According to the United Nations and the United States, the veteran Saif al-Adel has gone from being a mind focused on operations to the head of the jihadist group, replacing Ayman al-Zawahiri, who died in 2022. Adel, among other tasks, was also a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. From the Middle East, he also informed him of the attacks on Syria, which is still suffering from the earthquake; of the Taliban and its ban on contraceptives; of the fall of the Lebanese pound and of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
from arabic ahlan wa sahlan (أهلا وسهلا), welcome to ‘Fragments of the East’, a summary in which every Sunday we bring you the most outstanding news from the Middle East region and its surrounding countries. In this week’s summary (from February 13 to 19), we traveled to Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Israel-Palestinian Territories.
*To follow in detail the catastrophe caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, do not miss this link that brings together the work of our colleagues and special envoys.
1) Egyptian, low profile and operational brain: this is the new leader of Al-Qaeda
Saif al-Adela former Egyptian special forces officer and one of the few surviving members of Al-Qaeda’s ‘old guard’, has become the new leader of the jihadist group, according to a UN report.
Without there having been a formal appointment after the death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri in a US attack in Kabul last July, the United Nations report indicates that Adel – over 60 years old – is “de facto” the new boss.
According to the UN, there are two reasons why Al-Qaeda could not make Adel official as its leader: on the one hand, the group would take into account the position of the Taliban, which does not want to acknowledge that Al-Zawahiri died in Kabul; on the other, the fact that Adel is in Iran – this is also how the US State Department places him – although Tehran has said that this is “wrong” and “could hinder efforts to combat terrorism”. .
Where is Adel is the question that resonates among investigators, as a measure of his ability to manage operations of Al-Qaeda (an organization of Sunni origin) from a country under a Shiite regime. Another aspect that raises doubts is whether Adel, formerly a bodyguard of Osama bin Laden and a trainer of militants, he can be an effective administrator when he would have spent most of his career in an operational role.
The United States has been searching for him since 1998, after accusing him of the attacks against its embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which caused the death of 224 civilians. Earlier, in 1993, he also carried out the US helicopter ambush in Mogadishu, which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers. The FBI has him on its most-wanted terrorist list, and the State Department is offering $10 million for any information on him.
Unlike his murdered predecessors, Adel has kept a low profile and only three photos of his face are known. Regarding his bloody career – which he would have started in 1981 – it is also known that in the 1990s he set up training camps in Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that he was linked to the murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearloccurred in 2002 in Pakistan.
2) With open wounds from the earthquake, Syria suffers jihadist and Israeli attacks
While still counting its fatalities and damage from the 7.8 magnitude quake, Syria recorded the February 17th “the bloodiest attack” so far in 2023, in the words of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
The NGO based in the United Kingdom, but with informants throughout the country, pointed out that 68 people were killed by an attack by jihadist militants -attributed to the Islamic State (IS) – who fired on truffle pickers and Syrian soldiers in Homs province. According to the OSDH, 61 of the deceased were citizens of the Al-Sukhnah area, east of Homs, and seven were members of the Syrian Army, who were at a checkpoint.
It is the second incident with truffle pickers in less than a week, as the February 12 members of the IS group kidnapped another 75 people in the same province; 16 lost their lives, 25 were released and the whereabouts of the rest are unknown, always according to data from the Observatory.
In parallel, this February 16th The United States led an operation in northeastern Syria, in which the US military, in alliance with Kurdish troops from the international coalition against the Islamic State, killed Hamza al-Homsi, a high command of the jihadist group. The raid injured four US soldiers.
lastly this February 19th A missile attack in Damascus against suspected Iranian military targets killed between five and 15 people, a figure that differs according to the state agency SANA and the OSDH. the rockets of Israel They fell on the Kafar Souseh neighborhood, a residential area of the Syrian capital, where an Iranian cultural center and several security agency headquarters are located. Although Israel avoids talking about these operations, which it has carried out since 2011 from the occupied Golan Heights, Syria, Iran and Russia condemned the attack.
3) Vulneration of women in Afghanistan: the Taliban now targets contraceptives
The British media ‘The Guardian’ revealed that the Taliban have banned the sale of contraceptives in pharmacies in Kabul and Mazar-e-Shariftwo of the main cities in the country, under the idea that they point to a Western conspiracy to control the Muslim population.
According to testimonies, men have gone door to door, urging midwives and pharmacists to withdraw birth control drugs and devices. “They came to my shop twice with weapons and threatened me not to keep the contraceptive pills for sale. They are regularly checking all the pharmacies in Kabul and we have stopped selling the products,” the owner of a store told The Guardian. dispensary.
This would be the latest in a series of severe restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power in August 2021, and it would deal a heavy blow to a territory that has the most dangerous births in the world: al least one in 14 Afghan women dies from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth.
In statements to the Russian media ‘Sputnik’, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Health, Sharafat Zaman Amar, He denied that such a veto exists and said that “contraceptives are part of the treatment in some cases, and are recommended by the doctor, when necessary.” In addition, he dismissed the figures for deaths of pregnant women: “According to the data in our possession, maternal and neonatal mortality in the country decreased compared to previous years.”
4) ‘A rose for ten dollars’: another fall in the pound leads the Lebanese to burn banks
Within the framework of Valentine’s Day, some Internet users warned that in Lebanon the price of a rose is already ten dollars, when a single dollar is becoming more and more unattainable.
Thus, the Lebanese nation lived this February 16th a tragic day in financial matters, another step towards the abyss of a crisis that seems endless. That day the pound broke another devaluation record and protesters burned down the headquarters of two banks in Beirut, in protest at the desperate situation.
Specifically, dozens of people mobilized in front of the headquarters of Bank Audi and Fransabank, the latter in the affluent neighborhood of Badaro. What began with the burning of tires moved to the facilities, although the intervention of the firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the nearby buildings and properties.
It was a new cry for help from the citizens, who saw how the Lebanese pound reached a new milestone by exchanging 80,000 units per dollar on the parallel market – the exchange rate that determines prices in almost the entire country –, surpassing the record of 70,000 pounds per dollar recorded just two days earlier.
To narrow the gap between exchange rates, the Central Bank of Lebanon applied an 895% increase to the official price at the beginning of February, the first increase announced by the issuing entity in more than 30 years. In this way, it went from 1,507.5 pounds per dollar to 15,000 per US banknote, although it still maintains a great distance from the black market.
5) With a strike, Palestinians in East Jerusalem protest against Israeli suffocation
Inhabitants of several Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied east jerusalem they organized this February 19th a strike in rejection of the intensification of the Israeli raids and the demolitions of Palestinian homes, among other measures dictated by Israel, which only this week decided to legalize from nine settlements in the West Bank to a cut in the showers of Palestinian prisoners “due to terrorism”, reduced to four minutes in a one-hour window.
In particular, young people and local residents blocked access and exits in the Shuafat and Qalandia refugee camps, and in neighborhoods such as Issawiya, Jabal Mukaber, Sur Baher or Silwan, which in some cases ended in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces.
The initiative’s leaders urged Palestinian employees not to work in Israeli companies and to stop paying state or municipal taxes, as measures of civil disobedience against “the (Israeli) government’s crimes of extremist and racist occupation” and its “retaliatory measures , abuse, humiliation and daily torture”, according to a statement published by the local media ‘Arab48’.
This occurs after the tightening of the repressive actions of the Executive of Benjamin Netanyahu, especially after the recent Palestinian attacks in occupied East Jerusalem.
Thus, as we anticipated, the Israeli Executive also approved a law to withdraw the citizenship or residency only of Palestinians convicted of terrorism; ordered large-scale operations in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank; approved the construction of almost 10,000 new homes in existing Jewish settlements, which caused widespread international rejection; and accelerated evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes.
As closing, The photo of the week it is for the handshake that sealed the meeting between the presidents of Iran and China, Ebrahim Raisi and Xi Jinping, in Beijing. The first visit by an Iranian leader to China in two decades spanned three days and concluded with a pledge to speed up their cooperation and advocate for peace in the Persian Gulf.
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