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Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The UN Votes on Palestinian Statehood

See also EA Video Analysis: Egypt --- A 4-Point Guide to the Political Crisis
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Insurgents Challenge the Regime in the Air
Wednesday's Egypt Live Coverage: Protesters Fill Tahrir Square Again

Please note that we have split off today's Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Take More Bases as Damascus Hit by Bombs

2232 GMT: Bahrain British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has met this week with opposition political society AlWefaq and the loyalist National Unity Assembly. In a statement, Burt offers little more than the normal UK line, although he specifically notes the recent stripping of citizenship. This is likely to become an increasing issue for the British government as it has not only impacted Bahrainis resident in London but also left two former AlWefaq MP's who were visiting the UK, stranded as stateless

We discussed the current situation in Bahrain one year on from the Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report and our shared concern at the recent bombings. I reiterated the UK’s support for the Declaration of Non-Violence that was launched earlier this month by Al Wefaq and five other political societies. It is an important confidence-building measure and I encourage other leaders in Bahrain to declare publicly their support for this initiative. Violent protests are unacceptable and we condemn them unequivocally.

We also discussed recent actions taken by the authorities, such as the ban on protests and the withdrawal of citizenship from 31 individuals. I made clear that the UK is concerned about such steps which undermine potential reconciliation and that the UK is urging the Government of Bahrain to do more to create the right environment for meaningful political dialogue. I therefore welcome the Government’s acceptance of a needs assessment team from the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights next week to discuss this alongside follow-up to the recent Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain by the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The British Under-Secretary of State for Defence Lord Astor will visit Bahrain next week for talks with leaders.

2229 GMT: Algeria Clashes between youth activists and security forces have left 20 protesters injured and resulted in several arrests. AFP reports:

The clashes broke out as the police tried to disperse protesters who were attempting to ransack a polling booth in the municipality of Takerboust, in the Bouira region, 125 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of the capital, El Watan said, citing residents.

The youths, who have been demanding an inquiry into the running of the commune for the past five years, were seeking to disrupt the vote, some of them told the French-language daily.

Several protesters were arrested and the incident temporarily interrupted voting.

2225 GMT: Yemen A reward of $25,000 has been offered by the Yemen government for help in capturing the killers of a Saudi diplomat, shot dead yesterday. An unnamed security official told Reuters that authorities are "assuming that al Qaeda was behind it".

2155 GMT: Palestine. The motion for Observer State recognition of Palestine passes 138-9, with 41 abstentions. The announcement is greeted by a standing ovation.

2125 GMT: Palestine. Israeli Ambassador Prosor concludes with an appeal to the General Assembly, "Don't help the Palestinians today on their march of folly."

2120 GMT: Palestine. Israeli Ambassador Prosor chides, "Today, Abbas, you asked the world to recognize the Palestinian state while you won't recognize us. You are trying to erase Jewish history."

Prosor says the only way to achieve peace is through direct agreements between parties, not through the UN.

2117 GMT: Egypt. President Morsi has been giving a lengthy interview on State TV justifying the decrees to expand his powers. We will have a summary later.

2112 GMT: Palestine. Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor has immediately rebuffed the Palestinians, saying "none of the vital elements for peace are in the resolution and this is why Israel cannot accept it". He insisted that Palestinians must recognize the "Jewish state" of Israel and be prepared to end conflict once and for all.

2101 GMT: Palestine. Palestinian Authority leader Abbas declares that Palestinians "will accept no less than an independent state, with east Jerusalem as capital, on all land occupied in 1967".

Abbas calls for "peaceful popular resistance" to achieve the goals. He says this will "rectify the unprecedented historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people since Al-Nakba [expulsion from their lands ]of 1948...65 years later...the General Assembly stands before a moral duty...which cannot be postponed".

2055 GMT: Palestine. Abbas says, to lengthy applause, "The moment has arrived to say...enough of aggression, occupation, and settlements".

2045 GMT: Palestine. After the Sudanese Ambassador introduced the motion to elevate Palestine to Observer State, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began his address to the United Nations General Assembly to a standing ovation.

Abbas says, "The international community now stands before the last chance to save the two-State solution."

1759 GMT: Bahrain. Security forces have attacked a peaceful protest in Mahazza, according to Said Yousif Almuhafda of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and photojournalist Mazen Mahdi.

For over two weeks now, activists and opposition societies have been reporting on a constant barrage of night raids and attacks by security forces in the Mahazza, a small village on the island of Sitra. We first reported on this on 13 November, and the frequent reports have led some opposition activists to refer to events in Mahazza as an ongoing siege. On Tuesday, residents in Muhazza told AlWasat newspaper that 143 houses have been raided over recent days. This video, filmed covertly, reportedly captures one such raid:

Today, a sit-in was held in Mahazza in solidarity with the residents. Photojournalist Mazen Mahdi reports that around 1630 GMT, it was "stormed" by police, whilst at the same time, security forces were "firing tear-gas and sound grenades" in the village. Two women were reportedly injured. Human rights defender Said Yousif Almuhafda, who is in Muhazza to observe the protest, tweeted that "riot police are attacking us without warning". He also uploaded this photo of a woman's foot which was reportedly struck by a grenade fired by security forces.

1730 GMT: Egypt EA's John Horne reports:

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday:

Responding to criticism, the Muslim Brotherhood said "we announced date & location well ahead of time & if those protesting Tahrir now decided to stay that day, [we] will protect them".

In the last few minutes, however, there has been a change of mind:

1520 GMT: Iraq. The death toll from this morning's bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims and security forces is now 42, with 133 wounded.

The deadliest attack was in Hilla, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, when a car bomb went off near a restaurant serving food for Shiite pilgrims. A few minutes later, another car bomb detonated while civilians and Iraqi security forces gathered at the scene.

The two blasts killed a total of 26 people and wounded 80 others.

A car bomb in the holy Shiite city of Karbala, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, killed eight people and wounding 22 others.

1442 GMT: Tunisia. More than 250 people were wounded on Wednesday in a second day of clashes between security forces and thousands of protesters in the southwestern town of Siliana.

Medics at the town hospital said 265 people had been treated for bruises, fractures and cuts, some of them having been hit by birdshot. Nineteen victims were struck in the eye.

The protesters again called for the resignation of Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi, the governor of Siliana, a poor farming region 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Tunis, as well for funds to boost economic development and for the release of 14 detainees.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali insisted in a brief television appearance on Wednesday evening that “this governor is not quitting.”

1434 GMT: Egypt. The Constituent Assembly is up to Article 41 in its vote on the proposed Constitution --- Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch is providing a running Twitter commentary.

1429 GMT: Bahrain. On Tuesday, political prisoners in Bahrain released a statement announcing the formation of a the Prisoners of Conscience Coalition, a new movement to demand rights from behind bars. The statement was shared online by leading activist Zainab AlKhawaja.

Alkhawaja alleges today that, shortly after the statement's release, authorities reacted with hostility towards the prisoners:

According to Zainab, this morning "an officer from public prosecution met with the prisoners", asking for their demands. However, when the officer left, Zainab claims that "riot police surrounded the building, preparing to attack". Some prisoners in building 3, where inmates were reportedly threatened two days ago, have allegedly been taken to solitary confinement. Families of prisoners in the building have also not had any contact with them.

1417 GMT: Egypt/Palestine. Construction materials could soon be arriving into Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Earlier today, the Minister of Public Works and Housing in Gaza, Yousef Algharez, met with his Egyptian counterpart, Tarek Wafik. At the end of the meeting, Algharez announced that a memorandum of understanding will be signed next week allowing the transport of construction material from Egypt. In his comments, Algharez praised Egyptian President Morsi:

Our meeting has taken place thanks to some courageous decisions taken by President Morsi, who insisted on the need for construction materials to be allowed into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

1341 GMT: Egypt. Back from media work for BBC Persian to find that the Constituent Assembly has voted to retain principles of the Islamic law of sharia as the main source of legislation, as in the previous Constitution.

1015 GMT: Qatar. Reports are circulating that poet Mohammad al-Ajami has been sentenced to life in prison for "insulting Emir" and "attempting to overthrow ruling system".

Al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after a series of poems criticising Qatar's leaders. He invoked the protests of the Middle East and North Africa, "We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite," and denounced Arab governments as "indiscriminate thieves".

Global Voices Online summarises reaction on the Internet to the announcement,

Brian Whitaker has further background.p>

0955 GMT: Iraq. Bombs targeting Shiite Muslims in areas south of Baghdad have killed 31 people and wounded 98, security and medical officials said.

On Tuesday, car bombs near places of worship in Baghdad killed 12 people and wounding 50.

In today's attacks, two roadside bombs targeting a group of Shiite pilgrims in the city of Hilla killed 26 people and wounded 85. The dead included two women, three children, two medics and a civil defence member.

In the shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb exploded under a bridge, killing five people and wounding 13.

0855 GMT: Palestine. Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev sets up West Jerusalem's line for the recognition of Palestine as an Observer State by the United Nations General Assembly: it is "only political theatre" and "won't change reality on the ground".

0555 GMT: Egypt. In the latest political and legal move over President Morsi's decrees extending his powers, the chairman and other members of the Constituent Assembly announced that a draft Constitution will be put to a vote today.

The sudden rush to decision by the Assembly, which has been stalled for months by division among its members and wider political conflict, appeared to be a sudden attempt to resolve the week-long crisis sparked by Morsi's orders. The adoption of a Constitution --- one of the objectives declared by the President when he put out his decrees, as he extended the deadline for the Assembly by two months --- would allow Morsi to declare that his "temporary" measures can soon be lifted.

The drama of protest eased on Wednesday, as several hundred anti-Morsi demonstrators remained in Cairo's Tahrir Square. If there is no resolution, however, it is likely to revive tomorrow and Saturday, with the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist group announcing counter-protests, possibly including marches to Tahrir.

Meanwhile, clashes between police and other protesters, which began 10 days ago before Morsi's decrees, continued, with the firing of tear gas that soon blew over Tahrir.

0540 GMT: Palestine. Palestine is likely to win Observer State recognition in a United Nations vote today.

Palestinians are currently listed as a UN observer "entity", but a simple majority vote by the 193-member General Assembly will grant them the new status, the farthest they have come in their quest for Statehood since the creation of Israel from most of the Palestinian territory in 1948.

As an Observer State, like the Vatican, Palestine could not vote on General Assembly measures. It could  join a number of United Nations agencies, although --- in a concession to European opinion, which fears the Palestinians will soon press cases against Israel over settlements on Palestinian territories and alleged military abuses --- Palestine said on Wednesday it would not seek accession to the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians say Israeli settlement-building on occupied West Bank land has stymied prospects for a bilateral statehood deal. Disagreement over the issue led to negotiations stalling in 2010.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member, described the bid as a "last-ditch effort".

With West Jerusalem conceding defeat this week and the US firmly opposing the resolution, attention on Wednesday focused on whether European states would take a common position. The answer was no, as Denmark, France, Spain, Norway, and Switzerland declared support while Britain announced it was likely to abstain and Germany said it would abstain or oppose the resolution.


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