Bloodshed in Syria and Egypt, new government in Jordan

Bloodshed in Syria and Egypt, new government in Jordan

Human Rights Watch bashes Assad for atrocities, and old faces mark new cabinet in Amman

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Egyptian women mourn the death of protesters in Cairo Wednesday (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Asad)
Egyptian women mourn the death of protesters in Cairo Wednesday (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Asad)

The death of at least 11 Egyptian protesters and the injury of dozens more in the Abbasiyah neighborhood of Cairo Wednesday, as well as the continuing violence in Syria, are the two major events making headlines in the Arab media Thursday.

“Egypt: The ‘Abbasiyah massacre’ unites forces against the military,” reads the headline of liberal daily Al-Hayat, published in London. The daily reports that most political parties in Egypt are blaming the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) for the bloodbath, forcing the de facto leaders of Egypt to reiterate their commitment to handing over power to a civilian authority at the end of May.

Egypt’s establishment daily Al-Ahram dubs the events a “horrible massacre,” putting the number of dead and injured at 76, according to the health ministry.

“‘Blood’ in Abbasiyah places Egypt in new frenzy,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. It portrays the clashes across from Egypt’s Defense Ministry as taking place between “unknown assailants” and supporters of disqualified presidential candidate Hazem Abu-Ismail, a hard-line Islamist. The daily reports that the violence in Egypt is scaring away investors at a critical time for Egypt’s economy. The Egyptian stock market lost more than half a million dollars following the violence.

Saudi-owned news site Elaph quotes opposition sources expressing their fear that the new bout of violence in Egypt may be used as an excuse by the military to postpone the elections. The site reports that two presidential candidates, Muhammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Abd Al-Munim Abu-Fattouh, the independent Islamist, have decided to suspend their campaigns following the violence.

In an Al-Hayat editorial titled “Before the end in Egypt,” columnist Zoheir Quseibati writes that not much has changed in Egypt’s violent street clashes despite the success of last year’s revolution.

“The death ratio in post-revolutionary Egypt cannot be compared with its equivalent in Syria, but the ‘million-man protests’ expressing the crisis of faith in the military and the clashes between Islamist and liberal forces raise the fear of collapse,” he writes.

Meanwhile, in Syria…

Violence in Syria is continuing unabated. Arab newspapers are quoting Western human rights organizations reporting wide-scale violations, especially in the city of Idlib.

“Human Rights Watch: Hundreds of homes burned in Idlib,” reads the headline in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, quoting a report by the international organization indicating the death of 95 civilians and the destruction of hundreds of homes in the northern part of Idlib province.

Al-Hayat reports that the Syrian army has suffered its biggest losses in fighting with the opposition since the start of the ceasefire in early April. The military lost at least 22 soldiers in the region of Aleppo, the daily claims in an article titled “Army suffers grave losses in Aleppo and ‘war crimes’ in Idlib.” The photo accompanying the article displays Syrian soldiers questioning two veiled women at the entrance to the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Salah Qalab writes that at the start of the Syrian revolution there was hope that the military would stage a coup to save the country from falling into civil war.

“But more than a year of waiting has gone by, and no such ‘rescue coup’ has taken place…  but now, after all this, is there no hope that a ‘rescue coup’ will happen… even if late and at the last moment?!”

‘Transitional’ Jordanian government sworn in

The new Jordanian government sworn in Wednesday is reported as the top story in Arab-nationalist daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. According to the daily’s Jordan analyst Bassam Badarin, the new government headed by Fayez Tarawneh is “technocratic and tribal.” He says the Palestinian population was given six portfolios, while — unusually — only one woman was appointed as state minister for women’s affairs.

Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiyah stresses this point, noting that only one woman was appointed minister alongside 29 men.

“The new government can be described as a government of geographic and demographic allocations par excellence, in hope that it will satisfy all tribal power bases surrounding the capital Amman, ignoring the center itself.”

According to Al-Arabiyah, King Abdullah II blamed outgoing prime minister Awn Khasawneh for stalling in implementation of reforms the king was pushing.

“We are going through a sensitive stage and are committed to our people and and world to realize reform,” the king wrote Khasawneh in an open letter. “We do not have much time nor the possibility to postpone what we have committed to.”

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