The Hajj
Muslim pilgrims leave the area close to the Grand Mosque following evening prayers in the holy city of Mecca. Muslim pilgrims are descending in droves on Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, the world's largest annual gathering which Saudi Arabia insists will not be affected by instability rocking the region. © Fayez Nureldine - AFP
The Hajj
Your Middle East
Last updated: October 26, 2012

This week’s news brief: 26 October

The news flow this week was marked by a deadly car bomb blast in Beirut killing three people, including Lebanon’s anti-Syrian police intelligence chief. Syria emerged as the prime suspect. Beirut experienced turmoil with demonstrations and the police used tear gas. The US sent an FBI team to help probe the blast, while tensions continued as Lebanese politicians received death threats from a Syrian phone.

Meanwhile in Syria, fighting continued as UN envoy Brahimi arrived in Damascus, and together with Arab League urged for Eid truce. Syrian warplanes dropped cluster bombs and a car bomb outside a police station killed 13 people as violence raged across the country. Nevertheless, Syrian government agreed to Eid ceasefire, as did the rebels, who also declared they would respond to attacks. In addition, Turkey turned to Iran and Russia to tackle the Syrian crisis.

In Egypt, a French female reporter was sexually assaulted during a protest, the latest in a series of attacks. In addition, a trial in absentia of US Copts opened and a TV host received jail term for defaming President Morsi. Furthermore, a suspected militant was killed in an Egyptian arrest raid and Egypt negotiated ceasefire in Gaza unrest.

Two Gaza militants were killed in Israeli air strikes, while Gaza violence flared. EU’s Ashton visited Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu and later on discussed Palestinian UN status with President Abbas. Former US president Jimmy Carter said that US has zero influence over Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli PM vowed to continue building in Jerusalem, including in the annexed eastern sector. US and Israeli troops began a major joint missile drill and Israel advanced plans for a military academy on Mount of Olives. In addition, the Gaza-bound ship of activists and lawmakers, which were boarded by Israeli troops, arrived at Ashdod port under naval escort. The activists accused the Israeli navy of using Tasers.

28 Turkish troops were hurt in an attack on a Turkish-Iranian pipeline. A suicide bomb outside a Shiite mosque killed two Basij militiamen and a bus accident killed 26 people. The White House denied a NY times report on nuclear talks with Iran. Despite appeals from Amnesty, Iran executed 10 drug traffickers, which “appalled” EU’s Ashton. Western economic sanctions are reportedly affecting 6 million patients in Iran. Sudan and Iran’s links has come under scrutiny after Khartoum accused Israel of a deadly missile strike.

Iraqi oil export was suspended due to bad weather. A number of car bombs in Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad killed at least eight people and attacks in north Iraq killed 15 people. Furthermore, Iraq looks to reinstate disbanded army officers.

In Jordan 11 Al-Qaeda suspects were arrested and a Jordanian soldier was killed in fighting with militants.

Kuwait plunged into political turmoil as the cabinet set a December 1 date for snap polls. The vote change caused protests and demonstrators clashed with police. The opposition vowed more protests.

In Bahrain a policeman was hurt in a roadside bombing during clashes with demonstrators, seven people were arrested. In addition, four Bahrainis arrested on charges of “defaming” the king on Twitter denied accusations and in a Shiite village police clashed with anti-government protesters.

In Yemen, an Al-Qaeda car bomb killed nine Yemen soldiers. In turn a Yemen drone strike killed an Al-Qaeda leader and later four Al-Qaeda members were killed in another drone strike. Furthermore a Yemeni weapon depot blast killed six soldiers.

In Tunisia fatal clashes occurred between the opposition and Islamists and later opposition activists protested against the Islamist-led government. The country had a tense anniversary of its first free elections.

In Saudi Arabia the coastguard captured 15 Iranians who attempted to infiltrate the country by sea.

In Oman, eleven activists appeared in court to appeal a one-year jail term for defaming the sultan during pro-reform protests last year.

In Libya at least 2 died in an ex-Kadhafi bastion, armed men clashed with Libyan defence ministry on Kadhafi death anniversary. However, despite the tensions Libya celebrated the first anniversary since its “liberation”. 

Qatar announced they will begin to channel goods via Egypt to rebuild Gaza and the Qatari emir visited the Strip in what was the first such visit by an Arab leader since Hamas took over in 2007.

Last but not least, Muslim pilgrims begin hajj rituals as Eid al-Adha begins.

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