Homs pummeled and Egypt confused

Homs pummeled and Egypt confused

The Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas over Israel; Arab columnist says Iran will get its nukes no matter what

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

Egyptian Islamist Abu-Ismail on front page of Al-Quds Al-Arabi
Egyptian Islamist Abu-Ismail on front page of Al-Quds Al-Arabi

Arab media continues to closely follow the violence in Syria, stepping up the dramatic language in headlines and coverage.

Syria: a massacre, houses are pounded with rockets,” screams the headline in A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily published in London. Opposition forces dubbed yesterday “Thursday of anger towards Iran,” the daily reports. Residents of Homs are appealing to their compatriots in Aleppo and Damascus, who have so far largely refrained from protests, to join in, also calling on clerics in Syria and abroad to save local mosques from government bombardment.

Al-Hayat, a London-based liberal daily, is a bit more reserved in its reporting. “Syria: record number of daily victims” reads its headline, with the report continuing “Homs faced its worst day, waking up to the sound of bombs pounding its neighborhoods and streets since the early morning over the heads of residents.” The photo accompanying the report displays men running in the street as fire and a plume of black smoke rise from a building in the background.

Hard-line daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, published in London, covers Syria as a Cold War battlefield between Russia and the US. “American plans to grant military aid to the Syrian opposition,” reads its headline, adding in the lead paragraph that the Russian foreign ministry defended its arming of the government in light of the Americans siding with the opposition. The daily also reports the Russian opposition to the new American led coalition, the “Friends of Syria,” which it considers “illegal.”

Egyptian turmoil confuses population

The tumultuous political scene in Egypt continues to make headlines in Arab media of Friday. Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports in its lead story that Salafist politician Hazem Abu-Ismail defeated his rivals in a Facebook poll of presidential candidates. Abu-Ismail led with more then 20,000 votes over his closest rival, Muslim Brotherhood politician Abd Al-Munim Abu-Al-Fatouh. Former Arab League chief Amr Mousa came in third, with significantly less votes than the others.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that the Muslim Brotherhood have changed their position and are now calling to replace the current government led by Kamal Ganzouri with a national unity government led by a Muslim Brotherhood candidate. “It is natural that Ganzouri’s government resigns following this series of crises,” Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghazlan told the daily. The Brotherhood’s lead candidate for the position of prime minister is Khairat Shater, deputy General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al-Hayat focuses on the prospect of nation-wide civil disobedience this Saturday, reporting that the Egyptian public is confused; caught between opposing political and religious calls to either take part or shun the protest movement. The younger generation, represented by most student unions, supports civil disobedience, the daily reports. However, the parents, often still funding their adult children in Egypt, would rather see the tattering Egyptian market continue to work.

Palestinian leadership shuns Israel, welcomes Hamas

The Palestinian Authority will not resume talks with Israel in Jordan, Al-Hayat reports on Friday. A Palestinian statement announced that the Israeli ideas voiced in Amman “did not reach the minimum” necessary for serious negotiations. The report also mentions an American endorsement of Mahmoud Abbas as interim Palestinian prime minister, replacing Salam Fayyad.

An unnamed Palestinian official revealed Israel’s opening negotiation positions to Al-Hayat: annexation of the Israeli settlement blocs to Israel; Israeli sovereignty over the settlers and roads [leading to settlements], maintaining Israeli businesses in the West Bank; postponing the issue of Jerusalem to a stage following implementation of the rest of the agreement; and finally maintaining control over the Jordan river for 40 years.

PA mouthpiece Al-Ayyam also details the Israeli proposals, justifying the Palestinian refusal of them. The daily quotes Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath defining the Israeli positions as “catastrophic.” “It is a shame for the international community to even look at them,” Shaath told Al-Ayyam.

Iran and its nukes

Iran will not forgo the opportunity, now within arms reach, to own nuclear weapons and dominate the Middle East “and perhaps the world,” writes columnist Fares Khattab in an opinion piece titled “Iran and the US: who learned the lesson from Iraq?” published on Al-Jazeera‘s website.

“It is true that Iran … is bowing under the pressure of the so-called ‘soft war’ as Iraq did, but the situation in Iran is much more complex and dangerous than in was in Iraq.”

Israel and the West will not accept a nuclear Iran, concludes Khattab on a fatalistic note, “so our region is facing hard times ahead.”

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