Toulouse attack makes Arab headlines

Toulouse attack makes Arab headlines

Columnists warn of a pending Russian invasion of Syria, Libya demands Qaddafi's intelligence chief; and liberals battle Islamists for Egypt's constitution

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

The funeral of Damascus bombing victims Sunday (photo credit: AP/Muzaffar Salman)
The funeral of Damascus bombing victims Sunday (photo credit: AP/Muzaffar Salman)

The terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, is making headlines in the Arabic language press on Tuesday.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat dedicates a front page article to the massacre, titled “Toulouse attack with one fingerprint, and Sarkozy: a human tragedy.” In its report, the daily quotes Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor and Interior Minister Eli Yishai commenting on the attack. The daily dedicates a separate article to the Jewish history and demographics of France, estimating the number of Jews living in the country at 550,000.

The headline of liberal daily Al-Hayat, published in London, reads “‘The motorcycle butcher’ terrifies France,” accompanied by an illustrative photo of a pistol “similar to that used by the butcher.” The lead paragraph describes how the killing spree has “paralyzed” the election campaign of France’s presidential candidates, amid “a wave of terror.”

The report claims that the attack will turn the security situation in France into one of the dominant issues in the upcoming elections, an issue that has been overshadowed by the economic situation and the high level of unemployment in France. The daily also mentions the condemnation of the head of France’s Muslim community.

Fighting in Damascus

The fighting between government and opposition forces in Damascus continues to dominate the news and the editorial pages of the Arab press Tuesday.

Many editorials focus on the new Russian involvement in the Syrian predicament. A-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tariq Homayed tries to make sense of the reported arrival of Russian anti-terrorist forces in Syria. He poses more questions than answers, but points to an apparent contradiction in Russia’s policy towards Syria: on the one hand, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov criticizes Syria, and on the other Russia sends an elite force, apparently to aid Assad’s regime.

“Something is happening in Syria,” notes Homayed cryptically, “but no one knows how serious it is.”

Columnist Abdul Rahman Rashed, the manager of Al-Arabiya news channel, is more straightforward in his accusation of Russia.

“This is the first time in modern history that Russia directly intervenes on the ground in the Middle East,” writes Rashed. “With its forces, Russia truly threatens security and stability in the region. This could be the start of a Russian invasion.”

While most eyes are on Damascus, one columnist looks south, towards the Golan Heights.

“The Golan awaits a revolution,” writes Hossam Aitany in Al-Hayat. “Despite important progress in studying Syrian society, its components and its influences a year into the revolution, the subject of the struggle with Israel remains subjected to taboos and prejudgments.”

“One may assume,” writes Aitany, “that the next regime will designate retrieving the Golan a part of the revolutionary goals, breaking the atmosphere of lies and falsehood spread by the dying regime for over 40 years.”

“Negotiations on the Golan and working to retrieve it from the grasp of occupation will be a test of the political, diplomatic and military performance granting legitimacy to the post-Assad regime.”

Libya demands extradition of Qaddafi intelligence chief

A Libyan delegation arrived in Mauritania Monday to demand the extradition of Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah Sanousi, who was arrested in the country, Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera reports. Mustafa Abu-Shaqour, the Libyan deputy prime minister, headed the delegation, telling Al-Jazeera he was confident that Mauritania would comply with the extradition demand.

Al-Hayat reports on Tuesday that Sanousi moved to Mauritania after fleeing to Mali and Niger. He returned to the capital Nouakchott from Casablanca, Morocco, last Friday after receiving guarantees that he could live there, the daily reports. But it was a trap, and Sanousi was arrested upon his arrival.

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned news website Elaph reports that residents of eastern Libya wish to secede from the west. They are demanding a return to the federal system that existed in the country before Muammar Qaddafi came to power in the late 1960s. Eastern Libya, the website reports, is rich in oil; and its residents believe they can receive a greater share of it under a federal system.

Who will draft the Egyptian constitution?

Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya reports a clash between liberal and Islamist legislators in Egypt over the drafting of the country’s new constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party announced that half of the constitutional assembly will come from parliament whereas the other half will belong to civil society organizations and the military.

But various Egyptian organizations are objecting to the parliament’s appointment of members, Al-Arabiya reports. Egypt’s writers union, for instance, is demanding the right to send at least 10 representatives to the draft body. Meanwhile, a number of liberal parliament members are threatening to resign if only Islamist MPs are included in the draft process.


Follow Elhanan Miller on Twitter

read more: