Greater Middle East

Egypt: clashes in Cairo; 'war' in Sinai

A protester was killed by security forces in Cairo July 3 at a rally in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, on the second anniversary of his overthrow by the military. Supporters of Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood said interior ministry forces opened fire on the protest. (Reuters) Egyptian warplanes meanwhile continued air-strikes on militant targets in the Sinai Peninsula, in what Egyptian media and officials are now calling a "war." Army troops also went house-to-house to arrest militants in Rafah. Among six detained were what officials called ISIS followers who wore military uniforms. An ISIS Twitter account claimed credit for missile strikes on Israeli territory by its forces in Sinai. "Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine," the "Sinai Province" ISIS group tweeted. (Al Jazeera, AP)

Human Rights Watch sees war crimes in Yemen

Human Rights Watch on June 30 issued a new report charging violations of international humanitarian law in the Saudi-led air campaign against Shi'ite rebels in Yemen. Numerous apparently deliberate attacks on residential homes and civilian infrastructure are documented in the report, "Targeting Saada," which details air-strikes on the Shi'ite-stronghold city of that name. HRW compiled the names and ages of 59 people killed in aerial attacks in Saada between April 6 and May 11, including 14 women and 35 children. Local Houthi authorities told HRW that coalition aircraft struck the city's electricity station, public water works, facroties, markets, an empty school, a crowded petrol station, and a wheat storage facility.

Turkish enviros block road to mine site

A group of local residents and environmentalist activists blocked the road to a forest area in the Cerattepeli region of Turkey's Black Sea province of Artvin to block preparation of a mining project. A team of officials from the national Forestry Ministry officials from entering the area to demarcate the lease area. Ministry officials attempted to enter the area from a different path, after their first attempt was stopped by the activists' road block July 2. The activist group is calling itself "300 Cerattepeli" in reference to the legend of 300 Spartans who stood their ground against the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae. (Doğan News Agency, July 2) The 24HourGold website indicates the Cerattepeli (also rendered Cerattepe) project si being developed by Canada-based Teck Resources24HourGold also indicates leases in the area similarly awaiting development by UK-based KEFI Minerals and US-based Alacer Gold Corp.

Egypt: ISIS claims deadly Sinai attacks

Militants launched near-simultaneous raids on at least five military checkpoints and a police station in and around Sheikh Zuweid in the north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in the wee hours of July 2.  At least 100 militants and 17 soldiers were killed in the clashes. Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, a Sinai-based group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014, claimed responsibility for the attacks. North Sinai has been under a state of emergency and a curfew since October, when an attack on a checkpoint in el-Arish left dozens of soldiers dead. In a separate development that day, security nine members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, including former MP Nasr al-Hafi, were killed in a police raid on an apartment in western Cairo. Following the riad, the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying that several of its leaders had been "murdered... in cold blood" and urged Egyptians to "rise in revolt" agains the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (BBC News, Egyptian Streets, July 1)

Egypt: top prosecutor killed in car bomb attack

Egypt's chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was killed June 29 in Cairo by a car-bomb attack on his convoy. Barakat's vehicle was attacked by a car outfitted with explosives that was remotely detonated when his motorcade left his home in Heliopolis. The prosecutor's death marks the country's first assassination of a senior official in 25 years, and seems to be the result of retribution attempts by Islamic militants in response to the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is believed that Barakat became a target as a result of his role as prosecutor against many Brotherhood members and other Islamists, including former President Mohammed Morsi. An militant group calling itself "Popular Resistance in Giza" claimed responsibility for the remote detonation of the car bomb. While the authorities suspect the Brotherhood for the attack, the organization has denied all involvement.

Israel denies backing Nusra after Golan lynching

In a grisly incident on the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights last week, Druze villagers attacked an Israeli military ambulance, killing one of two Syrian casualties it was carrying. The attack was apparently retaliation for the Nusra Front massacre of Druze villagers in Syria a week earlier. Al-Monitor reports that the IDF has launched an aggressive "information campaign" to convince the Golan Druze that Israel is not backing the Nusra Front. Media reports (Reuters, Forward) have been vague on who the casualties in the ambulance actually were, but blogger Michael Karadjis identified the murdered patient as Munthir Khalil from the "Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and Golan," a wing of the Free Syrian Army's Southern Front. Karadjis emphasizes that the Southern Front months ago issued a declaration cutting off all cooperation with the Nusra Front, and offered refuge to fleeing villagers after the massacre. He calls the incident "deadly consequences" of the "fairy tale" that Israel is backing Nusra.

PKK attack Turkish military base

Militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked the Hakkari Dağlıca military base in Turkey's far east with machine guns and mortar shells on the night of June 29. The Turkish military said the assailants fled when soldiers returned fire, and no casualties were reported. (Today's Zaman) That same day, the Turkish military clashed with Kurdish villagers in Roboski, also in the country's southeast near the border with Iraq and Syria. At least two villagers were wounded in the clashes, which started when local Kurds gathered to protest amassing of Turkish forces in the area. (Revolution News)

Turkey preparing Syria invasion —against Kurds?

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a meeting of his National Security Council (MGK) June 29—being widely portrayed in the Turkish media as preparation to establish a "buffer zone" in northern Syria in response to Kurdish territorial gains against ISIS. Over the weekend, Erdogan told reporters: "I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria. We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be." Turkish newspapers including the pro-government Yeni Safak are reporting that the military has received orders to seize a strip 110 kilometers long and 33 kilometers deep along the border. One anonymous official told Hurriyet Daily News there is a "need" to "prevent more clashes between the ISIL and the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border and create a safe zone against a new wave of refugees on Syrian territory, no longer in Turkey." The PYD is the Kurdish political party whose military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), have been making gains against ISIS.

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