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Friday
Nov302012

Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Statehood for the Palestinians, A Constitution for Morsi

See also Palestine Analysis: A 6-Point Guide to the "Style and No Substance" of the UN Vote for Statehood
Israel Opinion: "I Stand For People, Not Policies"
Syria Live Coverage: The Country Goes Dark as Internet Cut Off
Thursday's Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The UN Votes on Palestinian Statehood


1513 GMT: Kuwait Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis took to the streets earlier, calling for a boycott of tomorrows elections (see 1213 GMT entry).

Reuters reports:

"The people want to bring down the decree!" demonstrators chanted, a spinoff from the main slogan in popular uprisings that have ousted four autocratic Arab rulers since early 2011.

They waved balloons, national flags and banners, wore orange clothing - the color representing the boycott - and sang songs. There was a light police presence and no sign of the armored trucks and riot officers deployed against previous marches.

"This (voting rule) change is against our rights," 28-year-old social worker Abdul Mohsen said. "There is corruption in the government. We want to fight corruption."

Bader al-Bader, an unemployed 33-year-old said: "The government does not believe in having the real democracy that most people believe in nowadays. They believe Kuwait is just a big bag of money and an oil rig."

Video from the protest, via AlAkhbar:

1509 GMT: Yemen EA's John Horne reports:

There has been a "huge explosion" in the capital Sanaa within the last hour. The Yemen Observer reports that it "ripped through a business man house full of arms in the capital Sana’a a quarter ago, setting a four story building on fire". A security source told the paper that "casualties seem to be a lot but so far no clear number is known".

The house is believed to belong to Yemeni businessman Garman Muhammed Garman. According to the security source, the house had a small armory in the basement, which caused the fire.

Yemeni activist Ibrahim Mothana shares footage from the scene:

1342 GMT: Bahrain. Amnesty International has demanded that the Bahrain government release thirteen opposition activists and prisoners of conscience ahead of a court decision on their case next week.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme declared that :

Monday's decision will be a real test for the Bahraini authorities and their allies, if they want to prove once and for all that they are genuinely committed to respecting and protecting human rights. These men must be immediately and unconditionally released. Their sentences and convictions must be quashed. Bahrain's allies must also put pressure on the authorities to drop the pretence of reform and immediately back up their words with real actions.

1325 GMT: Kuwait. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is reporting that the human rights activists Yousif Al- Zhairy and Khaled Al- Battah, who have been campaigning against the ongoing harassment of the Bedoon community, were arrested earlier this week.

GCHR notes that “no grounds were provided for their arrest and no charges have been brought against them” and calls for their immediate release and for the Kuwaiti government to “Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kuwait are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.”

1310 GMT: Egypt. CBC’s Derek Stoffel tweets: “Meanwhile, on the other side of town: Morsi trapped for a while inside mosque by protestors. Security whisks him out side door.”

1239 GMT: Tunisia. Thousands protest for fourth straight day in Tunisian town of Siliana where more than 300 people have been wounded as political instability mounts.

The protestors are demanding the resignation of the governor, an end to police violence and repression and the implementation of a development programme to rescue the region’s economy.

1228 GMT: Palestine. Government spokesman Mark Regev has criticised the UN vote for Palestinian statehood: "This is negative political theatre that takes us out of a negotiating process. It's going to hurt peace."

In contrast, Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi thanked the 138 UN member states:

You have rescued the chances of peace by supporting the forces of reason and responsibility rather than the irrational and irresponsible exercise of force and violence.

Hamas Politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq said the party celebrated the state of Palestine. However, in a change of tone, political director Khaled Meshaal delivered the message that there would be no meaning in the UN vote unless Hamas was included:

Any Palestinian who wants a Palestinian state, even along the 67 borders, has to know that the road to that is (armed) struggle and exerting all forms of Arab and Palestinian pressure on the Israeli enemy.

1220 GMT: Palestine. Speaking at the premiere of the documentary "State 194" at the US Naval Memorial in Washington, hours after the UN vote, Palestinian leader Salam Fayyad sent a message to Hamas :

The Palestinian Authority stands for a non-violent path to freedom --- we have not been able to deliver, it was Hamas that was able to release over 1,000 prisoners, to get this much attention. I think it's absolutely important to recover from this --- but we need to be honest with ourselves.

If Gaza continues to drift away - so much for the appearance of the two-state solution, it's absolutely important for us to be able to reunify. I think it's important not to wait for the Israeli elections, but to ask these questions now.

Translation: Fayyad is calling on Hamas to start reconciliation talks before Israelis go to the polls on 22 January.

1213 GMT: Kuwait. Campaigners and opposition politicians in Kuwait holding protests urging voters to boycott tomorrow’s parliamentary election as a response to a change in voting rules they believe favour pro-government candidates.

The oil-producing Gulf Arab state has “held four parliamentary elections since 2006, after a series of assemblies collapsed due to a power struggle between elected lawmakers and a government that is appointed by a prime minister chosen by the emir.”

Tensions were exacerbated when “Ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah used emergency powers in October to cut the number of votes per citizen to one from four, saying the change would fix a flawed system and preserve security and stability.”

1155 GMT: Egypt. Protests are being held throughout Cairo to express widespread opposition to the draft constitution and Morsi’s recent “power grab.”

Ahram Online’s Live Blog reports that following prayers in Tahrir demonstrators were chanting “the people want to bring down the regime” while Elham Aidarous of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party has attacked the “super powers” granted to the military under the draft constitution.

In contrast, Ahram Online has quoted Dr. Ahmed Okeil of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party as stating “I think it is a very good document, that honors Egypt after the revolution and its martyrs. It fulfilled most of the demands, however there some reservations that I have, that need to be discussed, such as the National Defense Council .. at the end of the day its all in the hands of the public. The real judge will be the people.”<\p>

Ahram Online also notes some level of concern of those close to Morsi including “consultant to the president, Ayman El-Sayad, [who] says on his official Twitter account that what we saw yesterday with the Constituent Assembly “marathon” session proves that this is not the right enivronment for writing a constitution.”<\p>

0945 GMT: Tunisia. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has promised an investigation into the police violence used against demonstrators in Siliana.<\p>

0730 GMT: Yemen. An article by Adam Baron of McClatchy raises questions about the US political and military strategy around drone attacks:

The Nov. 7 drone strike that killed alleged al Qaida-linked operative Adnan al Qadhi outside Beit al Ahmar was just one of more than 50 American airstrikes believed to have taken place in Yemen so far this year.>[?

Unlike the usual post-strike conjecture, however, this one has unleashed a flurry of speculation about why Qadhi, a well-known figure in this town, was targeted in such a violent and anonymous way.

American counterterrorism officials have painted drone strikes as a tool of last resort, utilized only when targets represent an imminent threat and are nearly impossible to take out by other means. But people in Beit al Ahmar say it’s hard to argue that Qadhi’s capture would have been out of the question. He’d already been arrested, and released, before, in 2008 after an attack on the American Embassy. And Beit al Ahmar, nine miles outside Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, is no isolated enclave --- it’s the birthplace of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and home to much of the military’s leadership....

The strike has sown resentment in Beit al Ahmar, whose landscape is dominated by mammoth compounds belonging to the former president and other powerful elites. Even after many of the area’s most powerful sons broke ranks in the revolt against Saleh last year --- a time marked by bloody clashes in the capital –-- the village had remained calm until the American drone strike, locals said.

0630 GMT: Egypt. The Constituent Assembly has announced the completion of the new Constitution, after a 19-hour session to approve its 234 articles.

President Morsi is expected to ratify the document by Saturday, with a referendum as soon as mid-December.

"We have finished working on Egypt's constitution. We will call the president today at a reasonable hour to inform him that the assembly has finished its task and the project of the constitution is completed," said Assembly head Hossam el-Gheriyani.

0550 GMT: Egypt. As the Constituent Assembly began voting on the proposed 234 articles of the draft Constitution on Thursday, President Morsi continued to stand by the expansion of his powers.

In a lengthy interview on State TV, Morsi repeated the decrees were "temporary" but said he had to act against the blockages of the judiciary and the delays in adoption of a new Constitution. Pointing to the dismissal of the Prosecutor General --- blamed for not carrying out justice --- and his command for retrials of former members of the Mubarak regime, Morsi insisted, "This declaration fulfills revolutionary demands."

The President accepted the protests against his decrees, “I am very happy that we, Egyptians, are expressing what we feel and demanding what we want. It’s a positive and healthy scene." However, he also condemned the opposition as "the remnants of the former regime infiltrating the revolutionaries".

0530 GMT: Palestine. By a 138-9 vote, with 41 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly voted on Thursday night for recognition of Palestine as an Observer State.

The approval was expected, but the margin was not. Israel and the US were joined in opposition only by Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama.

As the Palestinian delegation unfurled a national flag on the floor of the Assembly, thousands in the West Bank city of Ramallah erupted with cheers of joy and chants of "Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)".

In his address to the General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President in the West Bank, addressed the General Assembly, said Palestinians were not seeking to "delegitimise" Israel, but to affirm the legitimacy of Palestine as a state: "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine. The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denounced Abbas' criticism of West Jerusalem, saying the "distortion of history...make[s] it more difficult" to negotiate with Palestine: "Instead of speaking the language of reconciliation, we had libelous charge after libelous charge against the Israeli people."

Immediately after the vote, the US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said, ""Today's unfortunate and counter-productive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace." The State Department warned that the development could lead to a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians.

Echoing the Israeli position, Rice said the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian issues, including Palestine's statehood, could only come through direct negotiations and not through the UN.. 

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