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M!ddleEasterners Newsblog: 9 – 14 December

M!ddleEasterners Newsblog: 9 – 14 December
18th December 2013 ICSR Team
In M!ddle Easterners


In the north, several arms warehouses passed from the control of the FSA to that of the Islamic Front. In response, the US and UK have suspended non-lethal aid to that part of the country. There have been reports that the Chairman of FSA Joint Chiefs of Staff Salim Idriss, had fled the Islamists to Qatar, he has denied this. The SMC went on to claim it had invited the Front to repel an attack by ISIS. The US has subsequently opened up a dialogue with the Front.

Members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a prominent member of the Islamic Front, have clashed with ISIS in the town of Maskenh. Ahrar al-Sham is now believed to have been expelled from the town.

A summary has been published about the current phase of the conflict between the opposition and the regime. It suggests that the regime is experiencing some success in its campaigns around Aleppo and in the Qalamoun, with rebel-held Yabroun being the next focus of the western offensive and an aerial bombardment of Aleppo causing significant casualties. It also suggests that the regime is turning to more irregular forces to prosecute its campaign, with Iraqi Shiite militias being spotted in Nabuk and a recent report suggesting that pro-government militias are growing in power.

Two Spanish journalists have been kidnapped by ISIS. Their families, and a jihadist forum have called for their release, while 14 international news organisations have written to various rebel groups seeking security for their journalists. The SMC has pledged to do what it can to safeguard reporters, but its capabilities are assumed to be limited. Razan Zeithouneh, a prominent human rights activist, has been kidnapped, as have several FSA leaders. ISIS has kept up its attacks on Kurdish civilians, while in the rebel-held city of Adra, Islamist groups have been accused of killing 15 members of the Alawite and Druze sects.

The UN reports ‘“credible evidence”’ that the Syrian government ‘“probably used”’ chemical weapons. It has also begun an airlift of aid into the country.


Reports detail the misery of Syrian refugees facing the sudden snowfall. Lebanon has banned box shelters, out of fear that the more permanent-seeming structures might encourage Syrian refugees to stay. There have been minor incidents of violence in Tripoli.


The Prawer plan has been suspended after one of its architects, Benny Begin, stated publicly that the plan had never been met with Bedouin consent. PM Netanyahu did not attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela. An IDF soldier was killed by a Lebanese sniper. In seeking the shooter, the IDF shot at two Lebanese soldiers: the incident is now the subject of a multiparty discussion. Israel has approved detention without charges for African migrants.


Flooding caused by the recent bad weather has forced approximately 10,000 Gazans from their homes according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Israel has allowed a Qatari-backed fuel purchase to restart Gaza’s only power plant. Israel has also allowed some construction materials into Gaza, though they are only to be used on UN projects. Hamas has had renewed contact with Iran and Russia. EU auditors have criticised the EU’s part in funding PA civil servants, who do not work due to residence in Gaza.


Egyptian troops have killed a leader of the Sinai militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, while a car bomb in Suez Canal city killed 1 and wounded 18 more, yet more deaths in this long-running conflict. In what is seen as an attempt to prevent mosques from supporting its religious opponents, the Endowments Ministry has banned the collection of donations without official permission. Protests have taken place all week, conducted by both students and Muslim Brotherhood. Dozens of Syrian refugees have been released from detention in police stations. The Egyptians have arrested 11 Qatari citizens at the offices of the Al-Jazeera TV channel. A deal brokered to end the HADISOLB strike has been met with opposition from workers.

by ICSR research intern Adam Brodie

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