Weekly News 15th – 19th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Weekly News 15 – 19 May 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Migration crisis: The European Commission will decide next month on any legal cases against countries failing to host asylum-seekers as agreed in the bloc, taking a small step toward potential punishment for Poland and Hungary.
The Commission, the European Union’s executive, said on Tuesday that member countries could not avoid showing solidarity with Greece and Italy by taking in some of the asylum-seekers reaching those shores from across the Mediterranean. (Reuters)

Palestine: Demonstrators flooded the streets of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Monday to mark the anniversary of the Nakba, or the dispersal of 750,000 Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The Nakba, or catastrophe, is remembered each year on May 15. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: An air raid has killed 23 civilians in a Syrian town on the border with Iraq held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to a monitoring network.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Right (SOHR) said Monday’s deaths in Abu Kamal were caused by an earlier morning air strikes by jets belonging to the US-led coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Monday’s deaths in Abu Kamal followed those of 12 women the previous day in a raid on Akayrshi, a village in the east of Syria’s Raqqa province. (Al Jazeera) 

Yemen: A state of emergency has been declared in Yemen’s opposition-held capital, Sanaa, according to the local Saba news agency, after a cholera outbreak killed scores of people over the past two weeks.More than 184 Yemenis have been killed by a cholera epidemic. Only a few medical facilities are still functioning and two-thirds of the population are without access to safe drinking water, the UN has said. (Al Jazeera)

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Greece: Euro zone lenders and the International Monetary Fund remain far apart on how to provide debt relief for Greece, but officials hope euro zone finance ministers will still be able to hammer out an agreement at their May 22 meeting. Debt relief is key because the IMF has made it a condition if its participation in the latest bailout for Greece, the third since 2010. Furthermore, some euro zone governments could make the IMF’s participation a condition for new loan payouts. Greek debt to GDP has actually risen during the various bailout periods, primarily as a result of sinking GDP brought on at least in part by the austerity demanded by lenders. ( Reuters)

Israel: The three men accused of assassinating a senior Hamas commander in March have confessed to the crime and admitted that they received instructions from Israel for carrying out the killing, according to Gaza officials.
Mazen Faqha, of Hamas’s military wing, was fatally shot in the head and chest at the entrance of his Gaza City home on March 24. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: A new round of Syria peace talks has opened in Geneva as the government in Damascus fiercely denied it used a prison crematorium to hide evidence of thousands of murdered detainees.
Five previous rounds of UN-backed negotiations have failed to yield a solution to the six-year conflict and hopes for a major breakthrough remain dim. The US state department on Monday accused Bashar al-Assad’s government of using a crematorium to cover up the deaths of thousands of prisoners at Saydnaya.
Syria’s foreign ministry on Tuesday “categorically” denied the US accusations , calling them part of “a new Hollywood plot” to justify US intervention in the war-torn country. (Al Jazeera)

UK: Britain’s Labour launches ‘radical, responsible’ election manifesto.Labour wants to fight Prime Minister Theresa May on domestic policies, particularly healthcare, at the June 8 election, which, if the polls giving the Conservatives a runaway lead are right, could reshape the political landscape for years to come. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Austria: Austria has banned wearing a full facial veil in public places, the latest move by a European country to restrict expressions of Muslim identity viewed as contrary to Western secular values. The decision immediately drew criticism from rights advocates and from representatives of Austria’s Muslim community.
Under the new legislation, approved by Parliament on Tuesday, women who wear clothing that covers their faces, such as burqas or niqabs, in places like universities, public transportation or courthouses will face fines of 150 euros. The measure will take effect in October. (The New York Times)

France: The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, has unveiled his first government, an unprecedented mix of figures from parties on the left, right and centre, including a right-wing economy minister who previously served under Nicolas Sarkozy. (The Guardian)

Greece: Thousands of Greeks walked off their jobs on Wednesday and marched through central Athens in an angry protest against continued austerity measures being demanded by international lenders in exchange for disbursing bailout funds.
There were isolated clashes with police, but the demonstration was generally peaceful.
The strike was called by the country’s main public and private sector unions a day before Greece’s parliament is due to vote on reforms that would help unlock the funds from the 86-billion-euro bailout, the country’s third in seven years. The new cuts are designed to produce savings worth 2 percent of gross domestic product and meet a target for a 3.5 percent of gross domestic product primary surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs. (Reuters)

Ireland: Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister since 2011, said on Wednesday that he would step down, first as the leader of his party and then, once a successor is chosen, as prime minister.
Mr. Kenny, 66, has been under pressure from within his party, Fine Gael, over his handling of a long-running corruption scandal involving Irish police misconduct. He hinted in March that he would step down soon, and his announcement on Wednesday made it official, effective at midnight. (The New York Times)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

European Union: EU antitrust regulators fined Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) on Thursday for giving misleading information during a vetting of its deal to acquire messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. The Italian antitrust authorities levied a 3 million-euro fine on WhatsApp for allegedly obliging users to agree to share their personal data with Facebook. (Reuters)

Libya: At least 60 people were killed as rival Libyan forces clashed at a southern air base on Thursday, medical and military officials said, dimming hopes that tensions in the area can be calmed.
The violence erupted after a brigade from the western city of Misrata attacked Brak Al-Shati base, which they had previously ceded to an opposing faction aligned with the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA). (Reuters) 

Palestine: A Palestinian man was killed in the occupied West Bank on Thursday when an Israeli settler opened fire as protesters crowded around his car and pelted it with rocks, according to multiple accounts.
A Reuters photographer and other witnesses said hundreds of Palestinians had gathered near the city of Nablus to show support for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. During their demonstration, they blocked a main road used by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
The Israeli military said the Palestinians began throwing rocks at passing vehicles, including one belonging to a settler. (Reuters)

Syria: Islamic State attacked villages near the only useable road that links the government-controlled cities of Aleppo and Homs on Thursday, killing many residents.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 52 people, civilians and fighters on both sides, had been killed and dozens injured. At least 25 were civilians, including five children, and three of them died in execution-style killings.
State-run SANA news agency said that Islamic State fighters killed 20 people in the village of Aqarib al-Safi — east of Hama city before the army and allied militia repulsed the attack. (Reuters)

Turkey: Turkey is ready to retaliate if it faces a threat from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and will not shirk from launching a military campaign if need be, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Friday, 19 May 2017

Italy: Italy’s first black minister has said she feels “vindicated” after winning a four-year court battle against a far-right MEP who made repeated racist slurs against her.
Mario Borghezio has been order to pay Cécile Kyenge 50,000 euros ($55,690; £42,895) by a court in Milan.
Among other comments, Borghezio said she “took away a job from an Italian doctor” in a 2013 radio interview.
The Northern League MEP must also pay Ms Kyenge’s legal fees. (BBC)

Iran: Millions of Iranians have voted in a bitterly contested presidential election that has pitted hardliners against reformers and is expected to set the country’s direction for a generation. The two main candidates are both clerics, but have little else in common. Hassan Rouhani, 68, is a moderate who opened his country to the world and relaxed controls on Iranian society, his four years in power defined by the landmark nuclear deal he secured against the odds. His main challenger, former prosecutor and judicial official Ebrahim Raisi, whose black turban signifies that he claims descent from the prophet Muhammad, has built a populist, isolationist and religiously conservative coalition. (The Guardian)

Palestine: Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank and at the border of the Gaza Strip on Friday in their largest confrontation in months and just days before U.S. President Donald Trump is due to arrive in the region.
Protesters took to the streets in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in support of Palestinian prisoners who declared a hunger strike last month to demand better conditions in Israeli jails.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said “violent riots” erupted with hundreds of Palestinians setting tires ablaze and hurling fire bombs and rocks at Israeli forces. (Reuters)

Sweden: Julian Assange has said that “the battle is over but the war has just begun” after Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigations into rape allegations against the WikiLeaks founder.
Standing on the balcony of London’s Ecuadorian embassy in a brown leather jacket, he raised a clenched fist but then lambasted the Metropolitan police’s threat to still arrest him on charges of skipping bail as “untenable”. (The Guardian)

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