WASHINGTON, June 23 -- The United States has revealed a proposal to create a $50bn global investment fund for the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states, designed to be the economic engine of the long-awaited US Middle East peace plan.
The plan was posted on the White House website on Saturday, two days before a US-led workshop in Bahrain where the economic portion of the so-called "deal of the century" is set to be discussed. The Manama conference is taking place despite opposition from the Palestinians, who will not attend. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday rejected the economic plan and the US peace effort, which is led by President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner.
"The economic situation should not be discussed before the political one," Abbas said on Saturday. "As long as there is no political solution, we do not deal with any economic solution."
Speaking to Reuters news agency, Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, said the economy-first approach was "necessary" to break away from the political side, as it would be "less controversial". "Let's let people study it, give feedback," he said. "Let's try to finalize if we can all agree on what that could look like in the event of a peace agreement."
Fundamental political issues such as the occupation of Palestinian territories, the right of return for refugees and their descendants (of which roughly five million live in refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries) and border sovereignty were not mentioned in the plan. Instead, the economic scheme included 179 infrastructure and business projects, a billion-dollar investment to build up the Palestinians' tourism sector, and a $5bn transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
CAIRO, June 18 -- Egypt's former President Mohamed Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, his son said, a day after he collapsed in court and died shortly after.
Morsi was buried early in the morning alongside other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, his son, Ahmed Morsi, said on his Facebook page. The burial was attended by members of the family in Cairo's Madinat Nasr after authorities refused to grant permission for a burial in Morsi's home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta, Ahmed Morsi said. "We washed his noble body at Tora prison hospital, read prayers for him at the prison hospital ... and the burial was at the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides," Ahmed wrote. Morsi's lawyer, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud, confirmed the burial took place early on Tuesday.
Morsi, who was a leading figure in the Brotherhood, became Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2012, one year after the Arab Spring uprising saw the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. He was deposed in July 2013 following mass protests and a military coup led by Egypt's current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, after which he was immediately arrested. He had been in detention ever since. The Brotherhood, which has since been outlawed, said Morsi's death was a "full-fledged murder" and called on Egyptians to gather for a mass funeral. In a statement on its website, the Brotherhood also called for crowds to gather outside Egyptian embassies around the world.
Az-Zahra Hussein, his daughter, said in a Facebook post her father will be released "with precautionary measures", and will soon be transferred to a police station from the prison. Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said under Egyptian law Hussein must be freed within 24 hours. "This is a final court ruling but the problem is that security forces tend to delay releases when they do not like those freed," said Eid, adding in some previous cases the execution of the release order took several months. The journalist has been in custody since 2016 without formal charges, trial or conviction. Hussein was accused of "incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos", allegations he and Al Jazeera Media Network deny. Nasr told Anadolu news agency the Cairo Criminal Court rejected the prosecutors' appeal on Thursday. "This case shows the misuse of pre-trial detention as a form of punishment in Egypt," said Eid. He said there are at least 20,000 people currently in detention without charge in Egypt for political reasons. Hundreds of them have already exceeded the legal two-year pre-trial term, he added. Since the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Al Jazeera Media Network has been portrayed as Egypt's national enemy for its coverage of the group. Many of its reporters have been arrested on grounds of spreading lies and supporting "terrorists" - a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation.
Hussein's detention was in violation of both Egyptian and international laws, with the former setting 24 months as the maximum period for pre-trial detention. Egyptian authorities have repeatedly renewed his two-year detention. He was arrested on December 20, 2016, by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival in Cairo to visit his family. In February, the United Nations called Hussein's jailing "arbitrary detention", saying the "appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately". In 2013, Egypt also arrested and later imprisoned Al Jazeera's Abdullah Elshamy, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste on charges of spreading "false news" - cases that were widely condemned by international media outlets and many politicians. All have since been freed. Ibrahim Helal, former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, was sentenced to death in absentia for purportedly endangering national security. Several other colleagues have also been charged in absentia, such as journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane.
CAIRO, March 29 -- Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading pro-democracy activist in Egypt, has been released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for inciting and taking part in protests, according to his family and lawyer.
The influential blogger and software engineer was a leading voice amongst the young Egyptians who initially led the 2011 uprising that ended the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. "Alaa got out," his sister, Mona Seif, wrote on Facebook and Twitter on Friday. His other sister, Sanaa Seif, posted a video on Facebook of Abdel Fattah playing with a dog. His lawyer, Khaled Ali, confirmed the release by posting on Facebook: "Thanks God, Alaa Abdel-Fattah at home."
Facebook pages set up in support of Abdel Fattah posted videos of him grinning, hugging and shaking hands with friends as he walked out of a police station in Cairo. In the background, women were ululating. His release from the notorious Tora prison will not bring him complete freedom. As part of his parole, Abdel Fattah must sleep every night at a local police station for the next five years and will be under police surveillance.
CAIRO, March 16 -- Californian group Red Hot Chili Peppers played in front of Egypt's great pyramids of Giza on March 15, entertaining more than 10,000 people at the site and many more over a livestream link.
With the three ancient monuments silhouetted behind the stage, the funk-rock band opened with "Can't Stop" from the 2002 album "By The Way" and followed with "Californication", "Dark Necessities" and other hits. The concert, held under tight security, was promoted by Egypt's tourism ministry, which is trying to put the country back on the map as a prime destination after an uprising in 2011 and years of subsequent turmoil scared many visitors away.
"It was a lot of work to get here but it was absolutely worth it," said fan Christina Robertson, from Madison, Wisconsin, who left five children at home to make the trip. "I've always wanted to come to Egypt, I've always wanted to see the pyramids, it's spectacular, it's a dream, and to see Red Hot Chili Peppers here, my favourite band of all time."
Singer Anthony Kiedis, bass player Michael "Flea" Balzary and drummer Chad Smith join the likes of The Grateful Dead, Scorpions and Frank Sinatra performing at one of the seven wonders of the world.
The concert is the first international gig to be held at the ancient site since pianist Yanni in 2015. Fans travelled from 67 countries, said concert organiser Karim El Chiaty, Vice Chairman of Travco Group.
"I think there's a big fan base in Egypt and I think for what we're trying to achieve here today, which is to promote tourism in Egypt, we needed a band of that kind of scale and that influence," said Chiaty.
Red Hot Chili Peppers have sold more than 60 million albums, won six Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. The band is currently on a world tour and working to complete their 12th album following their 2016 release "The Getaway".
JERUZALEM, December 23 -- With funding and direction from Iran, Hamas has raised its flag in the Palestinian Authority capital of Ramallah.
Where it hopes to kill two birds with one stone: Attack Israel and topple PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Ramallah reverts to a terrorist agenda. Ramallah has suddenly reverted to a terrorist agenda. Hamas has raised its flag in the capital of the Palestinian Authority. There, in that city of spacious homes, which in recent years has attracted banks and business centers and international organizations and embassies, and where accelerated development has resulted in hundreds of high-rise buildings springing up, Hamas is sticking it to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Ramallah and the villages around it, which function as the political and economic center of the PA, strongly identified with the Palestinian elite and wanted cooperation with Israel. This week, they became the site of a hunt for the terrorists who carried out the shooting attacks in Ofra and Givat Asaf. The raids, the encirclement, the capture of homes and the shots fired at protesters – all in the beating heart of the PA, which this week resumed full security coordination with Israel – are the last thing the ailing Abbas needs.
In the middle of all this, between the Jewish settlements Halamish, Nachliel and Atarot, lies the village of Kaubar, a hamlet that raises murderers. Kaubar illustrates how shaky Abbas’ stature has become in the region where his own capital lies. In October 2011, the village hosted a great celebration in honor of four local residents being released from prison in Israel as part of the Hamas-engineered prisoner exchange deal for captive soldier Gilad Schalit. The prisoners included cousins Nael and Fahri Barghouti, who had served over 30 years in prison. In 1978, they stabbed bus driver Moti Yakuel to death as he was driving Palestinian workers home to Kaubar and other local villages. The cousins were welcomed by Omar Barghouti, Nael’s brother, who was also convicted for the murder but had been released as part of the 1985 Jibril Agreement, in which Israel freed over 1,150 security prisoners for three Israelis captured in the First Lebanon War. Nael has since been imprisoned again in Israel for supposedly violating his parole. His wife, Aman, also has a rap sheet. She served time in prison for planning a terrorist attack on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, although it was never carried out. Two of Fahri’s sons also served time in Israeli prisons. Eight years ago, the road that leads to Kaubar was stenciled with stars of David, so that cars could drive over them on their way into the village.
LONDON, December 23 -- Al Qaeda has been revitalised and is planning to commit new and spectacular attacks on the West, according to a senior British minister.
The group, which committed the 9/11 hijackings in 2001 that killed almost 3,000 people in New York City, is now trying to plot attacks on airports and develop technology that can bring down airliners. British Security Minister Ben Wallace, in an interview with The Sunday Times, said Al Qaeda posed such a threat that it was keeping top ministers “awake at night”. Such technology may include drones with explosives attached or miniaturised bombs capable of being smuggled on to airliners. The group’s most powerful wing is in Yemen and is known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it also has a presence in Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Maghreb.
His comments come only days after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Syria. Experts and diplomats have given warnings that the withdrawal may embolden militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which has used the chaos of the civil war to plot attacks on the West. The militant group, which has had a reduced profile in recent years after the growth of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has long targeted aviation for spectacular attacks. In 2006, British police discovered a transatlantic Al Qaeda plot to bring down airliners using liquid explosives disguised as soft drinks. The result was increased security measures on flights regarding the carrying of liquids. Three years later, Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker Anwar Al Awlaki discussed a plot with a young Nigerian volunteer in Yemen, sending him on a mission to bring down an airliner with explosives in his underwear. His explosives failed to detonate when his underwear caught fire as the plane approached Detroit on Christmas Day. Awlaki would later become the first American citizen deliberately killed on the orders of a US President without charge because of the threat he posed to national security.
CAIRO, December 16 -- On December 15, the Egyptian government announced the finding of a 4,400-year-old tomb in excellent condition.
“The color is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said referring to the discovery. The tomb, decorated with hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs, was found by archaeologists in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, south of the capital city of Cairo. The structure is 33 ft long, 9.8 ft wide, and approximately 10 ft high.
Experts consider the discovery as one-of-a-kind because of its condition. The tomb, which dates back to the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, once the third king of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. The contents of the tomb honor priest Wahtye by depict him and his family as well as cultural rites and symbols, it contained “scenes depicting manufacturing of potter and wine, (Wahtye) making religious offering, musical performances, boats sailing, the manufacturing of the funerary furniture, and hunting,” according to Egypt Today. The finding also included five inner shafts, four of which remain sealed and their contents await excavation to reveal possible hidden treasures. The process will begin Sunday.
“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” Waziri said. The Fifth Dynasty ruled from 2,500 BC to 2,350 BC, close to the time the pyramid of Giza was built. The general area of Saqqara, where the discovery was made, is a promising location spanning several kilometers where more than 3,000 years of Egyptian history has been gradually emerging to the eyes of the world.
CAIRO, December 2 -- An Egyptian actress is set to face trial next month for wearing a see-through dress at the Cairo International Film Festival that showed her legs.
Rania Youssef appeared at the closing session of the event on Thursday wearing a black lacy dress that exposed what some commentators described as a swimsuit beneath it. This prompted two lawyers to lodge a case against her accusing the actress of "inciting debauchery", a charge that could land her in jail for up to five years if she is convicted, the source said. The first legal case alleging obscenity was filed by lawyer Amro Abdelsalam and the second by Samir Sabri, another lawyer known for taking celebrities to court.
Sabri told the AFP news agency that Youssef's appearance "did not meet societal values, traditions and morals and therefore undermined the reputation of the festival and the reputation of Egyptian women in particular".
Her trial is scheduled to begin on January 12. Pictures of the 44-year-old star left social media users divided, with some criticising her and others defending Youssef's right to wear what she wants.
"This dress and design is called 'I forgot my trousers while going to be honoured'," wrote one Twitter user, in Arabic. Others frowned upon the criticism, with one user, Estella Joyce, urging Egyptians to drag themselves "out of the dark ages".