This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… June 24th-30th, 2011.

  • A court in Oman sentenced 55 people to prison on Tuesday for taking part in protests demanding jobs. The accused were found guilty of offences including robbery, unlawful gathering, and vanalising government departments. The protests happened between March and May.
  • Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon announced last Friday that two of its members have confessed to working for the CIA, but that they had not compromised the group or its military capabilities. Nasrallah accused the US of working on Israel’s behalf, though the US embassy denied all allegations. On Thursday, the UN backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former PM Hariri delivered four arrest warrants, though the names of the accused were not yet released. Many suggest that they may name senior Hezbollah members.
  • On Thursday, it was announced that an ally of President Ahmadinejad, made deputy foreign minister last week in Iran, had been arrested, accused of corruption and forced to quit after protest by parliamentarians; and US, British and French calls for the release of a UN report detailing alleged sanctions violations was prevented from being published by Russia and China. On Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei accused the US of supporting terrorism, pointing to the US drone strikes that have killed many across Pakistan and Afghanistan and alleging that the US, Israel and Europe are the worst culprits of terrorism around the world. On Tuesday, Britain’s foreign secretary announced that Iran had conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles alonside a 10 day program of public military maneuvers. Iran responded by announcing that their missiles can target US bases in the Persian Gulf and any part of Israeli territory.
  • On Thursday, three bombs killed at least 23 people and wounded over 100 after they exploded in a busy market in southwest Baghdad, Iraq; two people were killed and 10 wounded in a bomb exlosion in south Baghdad; a roadside bomb in north-eastern Baghdad wounded three guards; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed two military personnel south of Mosul; gunmen killed a civilian near his house in eastern Mosul; a sticky bomb wounded the driver of a minibus in Kirkuk; an Iraqi soldier was wounded by a flashlight stuffed with explosives southwest of Kirkuk; and gunmen shot and wounded an employee of Sunni Endowment, an organization charged with managing Sunni religious sites in Taji. On Friday, gunmen killed a policeman and his wife in the house in Baiji; a pediatrician was kidnapped from a clinic in Kirkuk; a international finance expert working as a contractor for USAID was killed in a roadside bomb attack that wounded two others in Baghdad. On Saturday, Iraqi police defused a small bomb near an oil well northwest of Kirkuk; gunmen shot and wounded an off-duty soldier in Kirkuk; gunmen opened fire at an Iraqi security checkpoint, killing two soldiers in Mosul; gunmen shot dead an employee of the Electricity Ministry in southeastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two civilians in northeastern Baghdad; three Iraqi military counter-terrorism troops and a suspected al-Qaeda militant were killed in a shootout in Baiji; and gunmen shot dead a policeman in west-central Baghdad. On Sunday, two US service members were killed in northern Iraq; gunmen killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded another at an army checkpoint in western Mosul; a militant was killed while planting a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad; oner person was killed in a bomb explosion near Hilla; at least 12 were wounded and two possibly killed in a suicide bomb attack at a police station north of Baghdad; a bicycle loaded with explosives wounded two security guards and two civilians near Kirkuk; a sticky bomb killed a police lieutenant colonel north of Baghdad; and an Iraqi court sentenced the wife of a slain al-Qaeda leader to life in prison for her rold in aiding insurgents’ activities. On Monday, a sticky bomb was dismantled by experts before it exploded in Abu Ghraib; a roadside bomb wounded three in Baquba; a car bomb killed three and wounded four policemen near Mosul; and gunmen shot dead a man in his car in eastern Mosul. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded the mayor of Baquba and two of his guards; a sticky bomb killed a government-backed Sunni militia leader in Abu Ghraib; and police found the body of an unidentified man near Kirkuk. On Wednesday, three US soldiers were reportedly killed in southern Iraq, making June the deadliest month for Americans in the country in two years.
  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern on Thursday about the long prison sentences of activists and opposition leaders in Bahrain following earlier protests, while the military court said it would move all the protest-linked trials, alleged to involve at least 400 people, it had not started to civilian court. On Friday, a top Shi’ite cleric said that a national dialogue due to start the following week looked set to fail. On Tuesday, the government announced that Saudi Arabia would withdraw most of its security forces from the country, where they had helped quell protests in March. On Wednesady, the king ordered an independent fact-finding mission to establish whether protesters’ human rights were abused during the crackdown earlier this year, though some suspect that the declaration is intended to exonerate rulers and allow them to continue abuses on opposition supporters. University of Bahrain students were recently told that they could face expulsion if they don’t sign a loyalty pledge to the King and are appealing to human rights group to take up their close.
  • Dozens marched wearing white shrouds in eastern Saudi Arabia, demanding basic rights and the release of prisoners. The activists are said to have suspended protests in April following government promises to start a dialogue and free detainees. On Wednesday, at least five Saudi women were taken into custody accused of defying the men-only driving rule and a senior Saudi diplomat warned that if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon, that would compel Saudi Arabia to possibly do the same.
  • The UN announced on Friday that it would be sending human rights investigators for a 10 day mission to Yemen the following week to access the situation after months of unrest; while the Security Council finally came to an unanimous statement after two months of disagreement that voiced its “grave concern” at the situation; tens of thousands protested in Sanaa in opposition of the President; a car bomb killed five in Aden; and Yemen’s Interior Ministry published the names of 43 members of the opposition that it accused of blowing up oil pipelines and attacks on power stations, causing a fuel crisis and power cuts. On Saturday, authorities detained the director of a prison for questioning over the escape of 63 al Qaeda inmates earlier in the week. On Sunday, it was announced that President Saleh would soon be well enough to return to Yemen and that he would make a media appearance within a couple days while tens of thousands marched in Sanaa against him and three soldiers were killed in clashes with jihadist militants in Zinjibar. On Monday, security forces said they had foiled a planned al Qaeda attack in Aden, capturing six insurgents and that President Saleh was expected to speak on state tv on Tuesday. On Tuesday, government officials announced that they may launch a military operation to secure and repair its main oil pipeline that has been shut since mid-March. On Wednesday, at least four people were killed and 12 others wounded after a Yemeni air force jet mistakenly bombed a bus transporting civilians in a southern city; fighters in Zinjibar reportedly took over a football stadium, attacking government troops and killing at least 26 troops and 17 fighters; the PM announced that President Saleh was so severely injured in the assassination attemp that it is uncertain when he will return, while more than 300 government soldiers reportedly defected.
  • Palestinian protesters in the West Bank rammed a bulldozer on Friday, days after the Israeli army said it would finally comply with a four-year old court order to reposition the fence that keeps the Palestinians from accessing farmland. Israel has built a concrete wall several hundred metres back from the fence, which is set to become the new barrier. On Tuesday, Israeli troops began to dismantle part of the barrier after years of violent weekly protests, but protesters say the move falls short of their demands and still leaves the Palestinians without access to some 50 acres of their land. The World Court in the Hague ruled the barrier was illegal in 2004. Israel also deployed an Iron Dome Rocket interceptor near Haifa on Tuesday, highlighting it possible use in any future hostilities with Lebanon. US Secretary Clinton warned activists against plans to send a new aid flotilla to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, saying it was “irresponsible and provocative” and that there were better ways of getting assistance in to Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said the activists were seeking “confrontation and blood” and that there were “hard core of terror activists” among the participants, thought the US participants announced on their website that their intentions were peaceful and that they would set sail without weapons or threat of force. The flotilla will include European MPs, a former CIA analyst a Holocaust survivor, professors and authors. The Israeli government warned journalists that they could be banned from entering the country for 10 years if they travel aboard the aid flotilla and that they would have their equipment seized, though some questioned the constitutionality of the warning. Later in the week, activists claimed that Israel had sabotaged a second ship that was to go with the flotilla. On Sunday, a powerful explosion ripped a 2 metre hole through the wall surrounding the UN building, with no reports of casualties in Gaza City. On Monday, Palestinian delegates announced their intentions to do rounds of nearly a dozen countries who have not yet endorsed recognition for the Palestinian state at the UN. On Wednesday, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a first draft law requiring Palestinians whose homes are destroyed by Israeli forces to pay the government for the demolition costs. On Friday, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel group was detained in London while on a speaking tour for allegedly entering the country illegally, despite the organization’s insistence that he entered through formal and legal channels.
  • On Friday, it was reported that police snipers in Syria shot dead at least three protesters in Damascus, though other reports suggested that at least 15 were killed and some 200 arrested as thousands demonstrated in the city. State news reported that tens of thousands demonstrated in Damascus in support of Assad’s comprehensive reform process. On Saturday, it was reported that security forces shot dead five civilians during funerals which turned into protests and that other people were killed during home raids. On Sunday, the military was reportedly moving on border towns near the Turkish and Lebanese borders. On Monday, some 200 regime critics and intellectuals were to meet in Damascus to discuss strategies for a peaceful transition to democracy, which the US announced as “progress”. On Tuesday, exiled Syrian opposition figures urged Russia to withdraw its support for Assad and try to persuade him to resign, while Syrian tanks reportedly shelled a hill region in the northwest and many were arbitrarily arrested in Raqqa province. On Thursday, it was reported that a two-day seige in the northwestern area of Jabal al-Zawiya resulted in at least 19 deaths.

UPDATE:

  • I only just found this article– so I’m adding it after the fact. There were allegations this week that prison guards in Iran were giving out condoms to criminals in jail and encouraging them to systematically rape young opposition activists. Iranian officials ignored the allegations and have previously denied any claims of rape inside jails.
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