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Cease-Fire Along Israel-Gaza Border Takes Hold

Egypt mediated a tacit truce between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza, with both sides agreeing to hold their fire unless attacked first. Two rockets landed in Israel on Tuesday, one of them a long-range rocket that landed near the town of Ashdod. This represented a marked decrease from the dozens fired daily earlier this week. Despite the de facto truce, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would retaliate for the more than 110 rockets fired this week. “Whoever thinks that he can routinely attack the daily lives of the residents of the south without paying a heavy price is mistaken,” Netanyahu told local council heads in the southern city of Beersheba. “I am responsible for choosing the right time to exact the highest possible price, and so it will be.” Residents of southern Israel who want a break from the tension are invited to spend the coming Sabbath with Orthodox Jewish families in the center of the country. The Communities Foundation organization has invited residents of the south to “disengage from the escalation taking place amidst their streets, to pack their bags and spend a tranquil Sabbath in the secure regions of the country.”

 

Protests in Jordan After Fuel Prices Raised

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced that the price of gasoline and other fuels will go up today, sparking a series of demonstrations and calls for a general strike. Some 2,000 protestors came together in a main square in the capital Amman, chanting “revolution, revolution, it is a popular revolution.” There were also protests in at least 12 other cities across Jordan. The prime minister said a type of fuel used in public transportation will rise 14 percent and kerosene oil used for household heating will go up by 28 percent. Cooking gas, which many Jordanians also use for heating, will jump by 54 percent. All these products are subsidized by the Jordanian government. Officials blamed disruptions in cheap gas shipments from Egypt. Jordan already has a record high budget deficit of $3 billion. Until now, the large-scale “Arab Spring” protests with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to demand regime change have passed over Jordan, and its leader King Abdullah II.

France Recognizes Syria’s New Opposition Coalition

France has become the first European country to recognize Syria’s new opposition coalition as the only representative of the Syrian people. Officials said they would consider arming the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad once the new coalition forms a government. It was a victory for the coalition formed in Qatar this week and headed by the former imam of the Omayyad mosque in Damascus, Mouaz Alkhatib. It is also a change in French policy, which until now has ruled out arming the rebels fighting Assad, worried that weapons could get into the hands of radical Islamists. Arab League and EU foreign ministers meeting in Cairo welcomed the formation of the opposition coalition as a step forward, but stopped short of recognizing it as Syria’s sole authority.

Israel “On The Map” in Jordanian Textbooks

Two new textbooks in Jordan list Israel on the map of the Middle East, but fail to include Jordan or a Palestinian state. The books caused an uproar in Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel but has kept the ties at a low level. The textbooks teach students in grades 1 – 12 about health, but there is also a map in the books. On the map Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are all marked. Jordan is not marked, but Jordanian cities are listed. The books were part of a series financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and sparked controversy over whether the omissions were intentional. The Jordanian Association Against Zionism called on all “respectable teachers” to refuse to distribute the books, and to “warn students about the dangers they contain.”

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Arab News Bites

The Media Line presents Arab News Bites:

A daily summary of articles appearing throughout the Middle East

Compiled by Amir Khalil, The Media Line

U.S. Welcomes New Syrian Coalition

Al Nahar daily, Beirut, Nov 134 2012

The United States welcomed Tuesday the new “National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition” formed on Sunday in Doha, but avoided recognizing it as a state. A State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. considers the new coalition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and wants the coalition to demonstrate its ability to represent the Syrians living in Syria. The U.S. reiterated its refusal to arm the rebels revolting against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The head of the new coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, has called upon the international community to arm the Syrian opposition, adding that the majority of opposition parties have joined the new body. At the same time, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said it will host a national dialogue meeting between the opposing parties in Syria, without revealing the attendants’ names.

Iranian Foreign Minister Visits Sudan

Al Safeer daily, Beirut, Nov 14 2012

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made a brief visit to Sudan, according to Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti. Karti told reporters that Salehi landed in Sudan briefly en route to an African state. He said that Salehi met with a foreign ministry official, without declaring the date of the visit. Karti denied the news about any official talks between Sudan and Iran, and declined to say whether the visit was related to the naval task force that docked in a Sudanese port in late October.

Israel Promises More Gaza Ataacks

Al Hayat daily, London, Nov 14 2012

 

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the attack on the Gaza Strip is not over yet, a few hours after the Israeli air force targeted sites in Gaza and the Palestinians responded by firing a missile into Israel. A Palestinian activist died from his wounds Tuesday morning after he was hit by an Israeli tank missile last Saturday, raising the number of the deaths from the Israeli attacks to seven. A a fragile cease-fire agreement was reached on Monday. Barak added that “Hamas and other terrorist organizations are affected by the attacks.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he considered these remarks to be part of Israel’s psychological war on the Gaza Strip.

 

 

Arab-European Ministerial Meeting Set No Date For Palestinian UN Bid

Al Quds daily, Jerusalem, Nov 14 2012

 

The second European Union-Arab League Ministerial meeting’s final statement lacked a reference to the Palestinian bid at the United Nations by November 29 to elevate Palestine to observer status, showing a disagreement between EU countries over this initiative. The final statement of the Cairo-held meeting stressed the position of not recognizing any changes in the 1967 borders, the separation barrier and Jewish construction in Palestinian territories. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki has called on his EU counterparts to back the Palestinian bid at the UN General Assembly, noting that this matter will be discussed at the European foreign ministers’ assembly next week.

 

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