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Archive for January, 2011

Hamas inmates flee Egypt jail, return to Gaza

Sun Jan 30



GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Two out of eight Hamas prisoners who broke out of a Cairo prison as a wave of anti-government protests swept Egypt arrived back in Gaza on Sunday, an official source said.



A senior official in the Hamas government confirmed all eight were on their way back to Gaza, with the report also confirmed by one of the escapees.



By Sunday morning, at least two of the prisoners who had been held in Abu Zaabal prison, northeast of Cairo, had made it back to Gaza, entering the strip through the tunnels which run under the border, a Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity.



They made their escape when thousands broke free from jails across Egypt as officials struggled to control the wave of chaos sparked by nationwide riots demanding the end of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.



Among those who arrived back in Gaza on Sunday was Mohamed al-Shaer, a big name in the cross-border smuggling enterprise, who was arrested in Egypt six months ago after completing the haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.



Shaer entered Gaza through the tunnels, witnesses said.



Several hours later, a second prisoner, Hassan Wishah also made his way through the tunnels to El Bourej camp in central Gaza. He had served three years of a 10-year sentence at the Cairo jail for unspecified security offenses.

“All the Palestinian prisoners escaped from Abu Zaabal,” Wishah told AFP.



The remaining six prisoners were said to have reached the port city of Al Arish and were expected to reach Gaza later on Sunday, official sources said.



More than 100 people have so far been killed in Egypt which is being rocked by the biggest protests to sweep the country in more than 30 years.

Syrian activists salute Tunisia, Egypt uprisings

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian activists and opposition figures, including Michel Kilo and filmmaker Omar Amiralay, on Sunday hailed Tunisia’s revolution and the uprising in Egypt as an example to all Arabs.



The Syrian people “also aspire to justice and freedom,” they said in a statement sent to AFP.



“We salute the Tunisian people and their revolution and the uprising of the Egyptian people and their resistance to a corrupt and repressive regime,” read the signed statement.



“We hope with all people, including the Syrians, for justice, liberty and equality for all,” they said.



“The Tunisian people were in one month able to bring down one of the Arab world’s most dictatorial and corrupt regimes …



“This revolution has shown Arabs how closely Tunisia resembles their own countries, where power and wealth are concentrated in the same hands, and where repression and the plundering of the public purse go hand-in-hand.”



It said “Arab governments had rushed to offer limited social services while tightening their grip on their people” but “this has not prevented other Arab peoples, especially the Egyptians, from drawing inspiration” from Tunisia.



“The Arab people have found their route to freedom, namely peaceful, non-violent social resistance uniting the population against those who repress it and steal its wealth,” said the text.



Among the 39 signatories were political opposition figures who have served long prison terms, including economist Aref Dalila, poet Faraj Beirakdar, and authors Yassin Haj Saleh, Michel Kilo and Fayez Sara.



Filmmakers, researchers and lawyers were also on the list.



Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Organizers: Thousands in Algeria protest march

ALGIERS (AFP) — More than 10,000 protesters marched against authorities in Algeria’s northeastern city of Bejaia on Saturday, organizers said, in the country’s latest rally inspired by neighboring Tunisia.



Demonstrators marched peacefully in the city in Algeria’s Berber-speaking Kabylie region, shouting Tunisia-inspired slogans such as: “For a radical change of the regime!,” a lawmaker with the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy, Mohamed Ikhervane, told AFP.



“The protest gathered more than 10,000 people,” said RCD leader Said Sadi, whose group organized the rally.



Police were out in force around the city but protesters dispersed calmly, Ikhervane said.



Separately, pro-democracy group the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights said it plans a new march in Algiers on February 12.



The group’s leader, Mustapha Bouchachi, said the protest had been postponed from the original date of February 9 to enable workers and students to take part.



The LADDH forms part of a group calling itself the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, which was set up in the wake of riots in early January that left five dead and more than 800 injured.



The group demands the end of the government and its 19-year state of emergency.



Mounting grievances over spiraling costs and unemployment triggered the riots earlier this month, encouraged by public protests in Tunisia that forced its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee.



Algiers responded swiftly by reducing the prices of oil, sugar and other basic necessities which had risen sharply, and assuring that subsidies on essential goods like flour would continue.



Unrest still simmers, however, and within the past two weeks eight people set themselves on fire in Algeria, although some cases were deemed to be linked to mental health issues.



Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Southern Sudanese vote overwhelmingly for independence – Summary

Fri, 21 Jan 2011



Juba, Sudan – Southern Sudan looks certain to become the world’s newest state after partial results published by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission Friday showed almost 99 per cent of voters had chosen to split from the north.



The week-long referendum was the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and Animist south.



With 3.2 million ballots tallied, 3.14 million people have voted for an independent state, according to incomplete provisional figures on the commission’s website. Around 4 million people were registered to vote.



Just over 83 per cent of ballots cast in Southern Sudan have been counted, while all the votes from southerners living in the north and overseas have already been tallied, the commission said.



Most of the votes for unity came from voters in the north, where almost 43 per cent voted for Sudan to remain one country.



In the south, however, the vote was incredibly one-sided – in Unity State, only 90 people vote against independence – 0.02 percent of the votes cast.



In order for the outcome of the vote to be valid, 60 per cent of registered voters had to cast their ballots. Full preliminary results are due by the end of January.



The referendum process had raised fears of a return to north-south conflict, but these concerns have been calmed by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his northern party saying they will accept the result of the vote.



More than 2 million southerners died and 4 million were displaced in Sudan’s 1983-2005 north-south civil war, which was essentially a continuation of the 1955-1972 conflict that followed independence from joint British and Egyptian rule.



Many issues remain to be resolved post-referendum, including the final demarcation of the north-south border, which bisects Sudan’s oilfields and leaves most of the precious commodity in the south. The status of the restive border region Abyei also has to be decided.



Fighting in Abyei between northern and southern tribes claimed over 70 lives as the referendum got underway. A separate vote on whether the region goes with north or south has been delayed.



Should all go as planned, Southern Sudan is expected to be independent by July.



While southerners are elated at the prospect of becoming a nation state, aid agencies have warned the impoverished region faces huge challenges.



Southern Sudan suffers from clashes between rival communities, has only a few dozens kilometers of paved road in a country the size of France and has appalling development indicators.



Source: Earth Times.

Thousands of Jordanians march to press for reform

By Musa Hattar



AMMAN (AFP) — Thousands of Jordanians held peaceful demonstrations in Amman and other cities on Friday to press for reform and the government’s resignation, taking their cue from Tunisia and Egypt.



“Egypt, the Arab nation salutes you. We urge your men to get rid of [President Hosni] Mubarak,” an estimated 3,000 people chanted as they marched through central Amman holding national flags after Muslim weekly prayers.



“The Arab people’s message: you are corrupt, beware our anger. [Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali is waiting for you,” they said, referring to his ouster in a popular uprising.



Police said around 2,000 people staged protests in other cities, answering a call by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood which demands political and economic reforms in the kingdom.



Irbid, Karak, Maan and Diban were also the scenes of peaceful protests at which no clashes were reported. Like during a demonstration on the previous Friday, police in the capital distributed water and juice.



“Together let’s make political and economic change,” banners read. “Down with the [prime minister] Samir Rifai government. We want a national salvation government.”



Muslim Brotherhood leader Hammam Said demanded an elected government.



“Jordanians should elect their government. Why should they be deprived from electing a government that would feel with and represent them … a government that would make us feel safe?” he told the crowd.



The Islamists have called for constitutional amendments to curb the king’s power in naming government heads, arguing that the premiership should go to the leader of the majority in parliament.



The Jordanian constitution, adopted in 1952, gives the king the exclusive prerogative to appoint and dismiss the prime minister.



King Abdullah II held meetings earlier this week with senior officials, MPs, senators and others as part of efforts to “come closer to the demands of the people,” urging them to speed up political and socio-economic reforms.



“It’s time for change. People can no longer accept corruption. We do not want a government of aristocrats, merchants and the rich,” Said told the demonstrators.



The government has announced it was pumping around $500 million into the economy in a bid to help living conditions, but protests have been staged in Amman and other cities over the past two weeks against high prices.



“We are protesting today to demand genuine reforms that would boost the people’s participation in deciding their future,” said Abdelhadi Falahat, head of the trade unions’ council.



The Islamists and Jordan’s 14 trade unions, which group more than 200,000 members, say the government’s new measures are inadequate as poverty levels are running at 25 percent in the desert kingdom.



The cost of living in Amman is the highest in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.



Official unemployment is running at about 14 percent in the country of six million people, 70 percent of them under the age of 30. Other estimates put the jobless figure at 30 percent.



Tunisia’s popular revolt, which ousted the country’s veteran strongman Ben Ali, has inspired dissidents across the Arab world and sparked protests.



In Egypt, riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse tens of thousands of protesters who flooded out of Friday prayers demanding an end to decades of corruption and oppression and the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.



Source: Ma’an News Agency.

Jordan king urges speedy reforms ahead of planned Friday protests

Thu, 27 Jan 2011



Amman – Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday urged the government and parliament to speed up “comprehensive” political, economic and social reforms.



The monarch’s remarks came 24 hours before a coalition of opposition parties, trade unions and activists said they planned to stage demonstrations after Friday prayers to press their demand for genuine reform.



“All officials concerned should shoulder their responsibilities and take their decisions in a daring, transparent and clear manner,” the king told leading lawmakers from the lower house of parliament, whom he had summoned to discuss the latest spate of protests.



Earlier in the week, the king held a similar meeting with leading figures from the upper house of parliament.



On Thursday he warned against attempts to hide behind him, referring to complaints by some parliamentarians and newspaper columnists that ministers resorted to the king’s protection to justify their bad performance.



“I don’t want to hear someone saying he has directions from the head,” he said.



All cases of alleged corruption and favoritism should be addressed in a satisfactory manner, he said. “All files should be opened to the public, doubts should be cleared and mistakes corrected,” the monarch continued.



King Abdullah in particular called for changes to election law. The Islamic-led opposition boycotted November elections claiming that the current law was unfair.



Thousands of Jordanians have demonstrated across the country on the past two Fridays, despite attempts by the government to pacify the population, namely by subsidizing basic goods and canceling taxes on certain types of fuel.



Source: Earth Times.

Thousands of protesters attend anti-government rallies in Sana’a

Thu, 27 Jan 2011



Sana’a, Yemen – Thousands of opposition supporters attended four anti-government rallies in Sana’a on Thursday to demand that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.



In the biggest rally, around 10,000 people gathered near the Sana’a University campus chanting slogans calling Saleh, who is ruling since 1978 Saleh to leave.



“Oh King Abdullah, here is Ali Abdullah,” they shouted in reference to the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz whose country is hosting toppled Tunisian president bin Ali, “The people want the president changed.”



Another slogan said “No to extending (tenure). No to Inheritance.”



The rallies were organized by the main opposition alliance, the Joint Meeting Parties, led by the Islamist party, Islah.



The protests ended peacefully, witnesses said.



Source: Earth Times.

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