The Middle East Channel

Algerian Military Plane Crashes Killing 77 People

An Algerian military transport plane crashed into a mountain in the eastern Oum al-Bouaghi province Tuesday killing 77 people and leaving one survivor. The passengers were mainly military personnel and their families. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has praised the soldiers who were killed as "martyrs" and declared three days of mourning for the victims. The defense ministry said "very bad weather conditions, involving a storm and heavy snowfall" caused the crash, but it has established a commission to investigate the incident. It was the country's worst plane crash since 2003 when a civilian airliner crashed at the end of a runway in Tamanrasset killing 102 people.


The U.N. mission to evacuate civilians from the besieged Old City of Homs and deliver aid resumed Wednesday after being suspended for a day. Talal Barzai, the governor of Homs, said operations had been suspended due to "logistical difficulties." The temporary cease-fire is set to expire Wednesday, but Barzai said it could be extended if more people wish to leave the area. The United Nations expressed concern over men and boys who have been detained after being evacuated. According to the United Nations, about 400 men between the ages of 15 and 54 have been detained, while the governor put the number at 330. The disparity in counts has raised concerns that 70 men have been transferred to the custody of security agencies. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition are not making much progress. Brahimi has moved up a meeting to Thursday with U.S. and Russian officials, hoping they can put pressure on their respective allies. On Wednesday, Russia said it would veto a U.N. resolution on humanitarian aid access in Syria if it remains in its current form. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said of the draft that its "aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government." Meeting in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande criticized Russian aims to block the resolution. Hollande said, "Why would you prevent the vote of a resolution if, in good faith, it is all about saving human lives?" Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes pounded the strategic rebel-held town of Yabroud near Lebanon Wednesday. Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters have stepped up an offensive in apparent efforts to consolidate control over the border region.


  • Egypt's army chief and defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, made a rare visit to Russia to discuss bilateral cooperation and, according to anonymous military sources, finalize an arms deal.
  • Security forces have detained an Egyptian employee of the U.S. Embassy who served as a liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood, and have held him without charge since January 25.
  • The Lebanese army has arrested a leader of the al Qaeda linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades for suspected involvement in a series of car bombings.
  • The United Nations has reported that up to 300,000 people have been displaced by fighting over the past six weeks in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar province.

Arguments and Analysis

'Use Force to Save Starving Syrians' (Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi, New York Times)

"We should invoke the Responsibility to Protect, the principle that if a state fails to protect its populations from mass atrocities -- or is in fact the perpetrator of such crimes -- the international community must step in to protect the victims, with the collective use of force authorized by the Security Council. And if a multinational force cannot be assembled, then at least some countries should step up and organize Syria's democratically oriented rebel groups to provide the necessary force on the ground, with air cover from participating nations.

There are precedents to follow. The American-led and United Nations-approved multinational effort in Somalia between December 1992 and May 1993 was authorized to use ‘all necessary measures' to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid. In retrospect, this all-but-forgotten operation was largely successful in humanitarian terms. While public attention has focused on the 'Black Hawk Down' battle of October 1993, a military failure, the strictly humanitarian goal of getting food to starving Somalis was in fact a success.

Before any such operation begins, however, Mr. Assad and the rebel groups should be put on notice that they have 48 hours to lift the sieges. There are reasons to believe that the mere threat of coercive action would produce results."

'Lessons From a Lost Revolution: Egypt's Fate Still Hangs in the Balance' (H.A. Hellyer, Salon)

"All over the world, and throughout history, politics has divided families. Egypt is no exception. Wives and husbands; brothers and sisters; parents and children. Some side with the bad, others with the really ugly -- but few, it seems, find themselves aligned with an uncomplicated good. If, in London and Washington, I've disagreed with a few former confederates on Egypt, I've been repelled on another level entirely by many in Cairo, due to their uniquely distasteful viewpoints.

I've known those who claimed during Morsi's presidency that they were for the advancement of human rights, and then turn a blind eye to human rights violations after Morsi's removal from power. Some of these people still, without irony, claim to be ‘liberal.' Many of them would have been dismayed at the killings of protesters under Mubarak or Morsi. But their fury was mute after the 'most serious incident of mass unlawful killings' of Egyptian civilians in modern history, as state forces killed hundreds of people in the aftermath of sit-ins and protests against the current military-backed interim government. These people rightly mourn the many who have been killed by Islamist militants, yet they see little wrong in the many thousands detained under dubious justifications. They say little or nothing about the new restrictions against assembly and the press. Without evidence, they willfully accept the arguments of fringe American conservatives who would associate the Brotherhood with al-Qaeda. And it is rare indeed to see them criticize any excess by the state.

On the other side of this divide, there are those delivering apologia for the Brotherhood, arguing Morsi was at worst guilty of understandable mismanagement. In this parallel narrative, opposition against him was minimal, and were he to run in presidential elections, he might even win."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber



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