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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria roils region

As the international community braced itself for another potential conflict in the Middle East, more details about the horrific attack in Syria have emerged. The number of people killed by the Syrian government’s alleged chemical attacks on rebel-held areas last week has surpassed 1,000 and is still climbing. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that there was little doubt that Syria used chemical weapons (poisoned gas) against civilians, indicating a high potential for US military action against the country. Local media in Gulf countries such as Oman, Qatar and Bahrain denounced the “bloody attacks” and called for international action against the Syrian regime. In reference to the potential military intervention, US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel said that US armed forces are prepared and “ready to go” if the president decides it is necessary.

Egypt Reacts to Syria Crisis

A spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that Egyptian representatives would not attend a meeting in Jordan on Syria because the minister rejects any sort of foreign military intervention, or military strike. The spokesperson called for finding a “political solution” to the current crisis. In reaction to signs of a potential military strike against Syria, Egypt’s stock market (Bourse) fell mid-day Tuesday.

Ten Thousand Textile Workers Strike

Ten thousand textile workers in Mahalla went on strike yesterday, on the grounds that they hadn’t been paid a promised bonus in August. Workers demanded that specific members of the companies’ leadership be dismissed in addition to the state-run trade union committee. Mahalla is the home of Egypt’s largest textile factory, and workers have gone on strike before, in 2006, 2008 and earlier this year. The Mahalla strike in 2008 is considered an important precursor to the mass popular protests that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

Interior Minister Defends Violence against protesters

Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a meeting with human rights groups on Monday that the state used maximum restraint in their dealings with protesters and defended the right to quell unrest. He added that the interior ministry was keen on challenging “all forms of violence and terrorism,” according to MENA News agency. Meanwhile, groups such as Human Rights Watch have denounced the violence of the state crackdown. Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director, said that the “excessive and unjustified use of lethal force” was the worst possible response to the tense situation in Egypt. Several hundred people died when Egyptian security forces opened live fire on protesters while dispersing protest encampments in Cairo in mid-August.

Egypt relaxes curfew

In a move that indicates the tenuous new state of calm in Egypt, authorities scaled back the state-imposed emergency curfew over the weekend as violent clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters in major cities like Cairo and Alexandria subsided. The curfew was extended to 14 governorates and was put in place on Aug. 14, when the interim government placed the country under a national state of emergency. Lifestyle websites like CairoScene have begun regularly posting articles about how Egyptians can keep themselves entertained during curfew hours, and where to find the best pre-curfew drink specials.



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