The heavy bombing of Homs and other Syrian cities by the Assad regime continues to dominate Arab news today. The headline in the liberal London-based daily Al-Hayat reads: “The continued killing plunges Syria into isolation,” accompanied by a gory, if somewhat blurred, TV screengrab photo of victims lying in the rubble in Homs. Al-Hayat reports of “horrific stories of bodies and tanks in the streets and a lack of food and medical equipment in houses, and the smell of death and destruction everywhere.” The city of Zabadani has also been heavily bombarded, the newspaper reports.
Homs activist Khaled Abu-Salah, a familiar face in the media coverage of the events, appears lying wounded in a video report aired by Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya. With an IV line in his arm and a bandaged hand, gunfire sounding in the background, Abu-Salah vows to continue the uprising against Assad “even if he kills us all.”
A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Saudi-owned daily, leads its coverage of the events with the American “diplomatic assault” on Syria, reporting that the US “fired its first diplomatic shot” on Monday by closing its embassy in Damascus. The entire front-page coverage of A-Sharq Al-Awsat focuses on the Arab and Western diplomatic efforts to stop the carnage, with only one sentence, at the very end, reporting the death toll in Homs and developments on the ground.
Some media outlets focus on the Syrian opposition. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based hard-line daily, reports of divisions within the ranks of the military opposition between the Free Syrian Army and the newly founded High Revolutionary Syrian Council, led by dissident general Mustafa Sheikh. “The general only represents himself,” says Riyadh Asaad, leader of the Free Syrian army in a written statement.
Palestinian unity and its enemies
Arab media is widely covering the “Doha Announcement,” which produced a Hamas agreement to appoint Mahmoud Abbas as interim prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Many reports focus on the obstacles facing the realization of Palestinian unity.
Al-Hayat claims that the announcement has been criticized by both Israel and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. According to the daily, Gaza Hamas leaders blame Khaled Mashal for splitting Hamas’s unity and acting “individually.” A-Sharq Al-Awsat speculates that Salam Fayyad, the current Western-supported Palestinian prime minister, will be nominated as finance minister and deputy prime minister, since Abbas cannot act as full-time prime minister in addition to his current presidential duties.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which focuses on Palestinian issues, reports that Abbas was pressured to forgo Salam Fayyad, whom Hamas adamantly refused to accept, by the Qataris.
Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera, leads its coverage with the Israeli “threat” embodied in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to Abbas to choose between “peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.”
Al-Quds, a Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily, reports that the unity agreement has caused “widespread controversy” in the Palestinian Territories as it contravenes the Basic Palestinian Law, the PA’s proposed constitution. The daily also estimates that Salam Fayyad will remain finance minister.
Egyptian army struggles to contain public anger
Al-Hayat views the announcement by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) on the start of the presidential race next month as an attempt to contain public calls for civil disobedience on Saturday. Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s headline could not be clearer: “Egyptian military council announces early elections capitulating to revolutionaries’ demands.”
Egyptian establishment daily Al-Ahram reports that Egypt’s labor unions are behind the call for civil disobedience on February 11, whereas the country’s major political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Wafd and the Salafis, oppose the move.
Independant Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm reports that three Egyptians were killed in clashes with government-backed bullies (baltagiyah) in a report eerily reminiscent of the early days of Egypt’s uprising a year ago.
Egypt soccer victims not martyrs?
An Egyptian Salafi spokesman, Abd Al-Munim A-Shahat, caused a big splash after arguing that the 74 victims of the soccer field fiasco last week in Port Said were not martyrs. “They died for the sake of a legally-forbidden pastime,” A-Shahat said in a videotaped sermon, adding that soccer was a forbidden sport taken from the West. According to Shahat, only three sports are recognized by Islam: archery, swimming and horseback riding. According to A-Sharq Al-Awsat, other Islamic scholars condemned Shahat’s opinion, arguing that any victim dying needlessly is considered a martyr (shahid). Shahad, however, said he preferred to see public funds spent on Koran-reciting competitions than on soccer, Al-Arabiya reports.
|Like us on Facebook||Get our newsletter||Follow us on Twitter|