Middle East round-up: talks, then a ‘pogrom’ in Palestine


Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian villages, the Syrian president befriends several Arab states, and attacks on African migrants in Tunisia. Here is your overview of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Middle East and North Africa Editor of Al Jazeera Digital.

With the backing of the United States, Israeli and Palestinian officials met on Sunday at a Jordanian resort in an effort to reach an agreement to end more than a year of intense violence. Towards the end, the two sides said they had agreed to work closely together to achieve a “de-escalation on the ground”. And according to a joint statement, Israel even said it would suspend construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Or at least that was the optimistic reading.

On the ground, the reality of the situation in the West Bank was quite different. There, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settlers traveling in a Palestinian village called Huwara, just south of Nablus. Then about 400 settlers took it upon themselves to seek “retribution” – setting fire to Huwara and several other villages. One Palestinian was killed, hundreds were injured and dozens of cars and buildings were destroyed. To make matters worse, videos seem to show that Israeli soldiers could at best do nothing to stop the settlers, or at worst stand idly by during the rampage.

[READ: Settler violence forcing out Bedouins in the West Bank]

In the aftermath of the attack, several Israeli politicians, including government ministers, implicitly supported the settlers’ actions, with the far-right finance minister going so far as to say that Huwara should be “wiped out” by “the State of Israel ”. ”. An Israeli general, on the other hand, called the attack on Palestinians a “pogrom”.

And as for suspending new settlements? Well, just hours after the statement was released, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that this would happen.

Assad from the cold?

Damascus has received many visitors this week. First, it was a delegation of parliamentarians from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Oman and the UAE. It was followed by the first visit by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2011, the year a mass uprising began against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, unleashing a civil war that nearly ended him.

The way al-Assad and his government responded to the uprising, particularly the mass killings and human rights violations, contributed to the Syrian leader’s banishment from the Arab diplomatic sphere. Its close ties to Iran, particularly a major rival to a number of Gulf Arab states, helped fuel hostility.

And yet some of those same governments have been making overtures to al-Assad for years as it became increasingly clear that he would retain power. Last month’s devastating earthquakes then presented an opportunity. With the death toll in Syria standing at more than 6,000 people (a number that continues to rise), the need for aid that has created has also provided an opening for those seeking to mend their relationship with the former outcast, with humanitarianism providing a useful defense to any critics. But, as this analysis explains, politics and self-interest play a major role.

Anti-black hate speech in Tunisia

Tunisia’s president Kais Saied does not seem particularly bothered by accusations that he is authoritarian. In any case, his speeches seem to be getting more and more inflammatory. In one, he turned his anger on people coming from sub-Saharan Africa, ordered the deportation of anyone without papers and said that immigration from other parts of Africa is an attempt to change Tunisia’s Arab and Muslim identity.

Saied’s comments have been widely described as racist, and protesters in Tunisia have held rallies to denounce them. Meanwhile, the African Union has condemned and warned Tunisia to “abstain from racist hate speech”.

[READ: Tunisia judge imprisons politicians, businessman amid crackdown]

And now something else

Artificial intelligence is the talk of the internet right now, with companies rushing to unveil their new search chatbots, and journalists like me worried that ChatGPT is about to take our jobs away. Of course, the power of AI extends far beyond writing lists. In Jordan, an engineer turned farmer has developed a smart farming technique that uses AI to detect pests in date palms instead of haphazardly spraying pesticides. Fascinatingly, it deciphers tiny sounds in trees to find out where the infestation is before it’s too late.


Twitter under fire for censoring Palestinian public figures | Cholera outbreak in northwestern Syria kills two | Why Are Schoolgirls Mysteriously Poisoned In Iran? | Iran expels two German diplomats in retaliation against Germany | Sudanese protester killed in demonstration against military rule | The Turkish Erdogan indicates that elections will take place on May 14 | Rights groups, UN experts express concern over arrests in Bahrain | Turkey Investigates 612 People For Earthquake Violations | Syrian refugees in Turkey face return to earthquake-hit areas | Oman joins Saudi Arabia in opening airspace to Israeli airlines |

Suffering in Darfur

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the start of war in Sudan’s western Darfur province. According to UN estimates, the conflict killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million people. A 2020 deal between the government and rebel groups may mean the worst of the fighting is over, but outbreaks of violence are still raging. Abdelwahab El-Affendi, a professor of politics at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, recalls how the conflict began, the period of international prominence, and what he believes are the agreements that have done little to help the millions of victims of the war.

Quote of the week

“I apologize to the people on behalf of myself and all my colleagues for not being able to keep Pirouz alive.” | Amir Moradi, the head of Tehran’s central veterinary hospital, where doctors had tried to save an Asiatic cheetah cub, Pirouz, who had won the hearts of millions of Iranians before dying of acute kidney failure this week. The endangered animal was one of three cubs raised by humans after being rejected by their mother. The other two cubs have also died. The plight of the cubs has been used by many Iranians to highlight wider issues in the country, such as environmental issues and mismanagement.

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