As international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi attempts to broker a ceasefire over the Eid al-Adha holiday this weekend, government attacks on the cities of Aleppo and Damascus continue.
“Massacre in a bakery in Aleppo; clashes and raids in Damascus and its environs,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The daily reports that Assad’s forces attacked a line of women and children standing next to a bakery in Aleppo, killing many. The total number of fatalities across Syria on Tuesday reached 150, according to opposition sources.
Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar, reports “two massacres” — one in Aleppo and the other in the village of Ma’adhamiyah, where Assad forces bombed the Zeytouna mosque and killed over 20 people, including children.
Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Hayat interviews Morocco’s foreign minister, Saadeddine Othmani, on the heels of a visit by King Muhammad VI to the Gulf. According to minister Othmani, Morocco prefers a diplomatic solution stemming from national dialogue to military intervention, which he said would be disastrous for Syria.
However, Othmani told the daily that Assad must stop bombing Syrian civilians from air and land before any progress could be made.
“There is no conscience in a large battle,” writes Al-Hayat columnist Abdullah Iskandar in an editorial Monday.
“We do not believe that Brahimi is naive enough to believe that his appeal to the conscience [of Assad] will lead to a holiday ceasefire. But merely resorting to people’s conscience means that he has concluded that all of his efforts — the essence of which are still unknown — have failed in ensuring that Eid al-Adha will be less bloody than other days,” writes Iskandar.
Sheikh Hamad and the historic visit to Gaza
The visit of Qatari leader Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to Gaza Tuesday leads the editorial pages in the Arab world.
According to London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al Thani’s visit to Gaza “broke the isolation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip” and “aggravated Israel and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.”
“We had hoped that this visit would take place under a finalized Palestinian reconciliation, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would head those receiving the Qatari guest and his entourage,” wrote the daily’s lead editorial.
The sheikh was correct in noting that his visit to Gaza would not have been possible were it not for the revolution in Egypt, which allowed him to cross into the Gaza Strip.
“This blessed revolution turned all the political and strategic equations on their heads, and gave a big push of hope and freedom not only to the people of the Gaza Strip and Palestine more generally… but to the Arab and Islamic nations.”
Will Gaza now come under Qatar’s sphere of influence, after having left the Iranian and Syrian sphere? asks Tareq Homayed, editor-in-chief of A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
“Following the ouster of the Mubarak regime and the ascension to power of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was presumed that Gaza would come under the influence of Egypt, not Qatar, a matter that will be clarified in the coming days,” writes Homayed, noting that adopting Gaza will put Qatar on a collision course both with Iran — its former patron — and with the West, which shuns this Islamic movement.
Homayed says that by involving itself so significantly in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the internal Palestinian divide, Qatar has bitten off more than it can chew.
“Doha has now become a side in the Palestinian-Palestinian conflict. This poses a real threat to Palestinian reconciliation, its statehood, and the peace process. Can Qatar pay this high political price?
“The problem of Gaza, and specifically working with Hamas, is like walking on a sand dune. The best example of this is the Mubarak regime, which spent its last five years searching for the Israeli soldier Shalit who was being held by Hamas at the time.”