Monday, July 01, 2013

Thousands call for Morsi to go

The Middle East is in turmoil.

Two years ago crowds packed Tahir Square in Cairo calling for President Hosni Mubarak to go. Yesterday - the first anniversary of President Mohammed Morsi's appointment - tens of thousands packed the square calling for him to leave. 

Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo were stormed and ransacked. In outlying towns, armed gangs were said to be attacking governors and burning emblems of government. The ruling Muslim Brotherhood was using armed men to strike back. Police and the army did not intervene.

Opponents say Morsi has failed to tackle economic and security problems. He has broken off diplomatic relations with Syria, and appointed 16 territorial governors, including seven members of the Muslim Brotherhood and a known terrorist.

More than 100,000 have died in the fighting in Syria, including 6,000 children. As Russia has continued to supply heavy weaponry, the fighting had turned in favour of President Bashar Assad's regime.

Russia is sending 12 additional ships to patrol the Syrian coast. The weaponry they are supplying includes S-300 anti-aircraft missile batteries, which Israel says could be used to target Israel Defence Forces helicopters and warplanes flying inside Israeli airspace.

US President Obama has begun to send light weaponry to rebel fighters in Syria, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets, despite concerns that they might be used by Muslim terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda. Russian-US relations are said to be at their lowest since the Cold War.

Divisions between Sunni Muslims and Shi'ite Muslims are threatening the security of the entire region. Shi'ite Iran, said to be fully committed to supporting Assad's regime, is sending 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to support Assad's forces. Thousands of Hezbollah militiamen from Lebanon are fighting in Syria.

President Morsi sponsored a conference of Sunni clerics in Egypt who described Shi'ites as heretics, infidels, oppressors and polytheists and called for a holy war against Damascus. In Gaza, Hamas called for Hezbollah fighters to leave Syria and concentrate on the war of annihilation against Israel.

Christians in Syria are caught in the crossfire between government and opposition forces and suffer violence from both parties, writes World Watch List's Dennis Pastoor. They face "a distinct peril so dire" that their ability to survive in Syria is doubted by church leaders and secular observers alike.

Christians are the targets of an ethno-religious cleansing by Islamic militants and courts, says Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Centre for Religious Freedom. There is still no news of two archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boutros Yazigi, kidnapped in April.

Ribal Assad, a cousin and outspoken critic of Bashar Assad, said the rebels making up the Free Syrian Army were primarily Islamic extremists who were "worse than the Nazis." Many were members of al Qaeda.

Israeli warplanes are believed to have attacked military consignments of weapons in Syria intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it plain he will start a war with no one, but he will not fail to defend Israel's interests where necessary.

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