At least 12 killed when Egyptian forces fire on Mexican tour

MEXICO CITY (AP) — At least 12 people were killed and 10 injured in Egypt's southwestern desert Sunday when security forces mistakenly fired on a group of Mexican tourists, Egyptian officials said.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident and said at least two of the dead were Mexican nationals.Read more on

Egypt’s government resigns amid corruption probe

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's government resigned Saturday in the face of intense criticism from state-friendly media that reflects growing discontent but stops short of faulting President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the former general who led the overthrow of an Islamist president two years ago.
The office of the president said he accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and his Cabinet but that the ministers would continue to serve until a new body is appointed.Read more on

Raw Images of War in Syria by Pulitzer-Winning Photographer Manu Brabo

Spaniard Manu Brabo studied photography in The School of Arts and Crafts in Oviedo and then journalism in Carlos III University in Madrid. His first big break came in 2011, coming on board with the Associated Press to cover the crisis in Libya.
Right away, Brabo started to submit photos with his signature style: Raw. He is the bona fide war zone photographer, he’s there shooting when the soldiers are shooting and he’s there afterwards photographing the wounded, the dead, and the living grieving over their dead. Sometimes, his images are so point-blank graphic, that they are painful to look at. And it is true that some pictures, though definitely impactful, I just couldn’t make myself to include in the gallery.
Perhaps it was this gutsy approach that caused Brabo to fall into Libyan captivity in 2011. Fortunately, he was later released.
Still in 2011, he moved to Egypt and in 2012 to Syria. Along with fellow AP photographers, Rodrigo Abd, Khalil Hamra, and Muhammed Muheisen, Brabo was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.
His photos of the conflict in Syria are truly staggering. Not only does he capture the grief and suffering of the war, but also moments of joy and ordinary life. The war in Syria claimed estimated 30,000 lives and its repercussions are felt far beyond its borders, if only through the influx of Syrian refugees. It is people like Manu Brabo who remind us of its realities and sometimes also shake us up, hopefully to wake up our compassion.

Hamas says Israel’s claim that its exiled leader has been expelled from Qatar is ‘baseless’

JERUSALEM and RAMALLAH — The Israeli government claimed Tuesday Qatar had expelled the leader of the Hamas militant group, in what would be a significant diplomatic victory for Israel. Hamas officials denied the claims as “baseless.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “welcomes Qatar’s decision to expel the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, to Turkey.”

The Qatari decision came after heavy diplomatic pressure from Israel.

“We expect the Turkish government to act responsibly in a similar way,” it added.

Hamas officials in both Qatar and the Gaza Strip angrily dismissed the Israeli claims.

Izzat Rishq, a top aide to Mr. Mashaal, said the claim was wrong.

“There is no basis of truth about brother Khaled Mashaal leaving Doha [the Qatari capital]. We are in Doha now,” he said.

‘We expect the Turkish government to act … in a similar way’

Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran in Qatar and Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official in Gaza, also said the report was false.

In the Turkish capital Ankara, the Foreign Ministry said it had no information on a Qatari decision or plans by Mr. Mashaal to relocate to Turkey.

Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, are bitter enemies. They fought a 50-day war last summer that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza and 72 people on the Israeli side.

If the claim is true, the expulsion would mark a major setback for Hamas.

In recent years, the hardline Islamists have faced growing isolation in the region after disputes with their longtime sponsors, Syria and Iran, and the downfall of the close ally, former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military. Mr. Mashaal moved to Qatar after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

Facing diplomatic isolation and deep financial problems, Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, reluctantly agreed last year to the formation of a unity government led by its rival, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. But the group remains in firm control of the seaside territory.

Asked about the Hamas denial, an Israeli official said the government had received “serious and reliable information” from “official channels” that the expulsion order had been granted.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, the official refused to say whether Qatar had delivered the news directly. Israel used to have a diplomatic office in Qatar and still maintains low-level relations with the country.

There was no immediate comment from Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf state that has allowed Mr. Mashaal to set up a base there.

Under a deal reached with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia late last year, Qatar agreed to a number of foreign policy directives that are largely believed to be related to its support of Islamist groups throughout the region. The details of the Gulf reconciliation agreement have not been made public.

Some Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members were forced to leave Qatar last year after the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha. The three Gulf countries had accused Qatar of interfering in their domestic affairs and of failing to uphold a security pact. The diplomats were reinstated after a deal was reached in November.

The following month Al Jazeera’s live channel dedicated to coverage of Egypt was shut down. Egypt had accused the Qatar-based and -funded pan-Arab news network of bias against the new government and of supporting the Brotherhood. The network has denied the charges and demanded Egypt free three journalists imprisoned there from its English-language channel.

The Associated Press

Qatar moves to cut ties with Hamas and repair relations with Egypt

Handout/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most vocal disputes in the Middle East may be coming to an end in a way that could have implications for the broader region.

Qatar, which had been supporting the deposed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has recently sent signals it wants to achieve a rapprochement with the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Any re-emergence of ties with Egypt would also mean an end to funding the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip and forcing Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal to leave Qatar. Hamas insisted this weekend Qatar has not cut off its funding and says the oil-rich country continues to support it.

Referring to Mr. Meshaal, who moved to Qatar after wearing out his welcome in Damascus, Theodore Karasik, an expert at the Institute for Near East Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said, “The big question is what will happen to the Hamas leadership that has been based in Doha. Meshaal was supposed to go to Turkey, but now it looks like he may end up in Tehran.”

Mr. Karasik says Qatar came under pressure from the other Persian Gulf countries to change its stance toward Egypt, one of the region’s prominent Sunni states, in the face of the growing strength of the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham, which now controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

At the most recent meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), members agreed to unify their policy, which includes support of Mr. Sisi’s government. Qatar, which also underwrites the Al-Jazeera network, has been pressed by Saudi Arabia and other GCC states to change its policy toward Hamas — which it supports — and improve ties with Egypt.

Handout/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinian president Mahmud Abbas , left, with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, centre, and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal in the capital Doha in August 2014.

The change could also affect Israel, which has long criticized Qatar for its support of Hamas.

“Qatar was caught red-handed sponsoring terror and it dealt a blow to their image,” said a senior Israeli official.

“They were quite happy dancing to all of the different fiddles in the region, but now they are at a moment when they need to make choices.”

Israel maintains a close security relationship with Egypt, with which it has had a peace treaty since 1979.

Meanwhile, Iran has increased its support for Hamas and is likely to up funding as well if Qatar reduces its sponsorship.

For Israel, having Qatar closely allied with Egypt would be good news.

“It would strengthen the moderates and might end some sponsoring of terror organizations,” the Israeli official said. “When you look at developments in the region, the emergence of a solid moderate is good not only for Israel, but for the U.S. and Europe as well.”

The Media Line