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In Depth

Houthi gains in Yemen: Regional and local dimensions

THE LEVANT – By Afro-Middle East Centre – The striking advances of Houthis in Yemen, having already taken de facto control of the capital Sana’a last month, has implications for Yemen as well as for the greater Middle East. Within Yemen, they signal the return to political prominence of the Zaidi-Shia, …

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Regional dimensions to the Libyan conflict

THE LEVANT – By Afro-Middle East Centre – Air strikesaimed at the Libya Dawn militia in recentmonths could further escalate and regionalise the conflict in Libya. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is widely reported as having launched the air strikes, but the bombings seem to be part of increasing intervention in Libya …

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18 dead in clashes in Libya’s Benghazi

THE LEVANT – Fierce clashes raged in Benghazi on Friday, killing at least 18 people, on the third day of an offensive by pro-government forces to recapture Libya’s second city from Islamist militias. An AFP correspondent said the latest fighting was the most violent since forces of former general Khalifa …

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What Makes Islamic State So Formidable?

THE LEVANT  – By Charles Recknagel –  From the use of suicide car bombs against enemy front lines to slaughtering prisoners of war to frighten opponents, Islamic State militants have proven brutally effective on the battlefield. Here are five things that make the group a formidable force. Suicide Bombers Many …

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Heavy toll in Iraq’s “forgotten” Anbar

THE LEVANT – Nine months of shelling, airstrikes and street battles have taken a heavy toll on Iraq’s “forgotten” province of Anbar, the first to be overrun by militants from the group now calling itself the Islamic State (IS). The cities of Ramadi and Fallujah have been reduced to bombed-out wrecks: hospitals, homes, …

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2 million Muslims stone the devil during hajj

THE LEVANT – Two million Muslims ritually stoned the devil Saturday in the last major ritual of this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia, while fellow believers around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice. Two million Muslims ritually stoned the devil Saturday in the last major rite of …

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Libya aid push constrained by insecurity

THE LEVANT – A wave of violence between militia groups vying for power is sweeping across parts of Libya, prompting international organizations to put forth an ambitious plan to provide humanitarian aid to 85,000 people by the end of this year. Yet concerns remain over the feasibility of such an operation, …

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Mossad recruits online

THE LEVANT  – By Aaron Heller – It used to be that if you wanted to join one of the world’s most secretive espionage organizations you had to sneak into a foreign embassy, answer a cryptic newspaper ad or show up in a nondescript building in Tel Aviv to meet …

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Jordanian court frees radical cleric Abu Qatada

THE LEVANT – A Jordanian court acquitted radical cleric Abu Qatada of terrorism charges and immediately freed him on Wednesday, ending more than a decade of legal cases against the firebrand preacher. Abu Qatada, who was deported from Britain last year, was found not guilty of conspiring to attack tourists …

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Yemenis align with army after al-Qaeda attacks

THE LEVANT – By Abu Bakr Al Yamany – The Yemeni street is rallying around the army in its fight against al-Qaeda in the wake of the group’s brutal attacks which are affecting both lives and livelihoods, officials said. Horrified and panicked by al-Qaeda’s crimes, organisations and individuals in all echelons …

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Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition

THE LEVANT – Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management …

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Islamic State group’s war chest is growing

THE LEVANT  – By Ken Dilanian – Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts. The …

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Can legal changes stop trafficking in Yemen?

THE LEVANT –  A Yemeni draft law envisaging strict penalties for those involved in trafficking migrants, including kidnapping them and demanding ransom, may finally bring an end to decades of exploitation. To give the process a push, the International Labour Organization (ILO) co-hosted a three-day workshop from 6-8 September with …

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Islam for Dummies

THE LEVANT  – By Mehdi Hasan – Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the …

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Israel feels nervous over war crimes probe

THE LEVANT – A jittery Israeli military is gearing up for what could become its next big battle: dealing with U.N. investigations that could result in war-crimes allegations. The army has beefed up its legal staff, is conducting internal investigations of its wartime actions and has prepared a detailed PR …

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Friends of Israel … no more

THE LEVANT –  By Connie Bruck – The lobbying group AIPAC has consistently fought the Obama Administration on policy. Is it now losing influence? For AIPAC, it is crucial to appeal across the political spectrum. But Israel has become an increasingly divisive issue with the public. CREDIT Illustration by Matt Dorfman   On July 23rd, officials of …

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Lessons to be learned from the MERS outbreak

THE LEVANT – Only a few months ago, the threat from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in large parts of the Gulf region appeared to be growing. Dozens of new cases were being reported every month and a key panel set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that the “situation had …

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Yemen fuel subsidy cuts hit poor hardest

THE LEVANT – A sharp increase in fuel prices threatens to plunge hundreds of thousands of Yemenis into poverty and food insecurity in the Arab world’s poorest country – particularly if regular welfare payments to Yemen’s poorest people continue to be dispersed erratically, aid organizations have warned. The government’s decision to …

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Syrian refugee crisis reaches all-time high

THE LEVANT – The number of refugees from the conflict in Syria now tops three million, the United Nations said Friday, as US President Barack Obama admitted he still has no strategy to tackle advancing jihadists. UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres said Syria had become the “biggest humanitarian emergency …

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The Islamic State in Syria

THE LEVANT –  By Zeina Karam – As the U.S. strikes Islamic State targets in Iraq, extremists belonging to the same militant group across the border in Syria are capturing new territory and becoming bolder by the day. There, in its power base, the Islamic State group controls thousands of square …

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Campaign is launched in Bahrain to free blind detainee

THE LEVANT – Nine Bahraini human rights organizations, along with human rights activists in Bahrain, have launched a campaign for the release of the blind Bahraini detainee Jafar Matooq, who is in urgent need of medical treatment. This campaign was launched as a result of the deteriorating situation in general, found …

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Qatar denies fundind IS

THE LEVANT – The Gulf nation of Qatar is hitting back at suggestions that it supports the Islamic State extremist group, saying that “determined, collective action” is needed to end sectarian violence gripping Iraq and Syria. The energy-rich OPEC member has come under renewed scrutiny over its ties to militants, including …

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West poised to join Syria against Islamists

THE LEVANT –  By Patrick Cockburn – Islamist forces are fighting their way into western Syria from bases further east, bringing forward the prospect of US military intervention to stop their advance. If Isis, which styles itself Islamic State, threatens to take all or part of Aleppo, establishing complete dominance over …

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What’s a US President to do?

THE LEVANT – At the heart of President Barack Obama’s quandary over the Islamic State militants is their haven in Syria. The president may continue helping Iraqi forces try to reverse the group’s land grabs in northern Iraq by providing more arms and American military advisers and by using U.S. …

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ISIL is a ‘disgrace to Islam’: Top Muslim clerics

THE LEVANT – By Waleed Abu al-Khair – Egypt’s Grand Mufti recently described the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) as a “terrorist entity” that has “violated all Islamic values and the great purposes of sharia”. “Such a bloody extremist group poses a threat to Islam and Muslims, and tarnishes …

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