Al-Qaeda massacres Yemeni soldiers; few Syrians cast their ballots
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Arabic media review

Al-Qaeda massacres Yemeni soldiers; few Syrians cast their ballots

West, opposition, chide Syrian parliamentary elections; Iran is accused of funding arms smuggling in the Sinai; and PA dailies ignore rumors of cabinet reshuffle

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

A Syrian man casts his vote in Damascus Monday (AP photo: Muzaffar Salman)
A Syrian man casts his vote in Damascus Monday (AP photo: Muzaffar Salman)

An attack by al-Qaeda in Yemen Monday killing 32 Yemeni soldiers and injuring dozens captures the headlines of the Arab world’s major newspapers on Tuesday. The attack is seen as a swift reprisal by al-Qaeda for the American targeted killing of al-Qaeda operative Fahd Al-Qasaa, convicted of bombing the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000.

“‘Al-Qaeda carries out surprise attack against barracks in Abyan,” reads the headline of the London-based liberal daily Al-Hayat. The daily reports that dozens of operatives stormed military barracks near the city of Zinjibar in the Abyan province, using heavy weaponry in a battle that lasted over three hours.

“In response to the killing of its leaders by the Americans, al-Qaeda kills 32 soldiers in an attack in southern Yemen,” reads the headline of the Arab-nationalist daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The daily reports that violence in Yemen has increased since President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi took office in February.

An unnamed Yemeni military source expresses his frustration to Al-Hayat for the lack of American coordination with the Yemeni army before carrying out such targeted killings. The source tells the daily that Yemen’s forces are ill-equipped to deal with al-Qaeda reprisals.

Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that in addition to killing soldiers, al-Qaeda captured 35 Yemeni soldiers whom its operatives displayed in the city of Shuaar, along with captured weaponry. The triumphant al-Qaeda men waved black flags and yelled “God is great.”

Syrian elections chided by opposition, West

Arab media is unanimous Tuesday about the cynicism of the Syrian parliamentary elections Monday.

“Washington and Paris: The Syrian elections are silly and ridiculous,” reads the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat. The London-based daily features a photo of veiled women mocking the elections by casting ballots with names of Syrian victims into polling boxes shaped like coffins and decorated with red roses.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that voting was low in Syria, noting that the elections were “the first ‘pluralistic’ ones to take place in the country in five decades.”

All Arab media quote UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as saying that the situation in Syria is unbearable and cannot go on.

The Syrian news agency SANA, for its part, reported “wide turnout” of citizens at the voting stations.

“The wide popular participation which was run within an atmosphere of democracy has reflected the Syrian people’s commitment to practice their electoral right with a free will to elect whom they see fit to represent them at the people’s Assembly,” SANA reported.

“There were two images in the Syrian scene,” reports Al-Hayat. “The images on official television showed voters lining up to cast their ballots in the polling centers, whereas news agencies and correspondents reported on the general strike which paralyzed most Syrian cities and towns, making voting in them difficult to imagine.”

Is Iran funding Sinai arms smuggling?

Quoting unnamed Egyptian security sources, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that Cairo suspects Iranian funding of arms smuggling from Libya to the Sinai Peninsula. The daily reports that the smuggled arms used to belong to the Libyan army.

The Egyptian source tells A-Sharq Al-Awsat that the Egyptian military has monitored increased activity of jihadists moving from Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip to its border with Israel and into the Sinai desert carrying Grad missiles.

The unnamed sources add that Iranian businessmen were monitored in Cairo carrying Western passports following the fall of the Mubarak regime, noting that “a country like Iran” may have a vested interest in heating up the Egyptian border with Israel.

The article features an “exclusive” photograph of a masked Bedouin man carrying an antitank missile on his shoulder in the Sinai desert.

Cabinet reshuffle in the PA imminent?

Despite being widely reported in central Palestinian news outlets such as Maan and Jerusalem-based Al-Quds daily, official PA newspapers say nothing on Tuesday about an imminent cabinet reshuffle. Instead, government mouthpieces Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda focus their reporting on PA efforts to internationalize the plight of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

However, Palestine-focused daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, based in London, reports that President Mahmoud Abbas is in the final stages of nominating ministers in the new government. According to the daily, Fatah will play a larger role in the new government, with new ministers belonging to the party joining older ones who will continue to serve.

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