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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Syria Refugee Crisis Escalates

The number of Syrian refugees has surpassed two million and is steadily climbing, the UN said in a report released yesterday. The UN High Commissioner for refugees called the Syrian refugee crisis  “the great tragedy of this century” and “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.” Though two million is the official number of registered refugees, the actual number of displaced Syrians is likely closer to 6.2 million. As international talk of Western airstrikes on the embattled country increases, more people continue to flee their homes. Neighboring countries are struggling to house refugees, and Syrians have faced hostility in some countries like Egypt. After Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, Syrian refugees were accused of infiltrating pro-Morsi protests and fomenting unrest; in recent weeks, hundreds have fled – again – looking for a new safe haven.

Trouble in the Suez

After US President Barack Obama declared that he would put the Syria military strike question to Congress, many politicians in Egypt have loudly rejected the prospect of Western military action in the region. Some are asking whether US battleships would use the Suez Canal if such military action took place, and the head of Tamarod, a political group, proposed banning US ships from using the Canal. The Chief Canal Authority said that this was not an option. “Taking the decision to ban U.S. vessels…going to take part in military actions against Syria will be taken as pretext for interference within Egypt’s local affairs to hinder crossing through the international navigational canal, which violates the international agreements,” Mamish said. “It’s a trap that we will not get caught in.”

In other canal-related news, a cargo ship was attacked by three armed assailants on Sunday who have since been arrested, authorities are reporting. Though authorities first called it a terrorist attack, it’s still unclear who the armed attackers were and why they attacked the Chinese-owned ship.

Group Calls for Protests to Mark Two Months of Military-Backed Government

A group called the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi to demonstrate today - the two-month anniversary of the military government takeover. They also called for Egyptians to protest in other ways, such as by breaking the curfew. Supporters of the deposed president also called for protests last Friday, and six people were killed in clashes across the country. Protest turnout has been minimal since Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of demonstrators while dispersing encampments in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares.

More Funding for Egypt from UAE

The United Arab Emirates, which has already delivered $3 billion in promised aid to Egypt, announced that they were pledging another $2 billion yesterday. In past weeks, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have collectively pledged $12 billion to Egypt and its new interim government. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that he was hoping to invest more in Egypt’s domestic market and has also sent several large shipments of oil to Egypt in recent weeks. In August, an envoy from the UAE said they will support Egypt “in whatever way [Egypt] sees suitable.” Some analysts say that the Gulf states are showering aid on Egypt because of their interest in repressing the Muslim Brotherhood, which, as a symbol of political Islam, poses a threat to their stability.

Al Jazeera Egypt Channel Banned

A Cairo court ordered Egypt’s Al Jazeera channel to stop broadcasting today. Three religious channels were banned as well. Al Jazeera is seen by many Egyptians as being sympathetic and partial toward the Muslim Brotherhood and has come under a barrage of criticism in Egypt since President Morsi was desposed in early July.  Egyptian authorities recently deported three Al Jazeera journalists and are detaining two others.

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