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Jordanian police attack protestors demanding reforms, Syria marks "freedom for prisoners" day, Egyptians send final warning to the military, Tunisians demand new revolution, and more.
Mosaic | Dec 19
Egypt's military continues crackdown on protesters, blames them for violence, Syria signs Arab League protocol allowing observers into the country,...
Egyptians send 'final warning' to the military as Tunisians demand a 'new revolution' [Al Jazeera, Qatar]
Presenter, Male # 1
This Friday, mobilizations were witnessed in a number of Arab capitals. In Tunisia, police dispersed demonstrators gathered in front of the government square in al-Kasbah by force, preventing them from pitching protest tents. The police used tear gas, which spread across the site and reached the prayer hall at the mosque near the square. Tunisian activists called for today's protest online. They choose the square, which is near the government headquarters, in protest of what they consider a deviation of the revolution's path. They demanded the dismissal of the interior and justice ministers, the judiciary's full independence, and the prosecution of those responsible for the killing of protestors during the revolution. In Egypt, thousands of people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir or Liberation Square for the "Friday of Final Warning." They demanded that the authorities hasten the transfer of former President Hosni Mubarak to Tora hospital and assign a court to prosecute the killers of the revolutionaries. They demanded that members of the court be independent from the former judiciary and for the former president to be the court's first defendant. The political forces that participated in the protest confirmed that some of the most important demands include the dismissal of the current government and the formation of a national salvation government of technocrats. To review this Friday's mobilizations, we go to our correspondents. From Cairo's Tahrir Square, we are joined by al-Jazeera bureau chief Abdel Fatah Fayyed and from Tunisia, we are joined by our correspondent Mohammad al-Baqali. Abdel Fatah, tell us the details of this Friday in Tahrir Square.
Guest, Male # 2
Yes, activists named today's protest the "Friday of Final Warning." Some of the forces that have been holding a sit-in for almost one week in Tahrir Square are referring to this demonstration as the Friday of attaining the demands. The sit-in and protests have lasted for almost one week. Their aim is to attain the demands they believe the government has been either slow in meeting or has simply failed to meet, especially in relation to the killers of the revolutionaries and the prosecution of the former regime's figureheads. In addition, marches were launched from a number of provinces, including a march in the city of Alexandria toward the directorate. Protestors removed the directorate's flag and replaced it with the Egyptian flag, in objection to the new head of the directorate. Also here in Tahrir Square, they are chanting in favor of replacing the general prosecutor, purifying the judiciary, and for justice. In addition, they have social demands that include setting a minimum wage.
Reporter, Male # 2
Thank you Abdel Fatah, we now go to Mohammad al-Baqali in Tunisia. Mohammad, is it fair to say Tunisia's protest today was thwarted even before it began?
Guest, Male # 3
Yes, in reality, we can say the police managed to thwart the demonstration today. It is clear that the government decided that no more protests would be held in al-Kasbah square. It was clear for two reasons. First, the extreme readiness of security forces; police deployed to the area had reinforcement and protestors were prevented from reaching al-Kasbah. Police heavily and freely used tear gas in order to disperse the demonstrators. Until now, some confrontations between protestors and police are still taking place on some side streets. The police are now trying to get demonstrators out of al-Kasbah mosque by using tear gas. The second indicator of the government's decision not to allow the al-Kasbah protest was the prime minister's speech two days ago. He said secret forces are behind these mobilizations. Of course, when he talks about a conspiracy, it's obvious they will deal with a protest as a security issue. The youth of the revolution are promising to return once again; they say they will continue their protests. However, it seems a political decision was made not to allow the youth's return to al-Kasbah.
Syria marks 'freedom for prisoners' day [New TV, Lebanon]
Presenter, Female #1
Syrians held demonstrations in a number of cities on the "Friday of Freedom for Prisoners." Syrian TV asserted that civilians and security forces were killed and wounded by gunmen. In addition, the American ambassador in Damascus warned of the possibility of the downfall of the regime by the Syrian street.
Reporter, Female #2
Just as every Friday since March 15 when anti-government protests began in Syria, this Friday was given its own name. It was called the "Friday of Freedom for Prisoners" in order to honor political prisoners. The opposition's websites confirm they are still detained in Syrian prisons. This is yet another Friday during which people are killed and injured, among both civilians and security forces, especially in the neighborhoods of al-Qaboun and Rukn al-Din in Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were killed and dozens were injured by gunfire, while the Syrian television announced that one civilian and two security forces were wounded by the gunfire of armed men. According to the opposition's websites, almost 150,000 people protested in Hama, while Syrian TV said the city witnessed a limited gathering during which the participants demanded authorities combat corruption, adding that the rally ended without witnessing any security issues. Syrian state media SANA said civilians were killed by gunmen in Idlib. It said two members of the security forces were wounded by gunmen in Jobar and one policeman was killed. In addition, it stated that eight policemen were injured by gunmen in al-Khalidiya in Homs, where a number of neighborhoods witnessed protests. According to the Syrian Observatory and as shown in images posted on the opposition's websites, protests swept across a number of cities, especially in Deir ez-Zour, where hundreds of thousands of people took to the street. Demonstrations also took place in Daraa, and according to the Human Rights Association of Syria they led to casualties. Dozens protested in Amouda in al-Hasakah province, while thousands gathered in Ein al-Arab of Aleppo. Dozens also rallied in Zabadani, Latakia and a number of neighborhoods in Damascus such as al-Barza and Midan after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, the American ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, who had visited Hama, warned that the street may topple the regime if it does not begin to reform immediately. He said he did not see any tangible sign on the ground that indicates that the Syrian government is ready to begin the reforms demanded by the protesters anytime soon. He called on President Bashar al-Assad to make the difficult decision, believing that Damascus should begin a real transitional period instead of settling for words and promises. In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Ford confirmed that he would not stop touring various parts of the country to meet with Syrians. This came as a response to the strong criticism he received from the Syrian regime after his visit to Hama. A movement that calls itself the Free Officers of Syria Movement announced through its official spokesman Hussein Harmush, a colonel who defected, that the movement decided to form its own leadership and demanded the Syrian army to determine its position on the regime.
Jordanian police attack protestors demanding reforms [BBC Arabic, UK]
Presenter, Female #1
Violent confrontations erupted between Jordanian security forces and protestors during a demonstration today. The protest was organized by popular and youth movements which named themselves the July 15th Parties in al-Nakheel Ras al-Ein Square in central Amman, the Jordanian capital. Jordanian police used batons to disperse hundreds of protestors who chanted "the people want to reform the regime" when they tried to organize a march. The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing the Islamic Action Front party announced demonstrations today in all 12 provinces of the kingdom, demanding the dismantling of parliament and the dismissal of the government.
Guest, Male #1
They took control and assaulted journalists; this is absolutely unacceptable. We will march with the required legal procedures against the attacks on journalists, each one of them.
Presenter, Female #1
Joining us is our BBC correspondent in the Jordanian capital Amman, Nasir al-Shadid, to brief us on the newest update on the developments there. Nasir, how is the atmosphere now in the capital after this tense day?
Reporter, Male #1 (Nasir Shadid, BBC reporter)
Now the demonstrators have withdrawn from al-Nakheel Square after saying there will be another rally in front of the prime minister's headquarters. They do not want any more clashes, especially after the security forces showed their power and tried to frighten the protestors. The forces had tear-gas in their hands. Therefore the protestors decided to withdraw from the place in fear that there may be more clashes after what already took place after Friday prayers in front of al-Nakheel Square.
Presenter, Female #1
So now, are there intentions for other actions to take place, or has there been any announcement of intentions for other moves by this youth movement group, called the July 15th Parties?
Reporter, Male #1
Well, every Friday there are efforts by political and popular groups and parties. Tomorrow there will be a sit-in in front of the prime minister's headquarters, called for by the July 15th Parties. What happened today enraged journalists from this organization, as well as independent media organizations, such as the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists. They said they would file lawsuits against the public security directorate. They said that the directorate used force against these protestors. A short moment ago, I talked to a member of the Journalists' Union. He told me that the Press Association Council will hold a meeting tomorrow morning to discuss what to do about what happened, especially since there was an agreement between the security directorate and journalists that they will not be subject to assaults by the security. They were wearing special vests marked "Press" in Arabic and English. But what happened is that more than 15 journalists were injured, and some of them are now hospitalized.
Bahraini poet becomes symbol of resistance [Press TV, Iran]
A young Bahraini poet has just been released from jail but soon put under house arrest, and says she has been tortured. Ayat al-Ghermezi was detained on March 30 for reciting in public a poem critical of the regime. Twenty year-old al-Ghermezi al, who has become a symbol of defiance against dictatorial rule, speaks of her ordeal in jail. Al-Ghermezi's comment come in the backdrop of reports by human rights groups suggesting the Saudi-backed crackdown on protestors in Bahrain continues despite a so-called national dialogue.
Yemen Tribal leader urges unity among political parties [Press TV, Iran]
Yemeni anti-regime protestors keep pouring onto the streets to vent their anger over what they call foreign interference in the country's affairs. The demonstrators have rallied in the capital Saana and other cities, including other cities such as Taiz, Aden, and Saada. They also demanded the trial of embattled Ali Abdullah Saleh along with his regime officials. Yemen's tribal chief has urged all Yemenis and all political parties to unite. He has called on the Republican Guard and essential security members to join the revolution. His remarks come as at least ten people including four civilians have been killed and nearly 40 injured in continuing clashes between tribesmen and pro-regime forces in Taiz.
World powers hold Libya talks as Tripoli rallies for Gaddafi [Al-Alam, Iran]
Presenter, Male #1
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that the International Contact Group on Libya will recognize the National Transitional Council as the representative of the Libyan people. During the Contact Group's meeting in Istanbul, Frattini told reporters that the international recognition for the Council leaves no choice for the Libyan president but to step down. He added that the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Tripoli Abdul Elah al-Khatib will lay down conditions including a ceasefire for Gaddafi to step down in the framework of the political offer. He indicated that the negotiation team will determine whether Gaddafi would be allowed to stay in Libya or leave the country.
Reporter, Female #1
Five months after protests broke out in Libya and four months since the foreign intervention began, there is still no sign of any breakthrough in the situation. Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's supporters took to the streets in the town of Ajalat, west of Tripoli, in a massive demonstration, the largest of its kind so far, to support Gaddafi and reject foreign interference. In response to their goodwill, Gaddafi said in an audio recording without appearing in public that he will redeem them with his life and he will fight on until the end.
Guest, Male #1 (Gaddafi's voice)
My loyal people cannot be separated from me; I will stay with the people with my rifle until my very last drop of blood. We will conquer this campaign of injustice, the campaign of colonization, the campaign of hatred, a campaign of hatred! This is a campaign of tyrannical tyranny! They imposed on us a battle inside our homes, they killed our children in our homes! They killed children, they killed women!
Reporter, Female #1
Denouncing the French President Nicolas Sarkozy who is leading the battle against Libya, Gaddafi threatened NATO and the West that the end of NATO and the EU will come in this battle. Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov claimed the Libyan prime minister said the government will destroy Tripoli if the revolutionaries took control of it. The Libyan government's spokesman denied the statement. The spokesman accused the West of launching a war against his country for oil and reiterated the government's determination to defend this wealth until the last drop of blood.
Guest, Male #2 (Moussa Ibrahim, Libyan government spokesman)
We will do everything in our power to defend our land and our oil. We will use anything and we will kill anyone who approaches our oil, be them the rebels or NATO, it doesn't matter to us. We will defend our oil until our last breath.
Reporter, Female #1
In light of these threats, the opposition spoke of Gaddafi forces shelling Ajdabiya, killing one person and wounding several others. Meanwhile, the opposition forces are massing in the village of al-Qawalish, preparing to advance east towards the town of al-Gharyan, which is located on a key road to the highway leading to the capital. To strengthen their alliance, a meeting between the Western powers and Arab countries was convened in Istanbul with participation from representatives of the opposition. The meeting is the forth of its kind since the Contact Group on Libya was formed with boycotts from China and Russia, which accuse NATO of misusing the UN resolution in the war on Libya. They fear that the war is heading to a future in which Gaddafi holds onto authority and that the West's intentions are questionable.
Gaza cross-border fighting continues [IBA, Israel]
Tensions continue to flare up along the southern border today. A Palestinian fired mortar shell exploded in an open field. This following Israeli airstrikes overnight against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The IDF chief of general staff convened a meeting today to discuss the heightened rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. The group agreed on steps to be taken in the event of further escalation. Six rockets were fired from the coastal enclave into the western Negev. Air force jets struck Hamas smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border.
US rejects Arab League support for Palestinian state [IBA, Israel]
The United States has flatly rejected a decision by the Arab League to ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with its capital as east Jerusalem. The Arab League announced its decision after a meeting in Doha yesterday. The US has said that such a move is counter-productive and undermines the peace process. Speaking to Chabad emissaries in Tel Aviv yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that such unilateral steps would not bring steps closer and that if Palestinians wanted a resolution to the conflict they would return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
Activists rally in Jerusalem for Palestinian state [IBA, Israel]
Some 1,500 Israelis and Palestinian activists gathered outside Jerusalem's Old City this afternoon to show their support for a Palestinian state. The group marched from the Jaffa Gate to East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah where they held a solidarity rally. Police were deployed and forced to monitor the event, which passed without incident.
Middle East analyst discusses regional developments [IBA, Israel]
Presenter, Female #1
Joining me now from our Tel Aviv studio to discuss the recent regional and political development is Middle East analyst Dr. Ra'anan Gissin. Lets talk about the Prime Minister's refusal to sign on to this measure that would authorize the probes of left-wing organizations In your opinion could this be an attempt by the prime minister to perhaps soften his rhetoric as the Quartet mulls over this PA UN bid and other ways to restart negotiations.
Guest, Male #1 (Dr. Ra'anan Gissin, Middle East analyst)
There is no doubt that there is a slippery slope here. There are things that should not be legislated and should be handled by the political game in a democracy. I think this is one of them. There are so many things at stake here and it is so easy to slip into practices that could undermine democracy that it is better to give this to the public to decide.