Middle East round-up: Palestinian hunger striker dies

Here’s a round-up of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.

This Week in the Middle East banner image
[Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

A Palestinian hunger striker dies in an Israeli prison, fighting in Sudan continues, and looking back at George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” moment in Iraq. Here’s your round up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.

Over the past few months, I’ve had this feeling that Israel and the Palestinians are on the verge of a major incident, or even a widespread Palestinian uprising—an intifada. So many things could spark it. It could be the ongoing Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank that have already killed more than 100 Palestinians this year, or maybe the attacks on Israelis by individual Palestinians. Then again, it could be the rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, or the violent confrontations at Al-Aqsa Mosque. But so far, despite limited exchanges of Israeli air attacks and Palestinian rockets, it hasn’t happened.

[READ: Port Sudan, a Red Sea refuge for many fleeing Sudan’s violence]

I had that feeling again this week, when a prominent Palestinian prisoner died after spending nearly three months on a hunger strike. Khader Adnan, who was affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was protesting against what Israel calls “administrative detention”, which is, essentially, detention without charge. It’s a widely practised Israeli policy. More than 1,000 Palestinians are currently detained without charge or trial, a practice emphatically decried by human rights organisations. Adnan himself had been held without charge before, and had been on a hunger strike several times, gaining prominence among Palestinians, who saw his case as drawing attention to the conditions Palestinian prisoners are forced to endure in Israeli jails.

Adnan’s death, after he was found unconscious in his cell, led to anger among Palestinians, with a prisoners association in Gaza saying he had in effect been “executed in cold blood”. Within hours, Israeli artillery and air attacks hit Gaza, and rockets from the besieged territory hit Israel. More came at night, but, in the early hours of the morning, a ceasefire was agreed. For now, once again, all-out war has been averted.

Western embassies trap Sudanese

Getting a visa can be an arduous process, particularly if the passport you hold doesn’t allow you easy access to most countries. Many Sudanese have typically had to wait days, if not weeks, after handing over their passports when applying for visas to travel to Western countries. But then it got immeasurably worse when conflict broke out in Sudan last month, and embassy staff fled, closing their doors, with many Sudanese passports still locked inside. The message that that sent to the Sudanese now stuck in their own country as war rages around them was: tough.

The United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are all among the countries accused of abandoning Sudan before they had returned applicants’ passports. Some told people to apply for new passports from local authorities, the same local authorities currently embroiled in a conflict that has killed hundreds of people and turned the capital Khartoum into a warzone.

This past week has been yet another one filled with lofty announcements of ceasefires whose failings are punctuated by the crack of rifle fire. South Sudan brokered the most recent truce. We will have to wait and see if this one fares any better than the rest. It appears as though the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces are struggling to establish primacy over each other, underscoring fears that this fight could drag on. Thousands have already fled to other countries, as the UN warns that up to 800,000 people could leave.

[READ: UAE and Egypt are closer to different sides in Sudan]

We’ve continued our coverage of the fighting, trying to look at all angles, whether it be the situation for refugees in Chad and Egyptthe impact on DarfurSyrians and other refugees stuck inside Sudan, or the potential return of officials from the government of the overthrown president, Omar al-Bashir.

Interactive_Sudan_crisis map refugees May 3
(Al Jazeera)

Mission accomplished, 20 years on

On May 1, 2003, 43 days after the US invaded Iraq, President George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier and declared that “major combat operations” had ended. Behind him, a huge banner, emblazoned with the words, “Mission Accomplished”.

Calling it hubris would be an understatement, considering the quagmire that the US was getting itself into, the number of soldiers sent (peaking at more than 160,000 in 2007) and the violence that continued to devastate Iraq. And, as Joseph Stepansky explores in this piece, critics say that the US has failed to take responsibility for its actions in the so-called War on Terror over the past two decades.

And Now for Something Different

Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly having second thoughts about his move to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr, but I’m sure the fact that the decision has made him the highest-paid footballer in the world (raking in an estimated $173 million a year, according to Forbes) must make him feel at least a little bit better. Argentinian Lionel Messi comes in at No. 3, earning a paltry $65 million. Maybe that’s why he was so adamant about taking a trip to Saudi Arabia this week, to fulfil his contractual obligation to promote tourism in the kingdom. His club, PSG, aren’t happy, and have suspended him for two weeks for travelling without their permission, possibly even spelling the end of his career at the French club.

Cristiano Ronaldo sipping coffee
Al-Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates Saudi Arabia’s Founding Day wearing local traditional clothes [Al-Nassr FC/Handout via Reuters]

It doesn’t matter if Cleopatra was Black or white (or brown)

So, have you ever given any thought to whether Cleopatra was Black, white or brown? Well, according to historian Islam Issa, the important thing to remember is that she was first and foremost an Egyptian. The racial background of the ancient queen has been the subject of controversy over the past few weeks, with an upcoming Netflix docudrama, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, that portrays her as Black. That has led to an angry response from Egyptians, and even the Egyptian government, who have argued that the show is an attempt to falsify Egyptian history, and an act of cultural appropriation. Issa happens to be the only actual Egyptian interviewed for the show. His own viewpoint is more nuanced, bringing in her well-known Macedonian Greek heritage, but also other elements of her background, and how she serves as an example of who Egyptians are today as a people.


Syria agrees to curb drug trade in meeting with Arab ministers | US Senator urges release of new report on killing of Shireen Abu Akleh | Indians jailed for spying on Qatar for Israel | Kuwait parliament dissolved by royal decree | Al Jazeera journalist released from detention in Egypt | Erdogan says Turkey has killed suspected ISIL leader | Fan death, crowd trouble mar continental football games in Morocco and Tunisia | Israel launches air raid on Aleppo airport | ‘Even one American in Iraq is too many’, Iran’s Khamenei says | Israelis rally in support and against government judicial changes | Turkey’s Baykar to build new ‘highly autonomous’ combat drone | Why did Iran seize a US-bound oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman? | Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in occupied West Bank | Pro-Kurdish HDP backs Erdogan’s rival ahead of Turkish presidential election | ‘State of terror’ hangs over Syrians in Lebanon amid deportations | Israel discussing possible direct Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia | Morocco recognises Berber New Year as official holiday

Quote of the Week

“There is a problem with large numbers of corpses arriving on the shore. We don’t know who they are or what shipwreck they came from—and the number is increasing” | Faouzi Masmoudi, an official in the Tunisian city of Sfax. More than 200 refugees have died in shipwrecks off the coast of Tunisia in 10 days as they try to reach Europe. But despite the risk, there are still many people willing to make the journey, even as the European Union tries to pull up the drawbridge.

Source: Al Jazeera