Weekly News 1st – 5th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Monday,1 May 2017

France: France has been on extra high alert on Monday as workers and protesters used the traditional 1 May marches to stage a show of force against the far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. (The Guardian)

France’s political, personal and social divisions divisions were laid bare on the streets of Paris on Monday as May Day marches dominated by the final round vote in the presidential election saw violent clashes between police and masked youths.
Six riot police officers were injured, one with third-degree burns to his hand and face, in Paris when a group of about 150 people armed with molotov cocktails, stones and sticks hijacked the traditional May Day march organised by French unions. (The Guardian)

 Egypt: Militants killed three policemen and injured five others in a shooting in Cairo late on Monday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. It comes just weeks after two Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 in deadly church bombings in Alexandria and Tanta, one of the bloodiest attacks the country has experienced in years. (Reuters)

Hungary: Thousands of Hungarians marched across central Budapest on Monday in a show of support for the European Union, protesting against what a new political movement sees as a creeping rise in Russian influence under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The rally follows a series of major demonstrations in Budapest in recent weeks, triggered by a new law that would drive out of Hungary a top university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.
Momentum, an upstart political movement that called for Monday’s rally dubbed “We belong to Europe,” announced it would run at a parliamentary election next April. (Reuters)

Iraq: A group of 36 Yazidi survivors has been rescued in Iraq after three years of “slavery” under ISIL’s rule in northern Iraq, the United Nations said on Sunday.
The group of men, women, and children from the persecuted religious sect was freed by Iraqi forces fighting to retake Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to local media. (Al Jazeera)

Spain: Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos party has vowed to press ahead with a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, warning that the latest corruption allegations involving his governing People’s party (PP) have crossed “red lines” and risk jeopardising the rule of law.
Podemos’s leader, Pablo Iglesias, said his party had an “ethical obligation” to hold Rajoy to account after Ignacio González, a former PP president of the Madrid region, was arrested as part of an investigation into alleged embezzlement at a state-owed water company.
Evidence has also emerged to suggest that the chief anti-corruption prosecutor intervened in the case in an alleged attempt to block a line of inquiry. (The Guardian)

Weekly News 1st – 5th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Egypt: Three Egyptian police officers have been killed in Cairo a drive-by-shooting by men armed with machineguns, according to the country’s interior ministry.
Two cars approached a police patrol in the busy neighbourhood of Nasr City late on Monday before opening fire at the officers. Five others were wounded in the incident. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. (Al Jazeera)

Greece: Greek government officials said on Tuesday they have reached an agreement with its creditors on the terms to restart bailout loan payouts, following months of tough negotiations.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing government is set to approve the new cuts in parliament by mid-May, so that Eurozone finance ministers can unfreeze bailout funds at a scheduled meeting on 22 May. (The Independent)

Malta: Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has called a snap general election for June 3, bowing to pressure over his family being embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal.
With Monday’s announcement, Labour Party leader Muscat, whose 2013 election as prime minister broke a 15-year-old tenure by conservatives in Malta’s government, defied opposition demands for his resignation. (Al Jazeera)

Palestine: Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.
The positions were made official on Monday in Qatar’s capital, Doha, by Khaled Meshaal, the leader-in-exile of the Palestinian group that runs the besieged Gaza Strip. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News 1st – 5th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Wednesday, 3 May

France: On Wednesday night has had the debate between France’s two presidential candidates, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front and the centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron. (The New York Times)

Israel: The armed wing of Hamas has given Israel an ultimatum to respond to hunger-striking prisoners’ demands.
Palestinians across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem are echoing those demands with protests almost daily since the hunger strikes began. (Al Jazeera)

Thousands of Palestinians have rallied in the West Bank city of Ramallah in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. More than 1,500 prisoners launched the action on April 17 to press for better conditions, including family visits, better medical care and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention. (Al Jazeera)

Russia: Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, took the opportunity of a rare visit to Russia to raise human rights issues on Tuesday with President Vladimir V. Putin, a noted departure from their continuing differences over Ukraine and Syria.
Ms. Merkel said she had talked to Mr. Putin about her concerns on civil rights in Russia, including, among other issues, the persecution of gay men, a new ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the arrests of anti-Kremlin protesters. There was no indication during the news conference that the two leaders had made progress on other topics during their nearly two-hour meeting, including economic problems like sanctions and differences over Ukraine and Syria. (The New York Times)

Russia and Turkey agreed to boost economic ties on Wednesday as Moscow hailed improving bilateral relations following tensions caused by Ankara’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border in 2015. Both leaders affirmed a commitment to seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict through dialogue. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News 1st – 5th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Thursday, 4 May

Algeria: Algerian voters head to the polls on Thursday to elect a new parliament amid fears of voter apathy and opposition calls for a boycott. The polls will be the first since Algerian politicians amended the constitutional law, giving more power to the legislature.
More than 12,000 candidates are competing for the 462 seats of the People’s National Assembly (APN). Up to 23 million voters are registered to elect members of the parliament’s lower house for a five-year term. (Al Jazeera)

Lebanon: Lebanon’s military has intensified its crackdown on ISIL fighters in a remote area close to the Syria border.
It says about 1,500 fighters are still operating near the flashpoint town of Arsal, which was overrun by the armed group in 2014. (Al Jazeera)

UK: Prince Philip, 95 years old man is retiring. Also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, the gaffe-prone but grumpily endearing and loyal husband of Queen Elizabeth II for almost 70 years — the longest royal union in British history — who has served the country for nearly as long. (The New York Times)

Syria’s War: Russia, Iran and Turkey have signed a deal calling for the setup of so-called de-escalation zones in war-torn Syria during talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.The deal, which is likely to come into effect in around a month, would allow for unhindered humanitarian access to the de-escalation areas. Yet, there was no detail on whether the zones involved restricted use of heavy weaponry or complete de-militirisation; or whether there will be a peacekeeping force and how the deal will be policed. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News 1st – 5th May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Friday, 5 May 

Algeria: The party of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and its coalition ally have won a clear majority in parliamentary elections, according to the interior ministry.
Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN) won 164 of the national assembly’s 462 seats in a poll overshadowed by low turnout, public disillusionment over a tepid economy and allegations of political corruption. The official results will be announced by the constitutional council after any appeals. (Al Jazeera)

Chechnya: Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed an inquiry into a reported crackdown on gay people in the republic of Chechnya, in the North Caucasus. On Friday, Mr Putin said he would personally ask the prosecutor general and interior minister to help Kremlin rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova check the reported abuse. (BBC)

France: On the eve of the most consequential French presidential election in decades, the staff of the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron said late Friday that the campaign had been targeted by a “massive and coordinated” hacking operation, one with the potential to destabilize the nation’s democracy before voters go to the polls on Sunday.
The digital attack, which involved a dump of campaign documents including emails and accounting records, emerged hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect. While the leak may be of little consequence, the timing makes it extremely difficult for Mr. Macron to mitigate any damaging fallout before the runoff election, in which he faces the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has pledged to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum to leave the European Union. (The New York Times)

 Iraq: The Iraqi military has admitted bombing a disused school in western Mosul, but denied targeting civilians – saying the building was being used by ISIL as a bomb factory.
The army’s statement on Friday came a day after ISIL said that an air raid late on Thursday had killed 68 people who were sheltering in the building, including 47 children and women, and wounded 86 others. (Al Jazeera)