Tale of two stories: Tunisia & Palestine

[Publisher’s note: Compare the international attention given to these two news stories below. The stories are taken from Ma’an News, an independent news source in Palestine.]

19 killed as gunmen attack Tunisia museum

Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked the famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015.(AFP/Fethi Belaid)

TUNIS (AFP) — Kalashnikov-wielding gunmen killed at least 17 foreign tourists in a brazen attack Wednesday on Tunisia’s national museum before being killed in a police assault, officials said.

Polish, Italian, German and Spanish tourists were among the dead, Prime Minister Habib Essid said, adding that two gunmen had been killed.

A Tunisian national and a policeman were also reported dead.

Essid said the gunmen, dressed in military uniforms, opened fire on the tourists as they were disembarking from a bus and chased them inside the museum.

Health Minister Said Aidi told reporters that 38 others had been wounded in the attack, including citizens of France, South Africa, Poland, Italy and Japan.

The attack appeared to be the worst on foreigners in Tunisia since an Al-Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 14 Germans, two French and five Tunisians on the island of Djerba in 2002.

Some officials, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, had said hostages were taken at the museum but this was not confirmed by Tunisian authorities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Tunisia — the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutionary movement — has struggled to tackle a rise in attacks from Islamist extremists.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told reporters that “two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs” had targeted the Bardo National Museum next to the Tunisian parliament.

‘Enormous panic’

Aroui said about 100 tourists had been inside the museum at the time of the attack.

He said “anti-terrorist units” had entered the museum but refused to confirm reports of a hostage taking.

In Brussels, Valls said he condemned “this terrorist attack in the strongest terms”, adding that there had been a “hostage taking”.

French President Francois Hollande also expressed his country’s “solidarity” with Tunisia, a former French colony.

President Beji Caid Essebsi was to make a public statement to the nation, spokesman Moez Sinaoui told AFP.

The Bardo National Museum, a famed repository of ancient artefacts, is next door to Tunisia’s parliament, where work was suspended during the attack.

An Islamist lawmaker, Monia Brahim, told AFP that gunfire from the initial assault prompted parliamentary committees to suspend their meetings as lawmakers were ordered to assemble in the main chamber.

“There was enormous panic,” another lawmaker, Sayida Ounissi, wrote on Twitter, saying the attack took place during hearings on Tunisia’s anti-terrorism law.

Tunisia has seen an upsurge in Islamist extremism since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Dozens of police and military personnel have been killed or wounded in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

Increasing radicalization

An army offensive against the militants, who are linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been underway since 2012 but the ground and air campaign has failed to eliminate them.

The country is also fighting against the radicalization of Muslim youth, with authorities saying as many as 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Iraq, Syria and neighboring Libya to fight with militants, including with the Islamic State group.

Some 500 are now believed to have returned to Tunisia.

Essebsi said the government’s “top priority” is “providing security and the battle against terrorism” after it took office last month following Tunisia’s first free elections.

Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring with its overthrow of Ben Ali and, despite the continued unrest, has taken pride in forming a stable and democratic government.

The country is hoping to rebuild its once-burgeoning tourism industry, which is struggling to recover from the effects of the 2011 revolution.

Tourist arrivals dropped by three percent last year.

The Bardo museum, renowned for its exceptional collection of ancient mosaics, is a significant draw and opened a new wing in 2012 following a major facelift.

It boasts objects from prehistory, the Phoenician period and Punic and Numidian times, as well as Roman, Christian and Islamic artifacts.

Its curator had described it as “the flagship” of Tunisia’s heritage.

Housed in a former palace dating from the 19th century, the museum greeted hundreds of thousands of visitors every year before the revolution. In 2011 the number dropped to about 100,000 but attendance had been recovering.

http://www.maannews.com/eng/Default.aspx

9 injured as Israeli forces open fire on protest at Jalazun camp

Israeli soldiers fire on protestors (MaanImages/file)

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Nine Palestinians were injured Wednesday afternoon after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters at al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah.

Israeli soldiers shot 20-year-old Palestinian named Ali Mahmoud Safi in the chest with a 0.22 caliber bullet during the protest.

The bullet exited his body through the back, and the youth was in serious condition as of Wednesday evening.

Locals said three other protesters were struck by live bullets, and five by rubber-coated steel bullets.

The protest reportedly began after locals gathered in opposition to the construction of a wall between the refugee camp and the nearby Jewish-only settlement of Beit El.

Beit El is strategically located on a hill at the northern edge of Ramallah, blocking free movement for local Palestinians to and from the city through a checkpoint. The most direct road north, meanwhile, is off-limits to Palestinians.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the shooting.

“There was a riot of 50 Palestinians in Jalazun,” she told Ma’an, adding that “rioters hurled rocks at the soldiers and they responded with riot dispersal means.”

“Upon their refusal to vacate the area and refrain from further violence, they fired a .22 caliber round toward the main instigator,” she said.

“A hit was confirmed.”

The spokeswoman refused to comment on how the protest had begun or why the soldiers were in the area immediately beside the camp.

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