Retired Libyan General Khalifa Heftar, who has launched attacks on Islamist militias in Benghazi and on the Libyan government, has called on the judiciary to appoint an emergency cabinet and oversee parliamentary elections. Heftar called the country a "terrorist hub" and claimed the government had "fostered terrorism" and failed Libyans. Heftar's campaign, named "Libya's dignity" by supporters, got a boost when the country's top air defense commander, Juma al-Abani, and Culture Minister Habib Amin declared their support. The government said the operation was an attempted coup and Libya's new prime minister, Ahmed Maitiq, called for negotiations to end the political crisis.
Pro-government troops, backed by the air force, have entered the grounds of Aleppo's central prison, breaking a year-long rebel siege, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two pro-Syrian regime Lebanese television stations. Opposition fighters have launched repeated attacks in efforts to free the estimated 4,000 inmates held there. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported it has been able to deliver food to more than 60,000 displaced persons in Aleppo province who had not received humanitarian aid in nine months. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court for an investigation into alleged war crimes. Dozens of countries have signed on to the measure, however Russia vowed to veto the resolution with U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling it a "publicity stunt."
- A man has been wounded in clashes between Turkish police and protesters in Istanbul Thursday meanwhile opposition lawmakers are accusing the government of permitting lax safety standards after the Soma mine disaster.
- Tunisian police have arrested eight people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks who were trained in explosives and weapons in Libya.
- The U.S. House of Representatives minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, has named five Democrats to serve on a panel investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
- Lebanese parliamentarians again failed to hold a vote Thursday to elect a new president two days ahead of the expiration of President Michel Suleiman's term.
Arguments and Analysis
'Why Are the Irish Increasingly Siding With Palestine Over Israel?' (Jason Walsh, New Republic)
"Palestine activism is extremely visible on the Irish left, often managing to marshall more people than domestic campaigns. Left-wing activism of all kinds has become increasingly shrill since the 2008 economic meltdown, the main legacy of which seems to have been not the much predicted rebirth of Marxism but an intensification of identity politics. Beyond that, though, even relatively unpolitical Irish people seem to view Israel with deep suspicion, at the very least.
Israel's history of fighting Britain for independence could have made the Irish more sympathetic to the country, but Israel's treatment of Palestinians has sown a dark seed in the Irish anti-colonial mindset. More important, as Israel has become more successful, potential Irish support for it has waned. In the Irish psyche, Israel functions as a surrogate for Britain: imperial and imperious and, above all, modern."
'Syria's Upcoming Elections...And the President Laughed' (Peter Hill, Muftah)
"This is the essential point to grasp about the upcoming Syrian election: it is not designed as a response to the recent uprisings and civil war. Rather, it is a pointed non-response. It is taking place because Assad has come to the end of his latest presidential term, and the constitutional niceties must be observed."
'Simmering discontent' (Pomegranate, The Economist)
"The anniversary of Yemeni unity on May 22nd usually passes quietly in Sana'a, the capital. But this year the government Abd Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the president, is keen to build on patriotic sentiment fired up by a recent military campaign against al-Qaeda. Fairy lights adorn the central bank and roads are lined with bunting in the red, black and white of the Yemeni flag. The celebrations are due to culminate in a fireworks display.
The sentiment is not shared across Yemen. A day earlier, on May 21st, thousands of people took to the streets in Aden, a port town that was once the capital of the separate southern state, to demand independence. 'Twenty years of repression and resistance,' they chanted."
* An incorrect photo was included with the 5.21.14 Middle East Daily Brief. Please see the revised brief here.
-- Mary Casey
ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images