News from Iran, Israel and Syria

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on August 23, 2011

IRAN – Iran Sentences Hikers From U.S. to Eight Years

BEIRUT—Iran’s judiciary confirmed Sunday that it sentenced detained American hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal to eight years in prison on charges of illegally entering the country and espionage.

Bauer and Fattal, both 28, were arrested in July 2009 in Iran near the border with Iraq, along with another American, Sarah Shourd. Ms. Shourd was released on bail in September 2010 and is in the U.S. …

Ms. Shourd, 32, who posted $500,000 in bail, could still be tried in absentia, Mr. Dowlatabadi said, and her case remains open.

Shane Bauer (left) and Josh Fattal (center) with their translator in court in Tehran, Feb. 2011.

Bauer and Fattal each were sentenced to three years for illegally entering Iran and five years for spying for the U.S.

The three Americans deny the charges, saying they were hiking along the mountains of northern Iraq with a local guide and weren’t aware of crossing the border into Iran. …

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she was “deeply disappointed” with the eight-year sentence and that the U.S. would continue to call and work for their immediate release.

“It is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families,” Ms. Clinton’s statement said. …

The families [of the two men] had hoped the men would be released during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and pardons are often granted as a gesture of goodwill and forgiveness. …

ISRAEL – Gaza Militants Renew Rocket Fire Despite Truce

JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip launched rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel [Sunday and] Monday, despite an unofficial truce meant to defuse escalating exchanges of rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes.

Around midday, a group that had held out from joining the cease-fire announced it would comply. Even so, Palestinians launched two rockets into Israel a few hours later…. They caused no injuries but damaged property and set a fire to a field.

The latest round of violence began [Thursday, Aug. 18] with a deadly attack on Israelis near the Egypt-Israel border when gunmen [from] Gaza crossed into southern Israel through the Egyptian desert and ambushed vehicles, killing eight people. Six were civilians and two were members of Israeli security forces responding to the incursion.

That touched off deadly Israeli airstrikes and heavy Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. Palestinians pummeled southern Israel with about 70 rockets Saturday night, killing 1 Israeli and wounding several others.

About 15 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

“Most of those who dispatched the terrorists to carry out the attacks are now under the ground,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 TV Monday evening.

A Hamas official said Monday that militant groups in Gaza agreed to the truce to end three days of clashes between Israel and Gaza militants. Hamas security personnel would enforce the Egypt-brokered agreement, he said.

The Popular Resistance Committees had refrained from joining the cease-fire because an Israeli airstrike on Thursday killed several of its senior members, whom Israel accused of directing the border ambush, another Hamas official said Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak for the other group.

On Monday afternoon, the PRC told a news conference it would join the truce as well, but a few hours later released a statement taking responsibility for firing the latest rockets salvo, breaching the cease-fire.

The Israeli government says it was not involved in cease-fire talks, but Israeli President Shimon Peres, touring a city hit hard by rocket fire over the weekend said, “If they will cease fire, there will be a cease-fire.”

SYRIA – Syrians say Assad rule will crumble like Gadhafi’s

Syrian President Bashar Assad

BEIRUT – Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets across Syria Monday after a televised appearance by President Bashar Assad, shouting for him to step down and chanting “Gadhafi is gone, now it’s your turn Bashar!”

Security forces opened fire in the central city of Homs, killing at least one person, a witness said. Crowds there and in several other cities were angered by Assad’s remarks on TV and taunted him with warnings that his regime would be the next to unravel, as Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule was crumbling under a rebel advance in Libya.

Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been killed in the government’s crackdown on a five-month-old uprising. The regime has unleashed tanks and snipers in an attempt to stamp out the revolt.

In a now-familiar refrain, Assad on Sunday promised imminent reforms — including parliamentary elections by February — but insisted the unrest was being driven by armed gangs and Islamic militants, not true reform seekers.

He also said he was not worried about security in his country and warned against any Libya-style foreign military intervention. His remarks appeared designed to portray confidence as the regime comes under blistering international condemnation.

On Monday, Syria’s state-run news agency said Assad formed a committee to pave the way for the formation of political groups other than his Baath party, which has held a monopoly in Syria for decades.

The opposition rejected Assad’s remarks, saying they have lost confidence in his promises of reform while his forces open fire on peaceful protesters.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at and on August 22nd.)


IRAN - The three American hikers who were captured by Iranian soldiers in July 2009 are Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd.  Shourd was released on bail in Sept. 2010 and is in the U.S.

ISRAEL - Details of the Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens on Friday, August 19th
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