Weekly News 14 – 18 May 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday 14 May 2018
Israel: The United States has formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem amid deadly protests in the Gaza Strip.
The move on Monday followed a December 2017 decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US mission there from Tel Aviv. Israel’s foreign ministry said all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in Israel were invited to the embassy opening, and 33 confirmed attendance. (Al Jazeera)
Italy: Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, has been meeting two populist party leaders, after the pair agreed a deal on most of their coalition programme.
One key element that the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League are yet to decide is who will become prime minister.
Luigi Di Maio of Five Star does not want the job, nor does The League’s Matteo Salvini.
But the two men have not yet revealed who they want as leader. (BBC)
Palestine: In the deadliest day of violence in Gaza since the 2014 war, Palestinian officials say Israeli troops have killed 55 people and wounded 2,700.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said his military was acting in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, who he said wanted to destroy Israel.
The Palestinian Authority’s leader condemned a “massacre”. The UN spoke of “outrageous human rights violations”.
The violence came as the US opened a controversial embassy in Jerusalem. (BBC)
Spain: Catalonia’s parliament has sworn in a new separatist leader who has pledged to continue the region’s battle for independence from Spain.
Catalan MPs elected Quim Torra, 55, as president by the narrowest of margins – 66 votes to 65.
The vote had been blocked for nearly five months – yet it remains unclear when Spain will lift its direct rule over Catalonia.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has offered talks with Mr Torra. (BBC)
Tuesday 15 May 2018
Palestine: It’s a day of funerals and protests for Palestinians, 70 years since what they call the Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.
On the streets, Palestinians rallied, with Israeli troops firing tear gas back. (Al Jazeera)
Palestine: Gaza City’s main hospital is bustling with patients and mourning families on Tuesday as the Palestinian enclave reels from Monday’s violence in which Israeli forces killed at least 60 protesters and wounded more than 2,700. On Tuesday, journalists and family members waited for their dead in Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, as surgeons rushed to treat injured protesters in overflowing operating rooms, while other patients lined the corridors. (Al Jazeera)
Russia: Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has inaugurated a highly controversial bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea.
The $3.7bn (£2.7bn) bridge has been a flagship political project for Russia as it seeks to cement its hold on to the territory it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. (BBC)
Wednesday 16 May 2018
Bulgaria: On Wednesday evening in Sofia, EU leaders spent several hours over dinner discussing how to protect the EU’s interests, after two recent decisions by US president Donald Trump : scrapping a nuclear deal with Iran and potentially sanction European companies doing business there and threatening to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium from 1 June. (Euobserver)
Thursday 17 May 2018
Israel: Israel has said it carried out airstrikes on what it described as militant sites in Gaza in response to machine gun fire that hit a building in the Israeli city of Sderot.
The army said planes bombarded a military compound and a weapons production facility in the Gaza Strip overnight on Thursday.
Shortly after midnight, a loud explosion shook buildings at a built-up area in the northern part of Gaza City. Trucks carrying men rushed to the apparent site of the blast through empty streets, which were dark during a power cut.
One man was moderately wounded by shrapnel, the Palestinian health ministry said. The airstrikes took place hours after Israeli forces came under fire from within Gaza in which Israel’s military said no people were wounded. (The Guardian)
Iran: The European Commission will launch the process of activating a law that bans European companies and courts from complying with US sanctions against Iran, after Washington pulled out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on Thursday the commission has a “duty to protect European companies” from American sanctions told a news conference in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, after a meeting of EU leaders. (Al Jazeera)
Italy: Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and its far-right partner, the League, appeared to be on the verge of signing a government deal on Thursday after overcoming outstanding divisive issues. Both leaders said the final policy document would be put to their voters before being submitted to president Sergio Mattarella, who has the final say on the contract, prime minister and cabinet lineup.
There were tremors across Europe on Wednesday after a draft of their plan published by Huffington Post Italy revealed proposals to ask the European central bank to wipe out €250bn of debt as well as set up procedures allowing EU member states to exit the euro. (The Guardian)
Turkey: Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 101 members of the air force, including one general and several colonels, over suspected links to the organisation of a religious leader blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Thirty-three military personnel were taken into custody on Thursday, the Hurriyet daily said, adding that the investigation launched by prosecutors in Ankara spread across 21 other provinces. (Al Jazeera)
Friday 18 May 2018
Egypt: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip for the entire holy month of Ramadan. Sisi made the announcement on Twitter late on Thursday, marking the longest duration since 2013 that the only crossing connecting Gaza to Egypt would be accessible for. Rafah is the main exit for the 1.9 million Palestinians in the Strip to the outside world since Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the besieged territory more than a decade ago. (Al Jazeera)
Iraq: A political bloc led by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a long-time adversary of the US who also opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, has been confirmed as the winner of the country’s parliamentary election, the electoral commission said on Saturday.
Sadr himself cannot become prime minister as he did not run in the election, though his bloc’s victory puts him in a position to have a strong say in negotiations. His Sairoon electoral list captured 54 parliamentary seats. (The Guardian)
Israel: The UN human rights chief says Israel used “wholly disproportionate” force against Palestinian border protests which have left over 100 people dead.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein told a meeting in Geneva that Gazans were effectively “caged in a toxic slum” and Gaza’s occupation by Israel had to end.
Israel’s ambassador said Gaza’s militant Islamist rulers had deliberately put people in harm’s way. The UN’s Human Rights Council voted to set up an independent investigation. (BBC)
Italy: The two populist parties preparing to govern Italy have published joint policies including tax cuts, a guaranteed basic income for the poor and deportations of 500,000 migrants.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League are now consulting their members on the plan. The populist parties reject EU austerity and want to renegotiate Italy’s debt. They have not yet nominated a prime minister. (BBC)
Libya: At a Tunis press conference on Monday, the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) announced that the first phase of the Libyan National Conference process had concluded.
The body said that it had found, after canvasing 27 locations and holding 42 meetings across Libya with over 2,500 participants, that Libyans wanted: 1. a united Libya capable of defending its borders and sovereignty; 2. a united military institution, free from political interference and committed to the national interest; 3. more fair distribution of resources through a decentralized state; 4. a government based on competence, not identity; and 5. professional police services to ensure local security. The Libyan National Conference is part of the October 2017 UN Action Plan for Libya. (ANSAmed)