A selection of current news reports from the Middle East for December 17, 2010.
Twenty-one students detained in fresh demonstration in Turkey
The Daily Star (Lebanon): Turkish police Wednesday detained 21 students shouting slogans against the prime minister, in the latest clampdown on anti-government protests in universities, Anatolia news agency reported. Riot police sprayed the students with tear gas and blocked roads inside the Middle East Technical University campus in Ankara to stop protesters from marching to a building where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chaired a meeting of a scientific agency, the agency said. Some students hurled stones and eggs at the security forces. “We cannot condone the [police] violence … We see the prime minister’s decision to hold his meeting here as a provocation,” said Ali Gokmen, the head of a lecturers’ association at the university, according to Anatolia. Heavy-handed police response to recent protests in Istanbul and Ankara have fueled charges that the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) is growing authoritarian and seeking to silence opposition.
Is this not racism?
Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt): “I felt that God brought back my son from the dead,” said Fatema, mother of Gamal Nassar who attends college in the city of Safad in northern Israel. She hugs him tight after checking to make sure he was not hurt by the firebombs that targeted his car as he left his rented apartment in Safad on Friday. It was not a surprise attack, since it’s part of spiralling violence by Jewish youth against Arab students who come to attend college from villages surrounding the city. The town’s rabbi, Samuel Eliyahu, recently issued an edict banning Jewish settlers from renting homes to Arab students. Salam Aghbaria, 20, was praying in the flat he rented in the town when the walls shook violently after Jewish youth threw a number of firebombs into the apartment. Aghbaria miraculously survived. Many of Nassar and Aghbaria’s Arab classmates quickly left their rentals and returned to their families. Now they commute the long distance daily to attend college because it is too dangerous for them to rent flats in town.
South Lebanon residents renew clashes with UNIFIL
Ya Libnan (Lebanon): Residents in the south Lebanese village of Tayri, a Hezbollah stronghold clashed Thursday with a French UNIFIL patrol, according to local reports. The incident took place as the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) patrol was conducting a GPS demarcation, the reports say The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) intervened following an alert by UNIFIL general command at the scene of the incident and resolved the situation by taking the patrol’s computer at the request of the villagers. Another clash with took place earlier today with a French UNIFIL patrol in the village of Hariss in the south Lebanon, another Hezbollah stronghold according to local reports. The incident took place when the patrol began to take photographs of the area, according to local reports. Last July similar incidents took place in south Lebanon between the residents and UNIFIL.
Qaeda plots “Xmas package.”
Kuwait Times: Iraqi authorities have obtained confessions from captured insurgents who claim Al-Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during the Christmas season, two senior officials said yesterday. Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bolani said that the botched bombing in central Stockholm last weekend was among the alleged plots the insurgents revealed. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in a telephone interview from New York, called the claims “a critical threat.” Both Al-Bolani and Zebari said Iraq has informed Interpol of the alleged plots, and alerted authorities in the US and European countries of the possible danger. Neither official specified which country or countries in Europe are alleged targets. There was no way to verify the insurgents’ claims. But Western counterterrorism officials generally are on high alert during the holiday season, especially since last year’s failed attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
Turkey begins trial of military officers in alleged plot
The Peninsula (Qatar): Nearly 200 Turkish military officers, including three top retired commanders, went on trial yesterday [December 16] charged with plotting against the government in a case likely to strain ties with the secularist armed forces. Amid tight security the officers filed into a courtroom near Istanbul to answer accusations over an alleged 2003 conspiracy to destabilize Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government and pave the way for military intervention. The “Operation Sledgehammer” case, which included plans to bomb historic mosques and provoke conflict with Greece, reflects lingering mistrust between the military and a ruling party that critics say retains Islamist leanings. The defendants, important figures in NATOs second biggest army, deny any conspiracy and say scenarios discussed at a military seminar seven years ago were a war game exercise. “When the time comes in court for the defence I will say that this case does not have a legitimate basis,” General Cetin Dogan, the former head of Turkey’s prestigious First Army, told broadcaster CNN Turk outside the court in Silivri, west of Istanbul. “I am very relaxed. I am on the right side and have never been on illegitimate ground. I am not a man of coups,” he said before entering the court, which is located in a prison complex. Retired commanders of the navy and air force, Admiral Ozden Ornek and General Halil Ibrahim Firtina, were also among the 196 defendants. All but nine defendants attended the first hearing, which was not expected to go beyond confirming identities. The trial comes a little over six months before a parliamentary election. Erdogan is expected to win a third consecutive term.
Israel Involved in Kosovo Organ Trade
Palestine Chronicle: A European Union prosecutor who says Israel has been trading with an elaborate organ trafficking network in Kosovo has brought the case to Pristina District Court, a report says. Jonathan Ratel, who serves in Kosovo as part of the EU’s rule of law mission, has announced that the seven suspected Kosovons working as physicians for a clinic called Medicus in the capital, Pristina, belong to an international network that trades in the organs of people suffering from extreme poverty, the Associated Press reported. The donors were from Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey and were enticed with the false promise of payments as much as 20 thousand dollars. However, they never got any money. There are also charges pressed against an Israeli individual and a Turkish doctor who have not been arrested yet. The organs were illegally removed from the victims and transplanted into rich recipients most of whom were from Israel, Canada, Germany and Poland. Among the suspects are some of Kosovo’s most famous doctors. One of them used to be permanent secretary of health and gave the clinic a false license. Also Dr Lutfi Dervishi, a university professor, who is said to be the ringleader of the group, set up the operations. Police were alerted to the network in November 2008, when a Turkish man, Yilmaz Altun, appeared exhausted at Pristina airport while waiting to board a flight home. When questioned by police, he said he had donated his kidney to an Israeli recipient. Kosovo law forbids the removal and transplant of organs. The Council of Europe has launched a probe into the issue and its report will be released to the public in France on Thursday.
Israel warns Hezbollah
Al Bawaba News: A senior Israeli officer from the Northern Command said that in case of a war in the Lebanese front, it will not be similar to what happened in the summer of 2006. He said that Hezbollah will consider 2006 clash to a “picnic” compared to the next war. In an interview with Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily on Tuesday, the officer said that in the event of Hezbollah bombing the depth of Israel with rockets, Israel would respond “10 times stronger”, so that the Shiite group would not consider this option again. The senior Israeli officer stressed that it is a serious mistake to believe that Israel would not respond because of the Goldstone report, which was issued following the 2008-2009 Gaza War. The military official claimed that Hezbollah has developed an advanced missile capability within Lebanese villages in order to kill as much as Israeli civilians, adding that Tel Aviv will urge the inhabitants of those villages to evacuate in advance and then attack those targets to kill members of Hezbollah hiding there. The Israeli officer said that it is likely that some 800 rockets will hit Israel during the first day of the next war, adding, “but on the second day we will decrease the number of missiles to 400. On the third day to 200.”
Remaining Christians in Iraq’s Mosul living under constant fear
Azzaman (Iraq): Many Iraqi Christians in the northern city of Mosul have fled mounting violence there, but those remaining say they fear for their lives. There are no exact figures on those who have stayed behind, but most of them are low-income Christians who simply cannot afford to emigrate. Many Christians have been killed, several churches bombed and houses blown up in the past few months. The main source of fear for the remaining ones is that they have no idea of who is fuelling the anti-Christian violence in the violent city. “We live under a cycle of fear and instability. We are always worried and have no taste for peace. We seriously consider leaving the city,” said Behnam Moayad. Amira Salem says fear and terror have become part of Christian life in the city. “It is the same during the day and during the night. If one of our children goes to school and is late for a few minutes, we get extremely worried and afraid,” she said. She said Christians lock their doors before it gets dark every day and refuse opening them no matter who is the one knocks on the door. Many Christians have fled the country or left to areas that are relatively safer such as the Kurdish north. But emigrating and leaving is not the solution, according to Nameer Fadi. “I have thought about it (emigration) a great deal but it cannot be the ideal solution. Foreign (European) countries are making it more and more difficult for refugees to settle down. And there are issues of language, culture and integration,” Fadi said.
(Photo credits: Middle East Technical University – METU; Rabbi Eliyahu – MWCnews; UNIFIL – UN; General Firtina – Risim Sakla; Hezbollah – cowboyjihad)
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