The United States has announced it will deliver 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt, easing a partial suspension of aid imposed after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. According to the Pentagon, the helicopters will aid in Egypt's "counter-terrorism" operations in the Sinai Peninsula to "counter extremists who threaten U.S., Egyptian, and Israeli security." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Egypt had upheld "its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty" and as such had met the criteria for the United States to resume some aid. However, according to a U.S. official, military equipment other than the Apaches would remain on hold. Kerry noted that he was not yet able to verify that Egypt was taking measures toward a democratic transition, and called for free and fair elections and urged Egypt to ease restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and the media.
Member of Parliament Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar registered on Wednesday to run in Syria's presidential election, the first to field a bid to oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad has not yet announced his candidacy, but has suggested he would seek re-election, and is widely expected to win. The United Nations is renewing a December 2013 appeal for $6.5 billion for humanitarian aid for Syria has saying it has received pledges totaling only $1.2 billion. U.N. agencies said the crisis in Syria is affecting at least 9.3 million people. Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it is investigating claims that chlorine gas was used in an attack earlier in April on the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita. The allegations overshadowed an OPCW report Tuesday that nearly 90 percent of Syria's chemical weapons have been exported, with only a few shipments remaining.
- Lebanon's parliament failed to elect a president in the first round of voting Wednesday with leading candidate Samir Geagea receiving far less than the required two-thirds majority.
- A senior Egyptian police officer was killed by a car bomb Wednesday in a Cairo suburb meanwhile another officer was shot and killed in a raid in Alexandria.
- A United Nations committee has not taken action on the refusal of the United States to grant a visa to Tehran's selected ambassador to the U.N. despite a request from Iran.
- The trial of three Al Jazeera journalists was adjourned until May 3 after prosecutors played audio and video recordings many of which were unintelligible.
Arguments and Analysis
'Human rights: Egypt's black holes' (Borzou Daragahi Financial Times)
"Egyptian and international human rights advocates say that Mr Abdul-Samiyeh disappeared into a vast network of clandestine detention centres and camps that are in effect black sites unacknowledged by the government. Rights groups say the facilities, long in existence, have swelled in size and number since security forces began rounding up dissidents after the July 3 military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country's Islamist president.
Neither ministry would respond to requests for information about facilities such as Azouly, the existence of which they officially deny. But Azouly is thought to be one among perhaps dozens of undeclared detention sites used by security forces to hold, interrogate and torture thousands of political opponents swept up from antimilitary demonstrations, homes and offices. Detainees have mostly been Morsi supporters or suspected members of his now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation and its allies. But they also include leftists opposed to the post-coup government installed by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the former army general who is now running for president."
'Bahrain's disappearing moderates' (Elizabeth Dickinson, Al Monitor)
"Yet, among the biggest loser from the rising violence in Bahrain is the moderate Shiite political opposition, Al Wefaq, which is struggling to craft its response. It has not supported the violent tactics of groups such as the more radical February 14 Youth Coalition, to the disappointment of some in their antigovernment constituency. Yet, they have also not condemned the attacks adamantly enough to satisfy many of their critics at home and abroad."
-- Mary Casey
Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images