The Middle East. What Others Are Saying.

Syria’s children. Using them front and centre in armed conflict (Photo credit-Arab News, Saudi Arabia)


El Arish. The Centre of  Global Jihad

Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has reported that the Gazan-based Salafist jihadi network Tawhid wal-Jihad carried out the terrorist attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border on June 18, 2012, in which an Israeli civilian was killed. The attack emphasized the threat to Israel from the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt’s difficulty in governing the region. In their report they state Tawhid wal-Jihad was founded in El Arish. The network recruited operatives there, among them those who had been involved in the mass-casualty terrorist attacks at the Red Sea tourist sites. El Arish is the largest city in the Sinai Peninsula and serves as the administrative capital of the northern Sinai Peninsula district. It has an estimated 150,000 inhabitants and hundreds of mosques. The city’s population includes Bedouins, Egyptians from the Nile Valley and families originating in Turkey and the Caucasus who settled there during the Ottoman Empire ( Other residents are Fatah activists and their families who fled the Gaza Strip after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip. In recent years El Arish has become a center for activities affiliated with the global jihad. In our assessment, that is because it has an extensive religious infrastructure and is close to the Palestinians terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, making operational collaboration easy for them. The al-Sawarka tribe, the founders of Tawhid wal-Jihad, is concentrated in the region of El Arish and other areas in the northern Sinai Peninsula. On July 29, 2011 a call was issued in El Arish for the establishment of “an Islamic emirate in the Sinai Peninsula,” (about two years after an attempt to establish the “Islamic emirate in Palestine” was suppressed by Hamas). The call was accompanied by an armed attack on an Egyptian police station and the distribution of manifestos by “Al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.”

Egypt’s president “offended” after Qatar gives US$ 2 billion to support Egypt’s struggling economy reports that after Qatar deposited US$ 2 billion in the Central Bank of Egypt, the Emir of Qatar is unhappy with the Egyptian president not inviting him to attend an Islamic Summit on the Syrian situation. Arab diplomatic sources reveal that the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is upset with Egyptian President Mursi. The source explained that the reason for discontent is that Mursi did not appreciate what Qatar has done for Egypt in supporting the economy and the national currency and help prevent the collapse of the Egyptian economy.  Sheikh Hamad recently visited Cairo and held talks with Mursi. During Sheikh Hamad’s visit, Mursi announced he had personally accepted an invitation by Saudi’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to form a committee to pursue the Syria situation. The so-called Islamic Summit  included Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Mursi has not invited Qatar. Sources said that the Emir of Qatar considered his country’s absence from the Summit as a beautiful act of denial by the new Egyptian president, who seemed to be trying to appease Saudi Arabia first and not annoy Iran or Turkey. The source pointed out that Sheikh Hamad approached the Egyptian position with great indignation and anger. He subsequently raised questions regarding the orientation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extent of their loyalty to those who stood with them in difficult times. According to an Egyptian diplomat, the Egyptian president responded by saying, “Egypt felt offended by the comments of the Emir of Qatar. Egypt is not ready to be a subsidiary of Qatar.”

Iran and Syria-backed Shiite Hezbollah blamed for clashes in Lebanon

Al Arabiya News, Dubai (UAR) reports that gunmen in the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and their Alawite rivals in Jebel Mohsen exchanged gun and grenade fire in sporadic fighting overnight and into the day, despite action by Lebanese troops deployed in the port city, residents said. Two of the dead men were identified as residents of Jebel Mohsen, a hill inhabited mainly by Alawites which overlooks the predominantly Sunni area below, where two other people were killed, medical sources said. The area is one of Lebanon’s most volatile sectarian fault lines and chronic Sunni-Alawite tensions in Tripoli have been heightened by the 17-month-old, mainly Sunni, uprising in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite. Clashes in the city killed 15 people in early June. An army statement said soldiers had raided buildings used by gunmen and “retaliated swiftly against sources of gunfire.” It said five soldiers were wounded on Monday evening and that another five, including an officer, were injured on Tuesday by a hand grenade lobbed at an army base. In addition, more than 35 civilians or fighters were wounded. Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned against the “absurd battle” rocking his hometown, Lebanon’s second largest city. The opposition Syrian National Council accused authorities of failing to act over the attacks and implicitly blamed the Iran- and Syria-backed Shiite Hezbollah which heads a ruling coalition in Lebanon. “Syrians in Lebanon have been abducted by political parties, and subject to arbitrary arrests by security agents, without the authorities so much as lifting a finger,” the SNC said in a statement.

Hamas at the crossroads

Al-Ahram Weekly, (Egypt):  Hamas is walking on a tightrope now, caught in suspended animation between its credentials as a resistance movement and its pedigree as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Hamas has enjoyed the undying support of both Damascus and Iran. But with Damascus in the throes of upheaval, things look uncertain for Hamas. For now, Hamas is trying to put a brave face on it. The movement has pledged not to be part of any political or military axis and not to take sides in the Syrian debacle. This will buy it some time, but not a lot. Then there is the question of Hamas ideology. The movement is officially at least part of the international matrix of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hamas charter states that the movement is a “wing of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Its founder, Ahmed Yassin, is on record as saying that “Hamas was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood. We are a Muslim Brotherhood movement.” Hamas should have been thrilled by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to positions of power in various Arab countries, courtesy of the Arab Spring. But in reality, this is far from being a comforting development. Hamas may soon have to opt out of the Damascus-Tehran axis to forge closer ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. But such a step will have a far-reaching impact on the Gaza-based movement.

Muslim-Christian unity must be more than a slogan

Ma’an News Agency (West Bank):  Unity between Muslims and Christians in Palestine must become common practice and not just be a slogan, the governor of Ramallah and al-Bireh said Wednesday. Layla Ghanam made the comments while welcoming a church delegation offering congratulations for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a statement said. “Religious Muslim and Christian holidays are considered national holidays for all Palestinians. This shows how cohesive and united our people are, and we are proud of this,” the PA official added.

Iran, Egypt move to restore diplomatic ties

The Jordan Times reports: Iran and Egypt are moving towards restoring diplomatic relations which were severed more than three decades ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview published on Tuesday. Salehi said in comments reported in Egypt’s state-run Al Ahram newspaper that Tehran was keen on establishing relations of “friendship and brotherhood” with Cairo. “Egypt is the cornerstone of the region and has a special stature in the Arab and Muslim countries… and we want relations of friendship and brotherhood with it,” Salehi said, adding that Tehran hoped to restore “normal” relations with Cairo. “We will pursue this path and restoration of relations depends only on protocol measures.” Salehi said Egypt’s “revolution opened a new chapter in Egypt’s relations with the outside world”, adding that the Islamic republic welcomes Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi attending a Non-Aligned Movement summit later this month in Tehran. A source at the Egyptian presidency said Morsi will take part in the August 30 summit at which the NAM presidency will be passed from Egypt to Iran. Tehran severed diplomatic ties with Cairo in 1980, after the Islamic revolution in Iran, to protest against Egypt and Israel agreeing on their 1979 peace treaty.

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