Jordanian Minister Accuses Israel of Planning to Erect the Third Temple
A Jordanian minister accused Israel on Wednesday of planning to partition the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount plaza surrounding it in order to erect the third Temple.
Islamic Endowments Minister Abdul Salam Abadi told a visiting clerical delegation from Australia that he received instructions from the “Hashemite leadership” to safeguard the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem, Jordanian media reported. Abadi said Israel was planning to divide the mosque from its courtyards with a 144-dunam structure.
Jordan, which extended its sovereignty to East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1950, continues to administer the Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount. Abadi told the Australian delegation that his ministry employs 600 civil servants in Jerusalem and oversees 40 Jerusalem schools. -Source
Israel Builds Security Fence Along Golan Border, fears Assad’s downfall
This Wednesday, January 2, Israel continued building a fence along the border of the occupied Golan heights and Syrian territories, this is an area that was not previously listed as ‘dangerous’ by Israel before.
Israeli forces are bolstering security in the area, fearing a possible fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. The disintegration of his regime could open up the demilitarized area to the Syrian opposition. Israeli forces have claimed they are frequently attacked by such sub-state forces.
Segments of the new fence are replacing the poorly-built older one at a fast pace, reported Al Arabiya’s correspondent. The new 56-kilometre fence extends from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights’ south to the northern region of Quneitra. -Source
In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has Given Way to a Christian Winter
The line about the American general meeting the Arab Christian isn't as familiar as it should be. "When did your family convert?" the general asked. "About 2,000 years ago," the Arab answered wryly.
The general's ignorance is widely shared. Take but one example from closer to home. Over-zealous teachers in London have recently been pulling Syrian Orthodox refugees out of school assemblies in London, on the basis that Arab children must by definition be Muslims. The truth, of course, is that Christianity is an import from the Middle East, not an export to it. Christians have formed part of successive civilisations in the region for many centuries - they were, as Rowan Williams has pointed out, a dominant presence in the Byzantine era, an active partner in the early Muslim centuries, a long-suffering element within the Ottoman empire and, more recently, "a political catalyst and nursery of radical thinking in the dawn of Arab nationalism".
Today, though, the religious ecology of the Middle East looks more fragile than ever, as the Arab spring gives way to Christian winter. Ignorant western assumptions about cultural uniformity are mirrored by Islamists bent on purging other faith groups from their lands. Such intolerance has grown steeply since 9/11 of course, but its roots long predate the disastrous policies of George W Bush. -Source
Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah warned Thursday against “schemes of division and partition along sectarian and ethnic lines” in-war torn Syria and the entire region.
A key ally of the embattled Syrian regime, Nasrallah made a televised appearance via video link and proclaimed: “We hereby underscore our rejection of any plan for partitioning or dividing any Arab or Islamic country in the entire Middle East region.
“We hereby confirm our commitment to the unity of Lebanon as a people, a nation and institutions,” he said, adding that “Lebanon is too small to be divided or partitioned.”“From Yemen to Iraq to Syria, the region is threatened more than ever by partition, even in Egypt and Libya and Saudi Arabia," Nasrallah told viewers.
According to the Ya Libnan news site, Nasrallah blamed the West, as well as the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who have recognized the armed opposition to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, for the flood of Syrian refugees into Lebanon. These now number more than 170,000, according to the United Nations. -Source
Brotherhood Official Urges Egypt's Jews to Return
A leading Muslim Brotherhood member and adviser to Islamist President Mohammed Morsi created a stir in Egypt when he called on Egyptian Jews in Israel to return home because Egypt is now a democracy and because the Jewish state won't survive.
Essam el-Erian's remarks in a TV appearance put the Brotherhood, which holds power in Egypt, on the spot as opponents — and some allies — jumped on the comments to denounce the group. Morsi's office this week disassociated the president from the comments, saying they were el-Erian's personal opinion.
The criticism ran an unusual gamut of Egyptians' attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the Brotherhood itself.
Some denounced the Brotherhood for trying to put up a veneer of tolerance by inviting Jews to return while Egypt's other religious minorities, particularly Christians, are increasingly worried about persecution under the new Islamist rulers and an Islamist-slanted constitution. -Source
CAIRO/LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Egypt dipped deeper into its rapidly shrinking currency reserves on Thursday, fighting to slow a sliding pound which is likely to push up inflation and risks reigniting popular unrest.
Economists warned that the central bank had little room left for manoeuvre with its readily available foreign currency reserves enough to cover just over two months of Egypt's import bill, well below levels in many of its emerging market peers.
The pound slid further on Thursday at the central bank's fourth auction of foreign currency, with $74.9 million sold to banks at a cut-off price of 6.386 pounds, weaker than Wednesday's 6.351 to the dollar. Egypt's currency has lost about 10 percent against the dollar since the start of 2011, just before the Arab Spring unrest spread to the country. But about a third of that has come this week alone, since the central bank began auctioning $75 million a day out of its reserves on Sunday.
"The pound is extremely vulnerable," said Raza Agha, chief economist for the Middle East and Africa at VTB Capital. -Source
U.N.'s Syria Death Toll Jumps Dramatically to 60,000-Plus
(CNN) -- The overall death toll in devastated Syria has surpassed an estimated 60,000 people, the United Nations said Wednesday, a dramatic figure that could skyrocket as the civil war persists.
To put it in perspective: 60,000 people is roughly the population of Terre Haute, Indiana; or Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's how many people would fit in Dodger Stadium, and it's more than the 50,000-plus U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam.
The figure is about 15,000 higher than the death toll CNN had cited from a collection of sources.It's "truly shocking" and shameful, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who blamed the international community for inaction.
"Collectively we have fiddled at the edges while Syria burns," she said. "While many details remain unclear, there can be no justification for the massive scale of the killing highlighted by this analysis." -Source
Israel's Begins Biometric Database Test Project
Despite protests by privacy groups, Israel will begin amassing biometric data on its citizens beginning Tuesday. The pilot program for the biometric database will greatly enhance the ability of authorities to identify terrorists, supporters of the project say – while those opposed believe that the program will give the state unprecedented opportunity to control the lives of Israelis.
The test program, which will continue for two years, will be voluntary. Israelis 16 and older who live in Ashdod, Petach Tikvah, and Kfar Sava will be asked if they want their fingerprints, a high resolution photo, and other information in a database that will be accessible to security forces, the courts, and, in some circumstances, police. The law authorizing establishment of the database was passed in 2009, with the most enthusiastic supporter MK Meir Sheetrit, now number 5 on Tzippy Livni's Hatnua list. Several human rights and privacy groups have filed numerous petitions against the project with the High Court. The court ordered the limited test program, and plans to review the program, and its impact, after the test period. -Source