An explosion probably caused a Russian plane to crash in Egypt last weekend but it remains unclear whether a bomb or technical problems were to blame, an Egyptian source close to the investigation told Reuters on Wednesday. The Airbus A321M (AIR.PA) crashed on Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to the Russian city of St Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.
Four years after the revolution he helped lead, Basem Kamel has noticeably scaled back his ambitions. The regime he and his friends thought they overthrew after storming Tahrir Square has returned. In the face of relentless pressure and violence from the authorities, most of the revolutionary movements have been sidelined or snuffed out. Egypt’s new strongman, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has injected new zeal and energy into the military establishment. He has established his rule using unprecedented amounts of force, including mass arrests and death sentences, and the elimination of freedoms that existed even under previous dictatorships. But he has also won considerable popularity, leading Egypt’s revolutionaries to seek new routes to change.
Protests erupted at universities across Egypt on Sunday, condemning a court decision to drop criminal charges against Hosni Mubarak, the president whose ouster in the 2011 uprising raised hopes of a new era of political openness. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Cairo University, waving pictures of Mubarak behind bars and demanding the "fall of the regime", the rallying cry of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook governments from Tunisia to the Gulf in 2011.
Officially, the case was dismissed on a technicality: prosecutors were supposed to follow a special procedure in May 2011 when they added Mubarak as a co-defendant to a pre-existing case, but they didn't file the paperwork in time. Of course, there is more going on here. Despite the judge's insistence that the ruling "has nothing to do with politics," this is all about politics.
As Libya has descended into chaos, it has split into two broad camps. On one side is Libya Dawn, an Islamist-backed umbrella group; on the other is a renegade general, Khalifa Hifter, who is based in the eastern part of the country along with his allies. As this power struggle has escalated, it is no longer just an internal Libyan conflict. It is now being fought regionally, with parallels to other battles playing out in North Africa and the Middle East.
Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated with Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants firing rockets at the Jewish state. A senior Egyptian diplomat said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had informed Sisi that Hamas was prepared to come to Cairo for further talks, but Hamas did not immediately confirm the report. Israel also had no immediate comment.
Egyptian attempts to broker an end to a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas militants collapsed in heavy fighting Tuesday, with Palestinian militants firing dozens of rockets and Israel responding with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. At least two Palestinians were killed. The burst of violence erupted in the hours before a temporary truce was set to expire. It left the Egyptian mediation efforts in tatters, and raised the likelihood of a new round of violence.
The outlines of a solution for battered, blockaded Gaza are emerging after Tuesday's tentative Israel-Hamas cease-fire: Norway is organizing a donor conference and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas aims to oversee rebuilding and reassert his authority in the territory, lost to Hamas in 2007. Forces loyal to Abbas would be deployed at Gaza's crossings to encourage Israel and Egypt to lift the closure they imposed after the Hamas takeover.