Dozens of militants believed to be associated with the Islamic State's "Sinai Province" (Wilayat Sinai) on Aug. 11 attempted to besiege targets including power transformers and railway facilities in the city of El Qantara Sharq, on the eastern bank of Egypt's Suez Canal. The militans barred access to the sites, but dispersed as security forces advanced. Attacks by the ISIS affiliate have been mounting in the Sinai Peninsula, which has seen a sporadic insurgency for over a decade. In May, militants attacked a water pumping station near the Canal, killing 16 members of the military force guarding it. (MEE, The New Arab)
US President Joe Biden issued an executive order May 23 that designates Colombia as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) of the United States, under terms of the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act. The designation will facilitate further weapons transfers from the US to Colombia, and increased military cooperation between the two countries. Colombia is now the third MNNA in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. Other MNNAs include Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. On May 2-6, a delegation of NATO staff visited Colombia to discuss the South American country's participation in the alliance's Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP). Colombia became NATO's newest "global partner" in 2018, but this relationship was reinforced last December, when it became a member of the NATO Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). (More at El Espectador)
Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon's government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it's a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. Oxfam is warning that wheat reserves could run out within weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mercy Corps reports that food prices are up in rebel-held northwest Syria, where food security was already a major concern. Last month Egypt put a cap on unsubsidized bread prices before they could get too high. Yemen, which imports the vast majority of its food, is of particular concern as it already has so many hungry people and is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat. Last week, UNICEF said that "the number of malnourished children [in the region] is likely to drastically increase."
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services March 28 to hold any "terror suspects" in "administrative detention," even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians within Israeli a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited "a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives." The order came a day after two Border Police officers were killed in a shooting attack at the coastal city of Hadera by two Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called "Islamic State." The assailants were both shot dead by security forces.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of Egypt's last independent human rights organizations, officially closed Jan. 10. ANHRI made the announcement in a statement posted to its website, citing government pressure as the reason for its closure.The group charged that in today's Egypt there is an "absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights."
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a new report, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, revealing the extent of the regime's campaign of repression against the right to information. The report especially examines the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a world model but has now seen an increasing number of journalists arrested in the name of "national security."
An Egyptian court on Dec. 20 sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of "spreading false news undermining national security." Alongside Abd El Fattah, the New Cairo Emergency State Security Misdemeanour Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed "Oxygen" Ibrahim to four years each in Case 1228/2021. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and his lawyer El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of "emergency trials," due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government.
The COP26 UN climate summit on Nov. 13 concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a "compromise," and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a "phase-out" softened to "phase-down." And even this applies only to "unabated" coal, with an implicit exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit.