Greater Middle East

Syria: US involvement muddies political waters

Tens of thousands of people again rallied in the army-beseiged Syrian city of Hama on Friday July 8, calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad. Activists said security forces shot dead 13 people elsewhere in Syria during Friday protests, including six in the town of Dumair near Damascus. Amid the continued repression, a Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with defecting soldiers found that troops have been ordered to disperse unarmed protesters with a "shoot to kill" policy. HRW said it "interviewed eight soldiers and four members of the security agencies who had defected since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011... The soldiers...reported participating in and witnessing the shooting and injury of dozens of protesters, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds."

White House grooming Muslim Brotherhood for Egyptian Thermidor?

On July 4, clashes again broke out between protesters and security forces in Cairo after a court released on bail seven police officers accused of killing 17 protesters in Suez during the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. After an initial outburst of violence at the Cairo courthouse, protesters blocked the highway linking the Egyptian capital to the city of Suez. (Bikyamasr, July 5) As popular patience is growing short with Egypt's interim military rulers, comes word that the White House has sought contacts for dialogue with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Reuters on June 30 quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Syria: deadly repression in Hama, scene of 1982 massacre

Syrian troops are reported to have shot dead at least six anti-government protesters in the city of Hama on July 5, the second day of street clashed in the city center, with residents erecting barricades and burning tires to prevent tanks from advancing. The tanks have been deployed in a ring around the city, with government forces attempting to close the circle on protesters in the downtown area. "Tens of people are being arrested in neighborhoods on the edges of Hama. The authorities seem to have opted for a military solution to subdue the city," Rami Abdel-Rahman, president of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Reuters Hama was the scene of the 1982 bloody repression of an Islamist-led uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez Assad, in which an estimated 30,000 were killed and parts of the city razed. (BBC News, July 5; Reuters, July 3)

Friday protests bring out thousands in Syria, Egypt, Yemen

Security forces in Syria are reported to have killed 24 civilians in Friday protests on July 1, as tens of thousands marched to demand the resignation of President Bashir Assad in some of the biggest demonstrations of the three-month uprising. Lawyer Razan Zaitouna told Reuters by phone that the 24 dead included seven protesters in the central city of Homs, and 14 villagers in the northwestern province of Idlib, where troops backed by tanks and helicopters have been deployed. "Bashir get out of our lives," read placards carried by thousands of Kurds who marched in the northeastern city of Amouda, according to a video taken by resident.

Lebanon tribunal files indictment against Hezbollah members in Hariri case

The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on June 30 released to Lebanese authorities an indictment with four arrest warrants in relation to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The warrants were issued for Mustafa Badreddine, Salim al-Ayyash, Hasan Aineysseh and Asad Sabra, who are alleged members of Hezbollah. Lebanon has 30 days to arrest the suspects before the STL personally summons them and makes the indictment public. In a press conference, Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated that "the indictments, from whatever source, [are] not sentences, and the charges need to contain compelling evidence beyond any doubt, and that every defendant is innocent until proven guilty." Many have interpreted this statement as an indication that Hezbollah members will not be arrested. Although Mikati was endorsed in the election by Hezbollah, he said he will not "take sides."

Egypt: protesters clash with security forces in Tahrir Square —again

Egyptian security forces fired tear gas at some 3,000 protesters, some of whom hurled back stones, in Cairo's Tahrir Square the evening of June 28. The clashes were apparently triggered when family members of the more than 800 protesters killed during the campaign to oust Hosni Mubarak attempted to storm a theatre where a memorial service was being held for those fallen in the uprising. Activists said the families of the victims had been denied entry to the memorial, and were beaten by police when they tried to force their way in. Activists have called for a massive rally on July 8 aimed at keeping up the pressure for democratic reforms. (Middle East Online, June 29; AlJazeera, June 28)

Syria: security forces fire on protesters —again

Security forces opened fire as thousands took to Syria's streets for Friday protests to demand the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad June 24. Activists told AlJazeera at least 15 people were killed and many more injured in demonstrations following evening prayers. People were just emerging from Ibn Affan Mosque in the Damascus suburb of al-Qusweh, chanting for Assad's overthrow, when security forces opened fire without warning, killing six people and wounding 15, according to Mohammed Suliman. He said that ambulances took the wounded to the headquarters of the military secret service, rather than the hospital. "We don't regard the president as legitimate," said Suliman, rejecting a speech made by Assad five days earlier in which he announced a general amnesty for those involved in protests "His speech didn't make any sense. He gave his speech on Monday and today we witnessed many killed - the only speech now that will make any sense is his resignation speech." (AlJazeera, June 24)

UN secretary general condemns Bahrain for activist sentences

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on June 23 condemned a Bahraini court for sentencing 21 human rights advocates, political activists and opposition leaders to harsh punishments. The court sentenced the protestors to lengthy prison sentences, including life terms. Ban urged Bahraini authorities to comply with international human rights obligations such as ensuring the right to due process and a fair trial and permitting the defendants to appeal their sentences. A spokesperson for the secretary-general relayed Ban's sentiments about how Bahraini authorities should proceed:

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