Weekly News 9th – 13th January 2017

News – Monday 9th

European Union: the Euro-sceptical Five Star Movement headed by Mr. Grillo has broken the alliance with the Ukip party after an online vote between the party members. The online voting also proposed to join the group of the ALDE Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) and it was approved with a majority of 78,5%. However, the consultation turned out to be useless since it was met with the refusal of ALDE’s leader Guy Verhofstadt. After that party members expressed their resentment to Mr. Verhofstadt, he concluded that the alliance between the two parties lacks of the basis for a common agenda. (Corriere della Sera)

Palestine: four Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday in an incident carried out with a truck. The truck barrelled on them and injured seventeen other people. The driver was shot dead during the attack. While Mr. Netanyahu said it was orchestrated by so-called Daesh, a Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the incident. The “Groups of Martyr Baha Eleyan” published a post on Arabic social media saying that they are an organisation without links outside Palestine; they also claimed to have acted before without providing details. (The Daily Star)

Syria: Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with three French journalists that civilian casualties are the price to be paid in war. On his first interview after the takeover of Aleppo, Mr. Assad justifies the bombardments on civilians saying that they were conducted in order to free the city from terrorists. The Syrian President also added that he has hopes for the Kazakhstan talks organised by Russia with some groups of rebels, excluding so-called Daesh and Fatah al-Sham, an old member of al-Qaeda.  (Le Monde)

News – Tuesday 10th

Libya: after the 2008 and 2012 deal with the Italian government, Italian interior minister Marco Minniti visited Tripoli to set the basis for a new migration deal. The purpose of the agreement is to halt smugglers and to help Libyan government to close its southern borders with Nigers, the pass used by migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Minniti did not go into details, but he remarked that this plan should revoke the past ones. 2008 and 2012 agreement settled a cooperation of the Libyan authorities in coasts-patrolling and an investment plan from the Italian part in terms of aid to the country. Human rights organisations strongly criticised these deals because of arbitrary detentions and tortures upon migrants. (Internazionale)

Palestine: the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) complained about Trump’s idea to move US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The PLO affirmed that this would go against the moribund Oslo accords and that it would provoke an explosion of violence and unrest. The PLO thus threatened to halt the recognition of Israel –one of the key pillars of Oslo – if the embassy would be moved. Establishing the US embassy to Jerusalem would mean an exclusive claim of Israel on the city, which was taken from Palestine illegally after 1967. Mr. Abbas himself wrote a letter to Trump to prevent the decision. (The Guardian)

Saudi Arabia: the blockade on Lebanese aid was lifted from Saudi Arabia. After a tense year, which saw Riyadh worried about the power of Hezbollah in Lebanon, now a $ 3-billion military aid package has been agreed. Hezbollah has been engaged in Syria supporting the regime together with Saudi regional rival Iran, while Saudi Arabia has been on the side of some rebel groups. The new programme would imply Riyadh funding the transfer of vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France. According to some Lebanese officials this represents a new beginning in the relations between the two countries. (The Daily Star)

News – Wednesday 11th

Germany: the country has seen a drop in the arrival of asylum seekers in 2016. While the previous year saw the arrival of 600,000 asylum seekers, in 2016 only 280,000 have made it to Germany. This is the consequence of the closure of the Balkan route and of the deal between Europe and Turkey. Migration has been an important topic in Merkel’s political reputation: due to the temporary open doors policy thanks to which 890,000 asylum seekers reached Germany – mostly Syrians –, her party strongly criticised Mrs Merkel for it. (BBC)

Israel: Israeli Arabs all across Israel have organised a strike on Wednesday in order to protest against the demolition of Arab houses. For Arabs it is very hard to obtain a permit to enlarge their houses or build new ones, even on private soil. In turn, many houses are built without the approval of Israel. Israeli Arabs complain the impossibility to widen their communities. A former MP, Mr. Mohammad Barakeh, commented that there has been a wide participation to the strike. (The Daily Star)

News – Thursday 12th

Libya: a self-declared prime minister, Khalifa Gwell, claimed that his forces have taken control of three ministries of the UN-backed Libyan government. Gwell said over the phone to AFP that the government led by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj have failed to lead the government in the last year. Gwell’s so-called National Salvation government was formed by the outgoing parliament after a disputed 2014 transfer of power. The new parliament sits in eastern Libya, and does not recognize the leadership of Ghwell or Serraj. (The Daily Star)

Poland: President Barack Obama decided to move US tanks and troops to Poland with the aim to protect NATO allies against an “aggressive Russia”. 3,000 US soldiers were moved to Poland. Russia has reacted negatively to Obama’s decision: a spokesperson of Mr. Putin has addressed the choice of allocating tanks and soldiers to the Russian borders as a threat to Russia’s security. Whereas Poland’s Undersecretary of State for Defence Tomasz Szatkowski said that the deployment was necessary to respond to Russia’s “aggressive actions in our vicinity”, referring to Ukraine and the illegal annexion of Crimea. (BBC)

Tunisia: young Tunisians have been demonstrating in the street in a town of the country’s south. Police has responded firing tear gas to them, according to residents. Six years after their revolt, Tunisians of marginalised parts of the country still do not see an economic increase, this is why hundreds of young people has lamented the lack of jobs and of development. (The Daily Star)

News – Friday 13th

Cyprus: the talks towards a peace settlement in the Cyprus started on Monday were halted by Turkish President. Mr. Erdoğan affirmed that Turkish troops will remain on the island in perpetuity. After Geneva talks, Turkish President added that a rotating governance of the island – a cornerstone of planned new government arrangements – is unacceptable. The UN had high hopes in these talks, but until now no deal was reached. The conference will restart on January 18, although no meeting at the political level is planned. Cyprus has been living in this division since 1974 and Greek Cypriots are demanding for the removal of 30,000 Turkish troops. (The Guardian)

Iraq: Iraqi forces made gains against the so-called Daesh in the city of Mosul. Counter-terrorism service (CTS) is aiming at liberating the left bank of the Tigris, which bisects the city from north to south. They have recently taken control of an important IS base, the university campus. Mosul university was one of the first places taken by IS militants, also for this reason they tried to fight back the Iraqi army offensive. Iraqi forces have liberated many districts in eastern Mosul with the support of a US-led coalition. (Reuters US)

Syria: a major military base outside Damascus was targeted by rockets in the night between Thursday 12 and Friday 13 January. The Syrian government believes Israel being the responsible of the attack. Syrian state television reported that several rockets were fired from an area in northern Israel. The rockets did not cause any deaths, however Syrian army command and armed forces warned Israel of repercussions. According to the Syrian government, this is the third of a series of Israeli rockets in Syria. Israel is believed of targeting advanced weaponry as well as Lebanese Hezbollah bases. (Al Jazeera)

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