Egypt, Russia broker cease-fire in southern Damascus

Syrian security forces carry the remains of a reported suicide bomber following an attack near the main police headquarters in Syria's capital Damascus on October 11, 2017. Syrian factions on Thursday have agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Egypt and Russia. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Egypt, Russia broker cease-fire in southern Damascus

CAIRO: Syrian factions agreed to a cease-fire in southern Damascus as part of a deal brokered by Cairo and Moscow, Egyptian state media reported on Thursday.
The cease-fire, which includes Jaish Al-Islam, Jaish Ababil and Aknaf Beit Al-Maqdis, went into effect at midday Thursday.
“We announced a preliminary agreement over the will to enter into a cease-fire and de-escalation deal for the area,” said Jaish Al-Islam political leader Mohammed Alloush, adding that details will be worked out in the near future.
The announcement did not name the areas included, and did not mention the Syrian government. There was no immediate comment from Damascus.
Following a meeting with rebel factions, Alloush thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for his role in the negotiations, and for pushing for a political solution to Syria’s war, Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Backed by Russia, Iran and Shiite militias, the Syrian government has pushed back rebels across the country over the past year, shoring up its rule over the main urban centers.
A string of cease-fire deals in recent months has eased fighting in western Syria, including a truce in the southwest brokered by Russia and the US.
In recent months, Egypt has held negotiations with several Syrian opposition factions while maintaining good ties with Damascus.
Cairo mediated a cease-fire agreement in August in Eastern Ghouta after hosting talks between Syrian opposition factions and Russia’s Defense Ministry.
“Egypt is placing itself as an impartial meditator in the Syria crisis, and this is being welcomed by regional and international sides of the conflict, except for Turkey,” Egyptian political analyst Sameh Rashed told Arab News.
“Egypt began playing a mediator role in recent months, as the ongoing situation is pushing all sides of the conflict to seek a political solution instead of a military victory.”
Cairo will be in charge of monitoring parties’ commitment to the agreement, Rashed said.
Rebel factions hold a small pocket of territory south of Damascus, bordered to the west by a Daesh enclave and surrounded from the other sides by Syrian government troops and allied forces.
Through a series of military offensives and evacuation deals, the government has cleared out several opposition pockets around the capital.
Thousands of rebels and civilians have poured into rebel-held Idlib province in northwest Syria, transferred out of areas captured by government forces.


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.