Weekend News in Brief. For February 9-10, 2013

What Others Are Saying

Second assault attempt on Ahmadinejad in Cairo

An Egyptian citizen attempted to assault Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday evening. The assault occurred at the residence the residence of Mojtaba Amani, the acting Iranian ambassador in Cairo, during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The attacker attempted to physically assault Ahmadinejad as he chanted, “Down with Iran, he must leave,” Al-Masry Al-Youm reported… This is the second attempted attack on the Iranian president during his stay in Cairo to participate in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit, which concluded its activities on Thursday afternoon. Earlier this week, a young Syrian man tried to assault Ahmadeinjad as he was coming out of the Hussein Mosque and threw his shoe at him.The Egypt Independent

Turkey’s Erdoğan slams European countries over terrorism

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country will show no more patience over “Europe’s tolerance” towards terror groups that target security forces and civilians in Turkey. Speaking at his party’s Provincial Advisory Council meeting in İstanbul on Saturday, Erdoğan accused EU countries of being “gentle” in the fight against terrorism. “The latest incident in Paris and the attack on the US Embassy, which left a Turkish national dead and another one injured, have led us to question the relationhip between Europe and terror,” Erdoğan said, referring to the killing of three Kurdish women, including a co-founder of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in Paris on Jan. 9 and a recent suicide bomb attack on the US Embassy in Ankara staged by an ex-convict living in Germany who entered Turkey illegally via Greece. Erdoğan also blamed Europe for failing to show solidarity with Turkey in fighting terrorism, which he said, had cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in the past three decades. “Some European countries have been protecting murderers sought on international arrest warrants. Leaders of terrorists groups freely walk in Europe and they freely control their terror networks from abroad. In the middle of Berlin, the separatists can erect a tent to collect financial aid for the terrorist organization in millions of euros,” Erdoğan stated. – Sunday’s Zalman, Turkey

Gaza farmers call for boycott of Israeli firms

Hundreds of farmers marched towards Gaza’s border with Israel on Saturday to demand a boycott of Israeli agricultural firms, a local union said. The Union for Agricultural Work Committees in Gaza said in a statement that protestors also gathered in dozens of European cities to protest against Israeli company Mehadrin, which operates in illegal settlements and exports citrus fruits, dates and other produce. “The boycotts of Israeli agriculture companies are so important as the Israeli occupation has destroyed our farming production and denied us the possibility of exporting our own products,” farmer Mustapha Arafat said. “International pressure on Israel is the only way our own economy will be allowed to develop and for us to live normal lives,” he added. Protests took place in cities across France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the Gaza union said. Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian Territories

India not keen on Israel’s Iron Dome missile system

An Israeli missile shield, which created some buzz in the defence ministry last year following its success in Gaza Strip, may not finally come to India, as the armed forces are not satisfied with its utility because of its short range. Known as Iron Dome, it is an air defence system — meant to neutralise rockets and artillery cells fired from a distance of up to 70 km — which emerged as one of the world’s most successful missile shields. As the ministry was scouring the market for an effective missile cover for Delhi and Mumbai, Iron Dome caught its attention. Preliminary discussions were held with Israeli officials, too. But now, questions are being raised by the armed forces over its efficiency. “Our challenges are bigger. We have to cover a bigger distance. – Deccan Herald, India

Jordan. Border calm prevails as Syrian refugee flow continues. Officials say they expect the cost of hosting the rapidly growing refugee community to reach $1 billion in 2013

Some 2,000 Syrians crossed into Jordan on Thursday amid an ongoing lull in violence along the border, according to the UN. The influx raises the total number of new arrivals over the past week to 9,000. Some 80 injured Syrians were among Thursday’s arrivals, most of whom were transferred to public hospitals in the border cities of Ramtha and Mafraq, security sources said… According to Jordanian security sources, brief fire fights erupted between regime and rebel forces late Wednesday near the Syrian border towns of Tal Shihab and Nasib, with no major causalities reported… Rebel forces suspended their 36-hour assault early Tuesday after failing to capture the border crossings, Syria’s main conduits to Jordan, but vowed to resume their offensive as early as next week. Meanwhile, violence continued to intensify across Syria on Thursday, with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting over 100 deaths near the cities of Daraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib and Damascus. As of late Thursday, some 10,000 Syrians had amassed along the border waiting to cross into the Kingdom. Jordan has opened its borders to over 350,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011.The Jordan Times

Patriarch Lahham sounds alarm over Syria’s Christians

Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius Lahham III voiced alarm Friday about the situation of churches and Christians in Syria and appealed for urgently needed aid. “The news that you follow in the media does not truly reflect the tragic situation that citizens are having to live, particularly at the Homs and Latakia dioceses as well as in Aleppo, Hawran and Damascus,” Lahham said in a letter ahead of the start of Lent. “Many of our sons have been kidnapped and large sums of money have been paid to secure their release. About 100 of our children were killed and martyred along with some 1,000 Christians of all the sects,” he said. “Around 20 churches were destroyed, damaged or evacuated in the area mentioned, and prayers are no longer held there as the faithful and priests have deserted their parishes,” said the prelate, who is based in the Metn town of Rabieh. Earlier this week, the bishop of Aleppo voiced similar concerns, saying that Christians in Syria were being terrorized by kidnappings for ransom.  Concerns over the fate of Christians in Syria have grown amid reports about the rising influence of Islamists among the ranks of anti-regime fighters. - The Daily Star Lebanon

Cyprus upgrade for Palestinians

Cyprus said yesterday it has upgraded its relations with the Palestinians to full diplomatic mission status, one of just eight European Union countries to do so. The decision was announced by Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis during an official visit by her Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki. “I informed my Palestinian counterpart of the decision of the government to upgrade the status of the Palestinian diplomatic representation in Cyprus from that of a diplomatic mission to that of an embassy of the State of Palestine,” Marcoullis told reporters… A Cyprus Representation Office opened in Ramallah in the West Bank in 2009. Malki said the decision sent a “very important message,” adding: “We hope this courageous step taken by Cyprus will be taken by others in the European Union.” -  Gulf Times, Qatar

Palestinians round up alleged Hamas members

Palestinian security forces arrested more than 25 members of the Hamas movement over the past 48 hours, a security official said Thursday on condition of anonymity.  He said that some of those arrested around the West Bank city of Ramallah were in possession of explosives. A Hamas source, however, said that those arrested “were in possession of funds for distribution to prisoners but we are unaware of any possession of explosives or weapons.” The Israeli army said on Monday that it had it arrested 25 Hamas members in overnight raids across the West Bank. Hamas said that three of them were members of the Palestinian parliament. - Khaleej Times, UAE

Mixed reaction from Malmö’s Jewish community following Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s decision to step down

Reepalu, 69, will bring his 19-year tenure to an end on July 1st. He addressed the anti-Semitism accusations, which have marred his latter years in charge, in a farewell editorial in newspaper Sydsvenskan, saying that his words had been misinterpreted. Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who has been on the receiving end of several anti-Semitic attacks, told The Local that he wouldn’t miss Reepalu. “This issue was not about somebody stepping down but about taking responsibility. I truly hope that whoever takes his place is more responsible,” Kesselman said. Kesselman, who dresses in traditional Jewish attire, has been physically attacked on the street and had the word Palestina carved into his car since moving to Malmö in 2004. “Reeplau crossed the line on occasion with his comments and I just hope that his successor sees the reality of the situation,” the US native added. “Many Jewish people living in Malmö have lost their sense of security because of his comments. The problem goes much deeper.” – The Local, Sweden

Recovery of looted funds in “Arab Spring” countries

The curtain has been brought down on foreign investments of former regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.  It has been over two years since the eruption of the so-called “Arab Spring” although this spring has not blossomed yet. And it seems that it will never bloom as things are going from bad to worst. This is clearly manifested in the drastic deterioration in economic conditions and people’s living standards, which have reached rock bottom.  On the political front, the growing differences and clashes between the society’s components in Arab Spring countries make the picture even look more dark and gloomy. In the midst of this chaos and deteriorating economic conditions, there is an important need for stability, otherwise losses will be doubled. The curtain has been brought down on foreign investments of former regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, which are estimated at more than $250 billion (Dh917.5 billion), according to preliminary data. This despite the fact that it would not be possible to determine the actual volume of these investments and deposits, noting that estimates have varied about the volume and the geographic range of the Yemeni and Syrian funds. - Gulf News, Qatar

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