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Injured Al Jazeera Journalist Barred from Receiving Medical Care in Egypt

On Dec. 29, Egyptian authorities arrested Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Al Jazeera's Cairo bureau chief, and four other journalists, charging them with "harming national security" and "spreading false news." Nine days later, Fahmy, who is suffering from a dislocated shoulder, still has not received medical treatment.

"Mohamed is currently back to prison after he was interrogated 3 times. Still not allowed to go to the hospital," Mohamed's brother Sherif told Foreign Policy via Twitter. "We are not allowed to see or speak to him. Our only method of communication is through the lawyer."

Prior to joining Al Jazeera, Fahmy was a frequent contributor to FP, where his incisive coverage spanned from the military's scorched-earth campaign in the Sinai Peninsula, to the geopolitical implications of soccer hooliganism, to the trial of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

The arrests, allegedly for conducting "illegal" interviews with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, come as Egypt's military-backed government is in the midst of an aggressive crackdown against Islamist and secular dissidents alike. Since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Brotherhood, in July, at least 1,000 of his supporters have been killed in clashes with security forces. Thousands more have been arrested.

On Dec. 25, authorities designating the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a step the Qatari ambassador in Cairo slammed as a "prelude to a shoot-to-kill policy."

The crackdown on the Brotherhood has seen Egypt become an increasingly hostile environment for reporters, six of whom died in the line of duty in 2013. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egypt is among the top 10 jailers of journalists.

Few media outfits have been worse affected than Al Jazeera. Long accused of sympathizing with the Brotherhood -- in part because of its host country's generous support for Morsi's government -- the Qatar-based media giant has been subjected to repeated raids and detentions. Fahmy, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed joined two other Al Jazeera employees in prison when they were arrested last week.

"Al Jazeera demands the immediate release of their journalists," the network said in a statement on Dec. 30. Elsewhere, it described the arrests as an "act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists."

Fahmy, a dual Egyptian and Canadian citizen, is reportedly in considerable pain as a result of a shoulder injury sustained prior to his arrest. Authorities have refused to transfer him to a hospital, however, and his condition is "getting worse," according to his brother Sherif. 

Fahmy's brother also expressed frustration that the Canadian government has not done more to facilitate the journalist's release. According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian consular officials have been in touch with the Egyptian government "to gather more information," but Ottawa has yet to issue a statement demanding his release.

Last year, Canada's minister of state made repeated public appeals for the release of Canadian citizens John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, both of whom were detained in Egypt.

"[It] amazes us that not a single article was published saying that Canada is at least concerned about him," said Sherif. "Compare that to what the [C]anadian authorities have done for [T]arek [L]oubani."

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Why Hezbollah's New Missiles Are a Problem for Israel

Israeli defense officials have eyed the nearly three-year Syrian civil war warily, concerned that a faltering Assad regime may try to offload some of its advanced weaponry to its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon rather than let it fall into the hands of rebel forces. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that, despite Israeli efforts to prevent Syrian weapons transfers to Lebanon, U.S. officials believe that Syrian forces have managed to smuggle advanced guided missiles to its Lebanese allies.

The new weapon in Hezbollah's arsenal keeping Israeli officials up at night, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a set of Russian Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Russia delivered 72 Yakhont missiles to Syria in December 2011, along with 18 mobile launch vehicles designed to be stationed along the coast, and Syrian state news televised the Syrian Navy test-firing the missiles. Moscow then followed up in May 2013 with an additional shipment of even more advanced, more accurate, radar-equipped Yakhont missiles. They have a range of about 180 miles, fly close to the sea at Mach 2 to evade radar, and are usually armed with an armor-piercing or high-explosive warhead.


Syria's arsenal of Yakhont missiles has raised anxieties in the Israeli Navy since the purchase from Russia. Israeli warships actually began testing the Barak 8 missile defense system in 2011, prior to Russia's delivery of the weapons, specifically to defend against advanced anti-ship missiles like the Yakhont. Israel has been acutely concerned about the Yakhont missiles falling into the hands of Hezbollah, which has an established history of firing rockets across the border into Israel. Mostly these have been unguided rockets, like the short-range Katyushas and Iranian-made Fajr rockets that Hezbollah used in its 2006 conflict with Israel. The Yakhont missiles, though more suited to firing on vessels at sea than land-bound targets, would be a marked upgrade in the range and accuracy of Hezbollah's arsenal. Placed near the Israeli northern border with Lebanon, the missiles' range would extend nearly all the way across the country, past Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula. But beyond range, it's the radar guidance that has IDF planners worried.

Which is why Israel has gone to great lengths to avoid them falling into the wrong hands. In 2013, Israel is believed to have conducted at least five airstrikes against Syrian weapons stockpiles that intelligence officials believed might be transferred to Hezbollah. Reports at the time suggested some of these attacks were targeting chemical weapons supplies, but the Wall Stree Journal reported today that the strikes targeted Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, Iranian-made rockets, and in July and October, Syria's Yakhont missile arsenal.


According to U.S. officials, that didn't do the job, and Syrian smugglers have passed the Yakhont missiles to their Hezbollah allies, component by component -- as many as 12 missiles may now be in Lebanon. But they're not operational, yet; the report suggests that Hezbollah does not have the means to launch the missiles.

The United States has warned Russia from time to time about its delivery of new weapons to Syria as the civil war has dragged on. Russia has consistently replied that they are fulfilling deals inked years ago -- the arrangement for Syria to purchase the Yakhont missiles, as part of the larger Bastion coastal missile system, was signed in 2007. But, as U.S. officials have warned for months, the transfer of those missiles to Hezbollah constitutes a violation of the deal's "end user agreement," which stipulated that the weapons could not be given to any other country or group. If the intelligence that Syria has managed to smuggle 12 guided missiles into Lebanon is accurate, the Assad regime is now pretty flagrantly in violation of that agreement -- but it's unclear if there will be any immediate consequences for that.

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