near the residential compound of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

MIDDLE EAST

Aden/Sanaa (Yemen). A booby-trapped car drove into an army checkpoint outside of Yemen’s southern port city of Aden and exploded in an apparent suicide attack that killed at least six people and injured 15 on 24 July, police and medical sources said. The army has strengthened security around the coastal city to try to stop Islamist militants from slipping into the area after they seized several areas in the neighbouring province of Abyan during months of protests to try to oust the president. Aden lies east of a shipping strait, where some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

Yemeni opposition coalition expressed rejection to the efforts for conciliation by the visiting UN envoy to start dialogue with the ruling party, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power to his deputy at first, an opposition official said, cited by Xinhua Agency.

Sanaa (Yemen). Yemen and India are preparing to sign several security cooperation agreements on combating terrorism and piracy, Xinhua informed. The agreements are in areas of exchanging security expertise in combating terrorism and piracy.

Yemen was rattled by six-month-long protests across the country calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which triggered security and economic crises.

Baghdad (Iraq). Iraqi security forces have smashed an Al-Qaeda network in Iraq allegedly responsible for hundreds of killings in Baghdad, a senior police official told AFP on 24 July. The Interior Ministry forces dismantled an Al-Qaeda-controlled network that was responsible for more than 100 murders of policemen, soldiers, judges, officials and jewellers in Baghdad. The cell was also responsible for the 26 May assassination of Ali al-Lami, head of the controversial Justice and Accountability Commission which investigates issues relating to the former regime of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad (Iraq). Two policemen and a civilian were killed and nine people wounded in separate attacks in central and eastern Iraq on 24 July, the police said. A policeman was killed and two others wounded in a roadside bomb explosion near their patrol in southern the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, which located some 110 km west of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Insurgent attacks against Iraqi security forces still common in the once volatile Sunni Arab area in west of Baghdad that stretches through Anbar province to Iraq’s western borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Cairo (Egypt). The number of people injured in clashes during 22 July’s protests in Cairo rose to 296, official MENA news agency said on Sunday. Assistant Health Minister Abdel Hamid Abaza said 196 were treated at the scene and 100 others were rushed to hospitals. Eighteen were still in hospital while 82 had been discharged, he said. Most injuries ranged from wounds in the head, bruises or bone fracture.

The clashes occurred when protestors attempted to march toward the headquarters of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in the Abbasiya district but were stopped by supporters of the army and military police, Xinhua informed. The protestors hurled stones at the popular squad members and military police, causing casualties. The military said they avoided using violence and exercised self-restraint in dealing with the protestors.

The vote for a new Egyptian parliament is expected to start in the second half of November, the Egyptian Gazette newspaper wrote. The exact dates will be announced by the end of September.

Damascus (Syria). A large number of gunmen were arrested in central Syria and big quantities of weapons were seized, local al-Watan newspaper reported on 24 July. The paper said the army removed all roadblocks erected by gunmen in the central city of Homs amid expectations that the army ‘s mission will continue until the arrest of all gunmen who were behind the killings of a big number of Homs residents, security and law-enforcement troops.

The cities of Hama and Homs have become the focal points of protests after bloody incidents were reported in the two cities. The Syrian authorities blamed the four-month-old unrest on ” armed groups and foreign conspiracy” and stressed that it would track down gunmen who have intimidated the people and damaged public and private properties.According to the Syrian government, cited by Xinhya, 1,200 members of the security forces and army personnel had died since the eruption of protests. According to activists, more than 1,600 civilians have died and some 10,000 have been detained.

On 24 July, the Syrian cabinet endorsed the political multi-party bill as part of the government’s reform program and in a bid to “enrich the political life, activate it, share responsibilities and alternate the possession of power,” Syrian Arab News Agency said. Syrian President Bashar Assad has recently introduced a package of new measures that aim at easing up restraints on politics and economy, lifting the most controversial state of emergency that has been in place in the county for around 50 years, giving unprecedented freedom in different spheres, and granting general amnesty.

The bill stipulates that the establishment of any party should not be based on religious, tribal, regional, denominational, or profession-related basis or on the basis of discrimination due to ethnicity, gender or race. It added that a party’s formation must be done on democratic basis.

Istanbul (Turkey). At a joint conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla last year and said relations will not return to normal until an apology is received. In 2010 Israeli commandoes raided a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara and killed nine activists.

Abbas said the Palestinians’ bid to win UN backing for statehood was forced upon them by Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building and end its occupation. Abbas also spoke on the political developments on the Palestinian arena, especially Palestinian options to go to the United Nations in September to obtain recognition of statehood.

The principal aim of the two-day conference is to rally international support for a UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian independent state at an upcoming UN meeting in September.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and foreign activists demonstrated on 22 July against the Israeli confiscation of land in the West Bank village of al-Massara, near Bethlehem.

Manama (Bahrain). Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) head Cherif Bassiouni said 33 people were killed and over 400 others injured during the wave of anti- government protests in February and March.

Panjshir Valley (Afghanistan). NATO troops on Sunday handed control of the Panjshir valley, a fiercely anti-Taliban province, to Afghan forces in the latest of a series of security transitions, AFP reports. Panjshir, around 130 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of the capital Kabul, is one of Afghanistan’s most peaceful regions and is the sixth of seven areas to be put under local forces’ control over the past week. Panjshiris, mainly ethnic Tajiks, pride themselves on having kept out the Taliban and repelled the Soviet Union after its 1979 invasion, and the beautiful valley is now a favoured picnicking spot for visitors from Kabul.

Tehran (Iran). Four members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) were killed in an exchange of fire with the Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Iranian Press TV reported. During the clash which took place on the night of 22 July in the Zamziran pass outside northwestern Sardasht city, two Revolutionary Guard soldiers were also killed and another was injured. On the previous day, a vehicle carrying a number of IRGC personnel struck an explosive landmine in northwestern Iran and its six soldiers including a colonel were killed, semi-official Mehr news agency reported. According to Press TV, Iran has recently deployed 5,000 military forces in the northwest of the country along its common border with the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Tehran (Iran). Iran, Syria and Iraq will sign a major gas deal here on 25 July to transfer Iran’s South Pars natural gas to Europe, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported. Iran’s caretaker oil minister Mohammad Aliabadi as well as oil ministers of Iraq and Syria will join the ceremony and choose a name for the pipeline to transfer Iran’s gas to Europe, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Oji was quoted as saying by ISNA. Iran’s gas output would be doubled within next two or three years, which would make possible the export of 250 million cubic meters of gas per day.

Earlier this month, Iran and Iraq discussed cooperation on Iran ‘s gas transfer from Iraq and Syria to Europe. The construction of the 5,600 km pipeline is estimated to cost $ 5-6 billion.

Tehran (Iran). Iranian officials accused the United States and Israel of being involved in the assassination of an Iranian academic who was shot dead on 22 July. Local media reported that “Dariush Rezaei,” PhD of nuclear Physics and a university professor, was killed by motorcyclists in front of his home in eastern Tehran. Later reports, however, corrected their earlier news saying that “Dariush Rezaeinejad,” 35, worked for the Iranian Defense Ministry.

According to the reports, the assassinated scientist was an expert linked to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and a nuclear physics professor at Mohaqeq Ardebili University in Iran’s northwestern Ardebil city.

Iran’s Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani called the assassination of an Iranian scholar as a “U.S.-Zionist terrorist act.” The Iranian speaker also called on Iran’s security forces to respond to terrorists with “stronger will,” said Xinhua. 200 Iranian lawmakers issued a statement condemning the assassination of the Iranian scientist and terror attempts in the country, the state IRIB TV reported.

(Middle East & Balkans News, 25 July 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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One Response to Middle East & Balkans News Brief – 25 July 2011

  1. I see there’s been a helicopter crash which maybe conveniently has killed the navy seals team who reputedly took out Bin Laden. If I was a conspiracy theorist I’d be thinking, well, that’s the witnesses removed then. This is just too big a coincidence for me.

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