Tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered Monday in Sana’a to celebrate the second anniversary of the launch of nationwide protests that pushed president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power after 33 years in office.
Although the rally in Sana’a was peaceful, a woman and a child were killed by police gunfire and dozens wounded in the southern city of Aden when rival demonstrators clashed, medics and witnesses said.
The southern autonomist movement and the Islamist party Al-Islah accused each other of initiating the clash, while the southern militants said police had sided openly with Al-Islah and fired at the crowd.
Jubilant Yemenis gathered in Sitin street, a capital artery that was the scene of frequent protests and confrontations between anti-regime demonstrators and police and militiamen backing the former leader.
The Sana’a rally was organized by the committee of the Youth Revolution, which regards February 11, 2011 as the day the anti-Saleh uprising erupted, though the first protests took place in January 2011, echoing Tunisia and Egypt.
“February 11 is a day that Yemenis will always celebrate,” said the organizing committee in a statement.
It urged the government, in which the former opposition now holds 50 percent of the seats, to look after the families of the “martyrs” and “complete the treatment for the wounded”.
It also called for a “trial for the killers of the youths, and a return of the people’s funds that were stolen”.
Saleh agreed in November 2011 to step down under a Persian Gulf-brokered and UN-backed initiative which stipulated presidential polls in February 2012 that brought in Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, Saleh’s then deputy, as an interim president for two years.
The initiative granted Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution but demanded a complete restructuring of the military and security forces and a national dialogue to draft a new constitution and electoral law for 2014 polls.
Hadi last week set March 18 as the date for the much-anticipated dialogue.
The committee organizing Monday’s rally in Sana’a welcomed the dialogue.
“We announce from here that we welcome setting March 18 as the date for dialogue between Yemenis,” the head of the committee, Mohammed Al-Sabri told demonstrators, implying that they will take part in the talks.
A similar rally was held in Taez, Yemen’s second city, which was also scene to large anti-Saleh protests, as well as bloody confrontations, during the uprising.
Egyptians Protest on Anniversary of Mubarak’s Fall
Security forces sprayed protesters with water hoses and tear gas outside the presidential palace as Egyptians marked the second anniversary of the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s with angry demonstrations against his elected successor.
The forces were trying to disperse a small crowd of protesters on Monday evening, after some of them attempted to cross a barbed wire barrier meant to block them from the palace gate. Some protesters chanted: “The people want to bring down the regime.” Others threw stones, AP reported.
Graffiti scribbled on the palace walls read: “Erhal” or “Leave,” the chant that echoed through Cairo’s central Tahrir Square during the 18-day uprising that ended with Mubarak stepping down on Feb. 11, 2011.
Earlier, masked men briefly blocked trains at a central Cairo subway station and a dozen other protesters blocked traffic with burning tires on a main overpass in Cairo. Hundreds rallied outside the office of the country’s chief prosecutor, demanding justice and retribution for protesters killed in clashes with security forces after President Mohammed Morsi took office last summer.
The protesters lobbed plastic bags filled with red liquid at the prosecutor’s office to recall the blood spilled by civilians in clashes with security forces. The prosecutor’s appointment by Morsi was criticized as a violation of the judiciary’s independence. Another group of protesters locked shut the doors of the main administrative building for state services just outside the subway station at Tahrir Square.
Egypt has been gripped by political turmoil since Mubarak’s ouster, in an uprising driven largely by anger over widespread abuse at the hands of state security agencies. After he stepped down, Mubarak was replaced by a ruling military council that was in power for 17 months. The rule of the generals was marred by violence and criticism that the council mismanaged the transitional period.
Morsi won the first free elections in June. But he and his Muslim Brotherhood, which rose to be Egypt’s most powerful political group post-Mubarak, are now facing the wrath of Egyptians who drove the 2011 revolt but who say few of their goals have been realized.
UN Chief Urges Syria to Accept Opposition Offer
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to accept an opposition offer of peace talks, hours after Assad himself vowed to fight on.
Ban referred to an offer for talks by National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib as “an opportunity we should not miss--a chance to switch from a devastating military logic to a promising political approach,” AFP reported.
“This was a courageous offer by Mr. Al-Khatib,” he said in a speech on Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations, urging both the Syrian government and the Security Council to “respond positively.”
Earlier Monday, however, Assad said he would not bow to mounting pressure and “plots,” state news agency SANA reported.
“Syria will remain the beating heart of the Arab world and will not give up its principles despite the intensifying pressure and diversifying plots not only targeting Syria, but all Arabs,” Assad said.
He was speaking almost two years into the unrest in Syria, which the United Nations says has cost more than 60,000 lives since it broke out in mid-March 2011. National Coalition chief Khatib, head of the umbrella opposition group, meanwhile said he had received “no clear response” from Damascus over his offer of dialogue.
He said in late January he was prepared to hold direct talks with government representatives, on condition the talks focus on replacing Assad.
The Assad government has said it is open to talks but without preconditions. Khatib, speaking to reporters in Cairo, proposed that direct talks with the representatives could take place in “liberated areas” of rebel-dominated northern Syria.
The efforts to get the opposing sides around the table came as at least 13 people were killed when a car exploded on the border between northern Syria and southeastern Turkey.
The blast, just inside Turkey, wounded dozens of others, Turkish officials said.
“We have unfortunately lost 13 people: three of them Turks and rest Syrians,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The powerful blast was caused by explosives, and “all possibilities are on the table, including political motives,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said after a cabinet meeting.
The explosion coincided with the planned time of arrival of an opposition delegation at the frontier, said Abdel Basset Sayda, a top official of the opposition Syrian National Council.
The delegation’s arrival had been delayed, he added.
Seven Killed in Iraq Suicide Attack
Iraqi officials said the death toll from a suicide attack in the country’s north rose to seven and that a 7-year-old boy was among those killed.
A bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck late Monday at the gate of a military base inside the city of Mosul. Officials initially said four people were killed and seven wounded.
However, a police officer on Tuesday put the toll at seven dead and 15 wounded.
Police also say assailants broke into a house in Mosul on Monday night, stabbing to death two men and two women, including a provincial officer’s bodyguard.
Two health officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to release information.
Insurgents trying to destabilize Iraq launch frequent attacks.
Israeli Forces Kidnap 8 Hamas Activists
The military forces of the Israeli regime abducted at least eight Hamas activists in an attack in the northern West Bank.
The Israeli soldiers detained the Hamas activists, including a former Hamas spokesman, Rafat Nassif, in the city of Nablus and the town of Tulkarem, according to Palestinian security sources.
The Israeli military, however, said it “arrested” only five activists in Tulkarem, without giving further details, Press TV reported.
Earlier last week, Israeli troops abducted over 25 Palestinians, including several senior Hamas legislators, in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian lawmaker Hatim Qafisha from Al-Khalil and another legislator Ahmad Attoun from Beit-ul-Moqaddas were among the abductees.
Palestinian human rights groups have condemned the abductions, saying the move is aimed at destabilizing the ongoing reconciliation efforts among Palestinian factions.
Many of the inmates are under so-called administrative detention.
The administrative detention, often implemented by the Israeli regime against the Palestinian population, is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge, allowing regime forces to make arrests without formal charges for up to six months. However, the detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time.
Palestinian prisoners have been subject to human rights violations such as the use of torture during interrogations by Israeli prison authorities.
police Stage Protests
Hundreds of low-ranking policemen in Egypt are holding protests to demand they not be used as a tool for political oppression in the country’s ongoing turmoil.