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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Middle East Middle East News from the Associated Press


Report: 2 men imprisoned over UAE beach bar attack plot

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:56:38 UT

The newspaper said the Palestinian received a three-year sentence, while another Emirati was imprisoned for not reporting the plot targeting the unnamed bar in the tiny UAE emirate of Umm Al Quwain.

Mideast expects big changes under Trump

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:48:57 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Donald Trump's all-but-dismissal of human rights as a foreign policy principle could land like an earthquake across a Middle East landscape beset by warring factions and beleaguered governments, with some players eyeing the prospect of once unimaginable new alliances. Trump has raised the possibility of a broad new U.S. partnership with Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian Russia and has even hinted at aligning with Syrian President Bashar Assad, which would amount to a dramatic reversal from years of the Obama administration calls for Assad's ouster. "When it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it's very hard for us to get involved in other countries," Trump explained last July as Turkey was punishing tens of thousands of people seemingly unconnected to a failed coup attempt. When Barack Obama declared a new beginning with the Muslim world in a landmark speech eight years ago, he mentioned democracy six times and broached the subject of human rights on a dozen occasions. "Human rights will not be his top priority," concluded Mustafa Alani, the director of the security and defense department at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center. Aaron David Miller, a Mideast adviser under five American presidents, expects Trump to prove "risk- averse" and remain consistent with Obama's own reluctance to interfere in other countries' affairs, use military force, remain engaged in Iraq or get truly involved in Syria's civil war. Widespread evidence of torture, chemical weapons attacks and even war crimes by Assad's forces had made a partnership infeasible to Obama and most of America's foreign policy establishment. Years of contentious relations between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu culminated last month in a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring illegal the Jewish state's construction of settlements on occupied land the Palestinians seek for a fut

From IS to government control, Syrians left with few choices

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:42:26 UT

SAFIRA, Syria (AP) — Carrying her four-year-old son, Elham Saleh walked all night behind a smuggler, navigating land mines through Islamic State group- and rebel-held territory in northern Syria. [...] they reached relative safety in Safira, a government-controlled village on the southern edge of the city of Aleppo, where they have been staying for the past two weeks. Saleh's husband, once a rebel fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, had joined IS but she couldn't bear living under the group's brutal rule any longer. Many of them, initially opponents of Assad, are now opting to go to government-controlled territory — the most stable option in a war that has turned opposition-held territory into ruins and IS-held areas into large prisons where militants enforce their radical interpretation of Islamic laws. Younes said most of those displaced are women and children, adding that no one can leave without using smugglers who have good tribal connections and know what tracks to take through mined desert areas. Wearing a face veil that revealed only her eyes, she spoke about IS brutality — recalling one day when they shot seven men in the head and crucified them in the square of Deir Hafer for three days in order to scare the town's residents.

Judge scolds government over Iraq detainee abuse pictures

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 01:03:34 UT

The government has said release of the photographs showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan could provoke attacks against U.S. military forces or incite anti-U.S. sentiment across the region. The director of the ACLU National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, called the decision "a victory for government transparency on national security issues." In 2009, Congress passed a law letting the government keep the photos secret if the secretary of defense certified that unveiling them would endanger U.S. citizens or government or military personnel. Defense secretaries have since done so, but the judge said the government must provide enough information to make judicial review possible.

6 civilians killed in rebel strike in Yemen's Taiz

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:55:13 UT

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni security officials say a rocket fired by Shiite rebels has killed six civilians in the war-torn city of Taiz. A Saudi-led coalition has waged an air campaign since March 2015 aimed at restoring Hadi's government.

Egypt puts soccer star Aboutrika on no-fly, terror list

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:58:12 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities have placed one of the country's all-time greatest soccer players on a terror watch and no-fly list, over accusations he helped finance the Muslim Brotherhood, now banned as a terrorist organization, judicial officials said Wednesday. Egypt's flagging economy is a particularly sensitive topic this year, as it has undertaken drastic reforms to rein in unsustainable spending on subsidies and allow the currency to float freely, moves that have boosted prices radically. [...] Egypt's state prosecutor has referred over 300 alleged Islamists to military prosecutors over charges of terrorism and affiliation to a militant group which has been behind a string of attacks targeting police and military.

Russia, Turkey conduct joint airstrikes on IS in Syria

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:45:12 UT

In a sign of a possible new ground for cooperation in the area, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday the U.S-led coalition have also carried out attacks against IS in the same area— al-Bab, in the province of Aleppo — at a time when Turkish troops have struggled there since November. In August, Turkish troops rolled over the border to help Syrian opposition forces battle IS and halt the advance of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are also fighting the extremists. Turkey, which for years supported the Syrian opposition drive to oust Assad, has recalibrated its priorities toward fighting Islamic State militants and thwarting Kurdish aspirations for autonomous rule along Syria's border with Turkey. On Tuesday, U.S. army Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, said the coalition has conducted several reconnaissance missions and airstrikes in support of Turkey and the Syrian opposition fighters on the ground operating against al-Bab. "The coalition will continue to work with our Turkish partners to maximize these and other counter ISIL operations, on as many fronts as possible, to ensure the military defeat of ISIL provides stability to the region and security to our homeland," Dorrian said in a briefing Tuesday, using an alternative acronym for IS. Rudskoi said that the Islamic State group is preparing to blow up ancient ruins in Palmyra, shipping large amounts of explosives to the ancient city with the aim to destroy historic heritage sites there.

Israel opts to extend military chief of staff's term

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:22:50 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister has decided to extend the term of Israel's military chief of staff by a year. A statement Wednesday by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot will serve an additional year, for a total of four years.

Israeli Arab, policeman killed amid clashes over demolitions

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:41:19 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli Arab rammed his vehicle into a group of police officers on Wednesday, killing one of them before he was shot dead during clashes in southern Israel, police said. Troops opened fire at the driver, killing Yaakub Abu al-Qiyan, 50, whom Israeli officials later identified as belonging to an Islamist group. In a shaky voice, he told Israel's Army Radio that he was shot by overzealous officers who were deployed after extensive negotiations to delay the demolition broke down. Israeli police said he was likely struck by a rock thrown by one of the protesters, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accused Odeh of lying about what happened. The Israeli government recently vowed to crack down harder on illegal Arab construction following criticism from Jewish settlers, who face a court-ordered evacuation of an illegally built outpost in the West Bank. Last week, authorities demolished 11 homes in the central city of Kalansua, sparking a general strike among Israeli Arabs, who say the problem stems from long-standing state-imposed barriers to acquiring proper permits. An adjacent part of the village slated for future demolition is zoned for a new development catering to religious Jewish families with ties to the West Bank settlement movement.

Egypt making progress with economic reform plan, IMF says

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 16:36:00 UT

CAIRO (AP) — The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that Egypt is making progress with its economic reform program, although it will still take time to improve living standards in a poor country beset with rocketing inflation. While the currency depreciated more than expected when it was floated as part of the reform package enacted late last year, there is potential for it to come down as economic growth picks up, IMF Mission Chief for Egypt Chris Jarvis said in a news conference broadcast online from IMF headquarters in Washington.

Israel expands missile defense system with new interceptor

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:52:01 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel says it has expanded a missile defense system with the addition of longer range, more precise interception capabilities. Israel's Defense Ministry says Wednesday it has included the Arrow-3 interceptor into its existing Arrow Weapon System defense shield.

Iraq military: Troops have 'full control' of eastern Mosul

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:42:18 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops announced on Wednesday they were in "full control" of eastern Mosul after routing Islamic State militants from that part of the northern city, three months since the major operation started. Yar Allah, who commands army operations in Ninevah, where Mosul is the provincial capital, said the special forces "have done their duty" in eastern Mosul. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a statement, posted on his website, saying that "work is underway to liberate" Ghabat and the area housing Saddam Hussein's former presidential palaces in eastern Mosul. [...] the prospect of retaking western Mosul looms heavy on Iraqi forces, despite all the support they have by the U.S.-led coalition, as well as Sunni and Shiite volunteer militias.

Iraqi PM wants full disclosure about 2003 US-led invasion

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:01:05 UT

Haider al-Abadi told reporters on Tuesday that he would like to see a "thorough investigation" of America's decision-making that took the U.S. forces from "liberating" the country from "Saddam (Hussein's) terrorist regime" to "occupying" Iraq.

Iraq's military says troops now have 'full control' of eastern Mosul after routing IS from that part of the city

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 11:02:24 UT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's military says troops now have 'full control' of eastern Mosul after routing IS from that part of the city.

Power shortages leave Gaza in the dark

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:19:06 UT

In crowded city streets, the only source of light comes from the headlights of passing cars. The shortages have not affected hospitals in the territory, which receive diesel from several international aid groups in order to run generators. Hamas accuses the rival West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which coordinates the electricity delivery with Israel, of taxing the fuel and driving up the price. For many residents, doing laundry, baking bread, studying and even showering — for the many residents whose water supply depends on electric pumps — take place in the middle of the night, when power comes back on. The power alternatives, including batteries and even solar systems used by the wealthy, cannot run electrical heaters, so people resort to older, more dangerous means, like burning coals or dusting off long-abandoned kerosene heaters. During the daytime, acrid smoke emitted from humming generators outside restaurants spills onto chunks of meat rotating on shawarma spits.

$2 billion in aid sought for hardest-hit in Yemen civil war

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:21:31 UT

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — About $2 billion in urgent aid is needed this year to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable victims of Yemen's civil war, or about 10 million of the country's 27 million people, the resident U.N. humanitarian chief said Tuesday. The Arab world's poorest country has been in the grip of a civil war since 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels and allied forces swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa. [...] many more are indirect victims of the conflict, including those who suffer from chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, and are unable to get treatment, McGoldrick said. In fighting Tuesday, a rocket fired by Houthi rebels killed six civilians, including women and children, when it hit an area in the southern Taiz province, security officials said. Clashes between rebels and forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi have killed 23 Houthis and 17 troops over the past two days, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Israeli army: Palestinian shot trying to stab soldier

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:06:21 UT

Later, video footage emerged showing forces dragging a wounded Palestinian away from a violent demonstration on Monday with his head bumping the ground several times on the way. In that time, Palestinian attackers have carried out numerous stabbings, shootings and car-ramming assaults against civilians and security forces that killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americans. Israeli forces killed 233 Palestinians in the same period, most identified by Israel as attackers, while the rest took part in violent demonstrations or clashes with security forces.

Iran's president welcomes Syria talks planned for next week

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:41:54 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that he hopes talks planned for next week can mark the beginning of the end of the civil war in Syria, where Tehran has provided crucial military and financial support to the government. Russia's foreign minister meanwhile said Moscow would invite representatives of the incoming Trump administration to the talks in Kazakhstan, which could provide the first indication of how U.S. policy will change with regard to the six-year conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the attendance of the leaders of armed groups could make the latest talks more successful than previous rounds of negotiations with civilian opposition representatives held in Geneva, which led nowhere. Rouhani did not mention the attendance of U.S. representatives, but Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying Tehran did not think they should be invited.

Israel's Netanyahu mired in series of corruption allegations

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:41:02 UT

[...] the long-serving leader is mired in a series of eye-popping corruption investigations in a country that has already jailed a prime minister and president. Police have interrogated Netanyahu several times "under caution" over questionable ties to top executives in media, international business and Hollywood, whipping up a sense that he might actually be driven from office. The transcripts of Netanyahu's taped negotiations with his supposed arch-nemesis, media mogul Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group, have dominated the national agenda in recent weeks. [...] of whether Netanyahu's actions prove criminal, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said they posed a "serious breach of trust between the government and its citizens." Netanyahu has since appointed himself communications minister, making him responsible for media regulation, and ordered coalition partners not to float any media-related bills without his approval. Packer has reportedly lavished Netanyahu's college-aged son, Yair, with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer's former fiancee, Mariah Carey. Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes and Milchan reportedly asked Netanyahu to press the U.S. secretary of state in a visa matter.

Jordan charges 2 senior ex-officials in social media protest

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:38:21 UT

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's state security court has charged a former member of parliament, a retired major general and six others with incitement after they joined social media protests against expected price increases. The government has announced price increases, including for fuel and electricity, to reduce debt.

Iran says Trump's talk on nuclear deal is 'mainly slogans'

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 15:18:50 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's president on Tuesday compared talk of renegotiating its nuclear accord to "converting a shirt back to cotton," and said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's talk of doing so is "mainly slogans." Trump has strongly criticized the deal struck with world powers, in which Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief, but has not said what he plans to do about the agreement. Rouhani, a moderate who has advocated greater openness toward the West, is up for re-election in May, in what will likely be seen as a referendum on the nuclear deal.

Iraqi troops capture historic Mosul mosque destroyed by IS

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:39:12 UT

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi forces have captured the site of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis after driving Islamic State group militants from a new neighborhood in eastern Mosul, a spokesman said on Tuesday. Special forces spokesman Sabah al-Numan told The Associated Press that security forces found only the fences alongside the ruins. While Iraqi forces continue to make territorial gains against IS, Mosul's civilians continue to be killed, wounded and displaced by the fighting. The young boy had been killed in a mortar attack earlier this month, but at the time it was too dangerous to travel to the graveyard so Mohammed buried him in a school yard not far from his home.

Radical Islamic cleric freed after 9 months in Israel prison

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:46:09 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has released a radical Islamic cleric from prison after he completed his nine-month prison term. Raed Salah heads the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a group that Israel accuses of inciting Arabs to violence and outlawed in 2015. He was sentenced for "incitement to violence" and "incitement to racism" in a 2007 sermon and walked free Tuesday. Salah has had repeated run-ins with Israel and was previously imprisoned for funneling money to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. His release was marked by confusion, with his lawyer Omar Khamayseh accusing Israeli prison authorities of transferring Salah to unknown locations.

Mounting frustration in Damascus amid widespread water cuts

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:34:26 UT

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Omar Tarshan had never visited any of Syria's famous public baths until three weeks ago, when a water shortage in his Damascus neighborhood forced him to look for an alternative place to shower. On Monday night, the 25-year-old accountant came with a colleague, Safwat Hariri, to the 1,000-year-old bath house in the old quarter of Damascus — the Hammam al-Malik al Zahir — where each was given two towels, a loofah and a piece of traditional olive oil soap. Minutes later, they stepped into the bath, enveloped by thick vapor.

Egypt says gunmen kill 8 policemen at desert checkpoint

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:51:56 UT

CAIRO (AP) — The Egyptian Interior Ministry says gunmen have attacked a police checkpoint in the country's desert west, killing eight policemen.

Syria rebel factions to attend Russia, Turkey-backed talks

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 21:21:55 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Representatives of some Syrian rebel groups said Monday they will attend talks sponsored by Russia and Turkey scheduled later this month, despite mounting violations of a cease-fire across the war-ravaged country. Osama Abo Zayd, a legal adviser to the Free Syrian Army rebel groups, said the first round of talks will last for four days and focus solely on ways to monitor cease-fire violations. After withstanding a crippling, months-long siege and punishing bombing campaign, the opposition surrendered one of its most prized urban centers, Aleppo. Clashes escalated between pro-government and opposition forces in and around a number of rebel-run villages as Syrian troops and allied militias advance toward the flashpoint area of Ain al-Fijeh, which holds the main water source for the Syrian capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the Syrian war, said there was fighting in Aleppo when rebel groups fired mortars at a government-held neighborhood. According to the statement, up to 700,000 people — nearly half of them children — live in 15 besieged areas of Syria.

IS claims responsibility for killing of Jordan army officer

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:07:15 UT

The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant internet traffic, quoted the IS news agency Amaq as saying that an IS "security detachment" killed 1st Sgt. Bassam Hourani in the southern Maan province Jan. 6. A senior Jordanian security official disputed Monday's IS claim about the Maan area shooting, saying it was a criminal act and had nothing to do with terrorism.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:47:48 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says border police shot and killed the "main instigator" of clashes on Monday in which hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at security forces in the West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the deceased as 17-year-old Qusai Hassan Al-Aamour. A wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted in the fall of 2015. In that time, Palestinian attackers have carried out numerous stabbings, shootings and car-ramming assaults that killed 40 Israelis and two visiting Americans. Israeli forces have killed 232 Palestinians in the same period, most of them identified by Israel as attackers, while the rest were taking part in violent demonstrations or clashes with security forces.

Bahrain bans paper from publishing online after protests

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:37:42 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahraini authorities ordered an independent newspaper to stop publishing online Monday and said a city hall was set ablaze during clashes between opposition protesters and police. The suspension of Al-Wasat's online operations followed a spike in anti-government protests led by the country's Shiite majority that began Saturday. Hundreds protested Sunday over the three Shiite men put to death by firing squad over the 2014 bombing that killed two Bahraini policemen and an Emirati officer.

Top UN official: 10,000 civilians killed in Yemen conflict

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:02:03 UT

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' Jamie McGoldrick told reporters the figure is based on lists of victims gathered by health facilities and the actual number might be higher. McGoldrick's remarks come as U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrives in the southern city of Aden, which the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has turned into a temporary capital, officials said. According to Yemeni officials, Ahmed will present an amended peace deal to Hadi, who rejected the last initiative.