- - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt said Tuesday that it is closely following the case of an Egyptian rights lawyer arrested in Saudi Arabia that has revived long-standing resentment over the treatment of Egyptians working in the oil-rich kingdom.

Scores of rights activists, meanwhile, staged a noisy protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo to press demands for the release of the lawyer, Ahmed el-Gezawi.

Anti-Saudi sentiment has flared on several occasions in recent years after reports that an Egyptian national has been mistreated in the kingdom or experienced a miscarriage of justice in a Saudi court.

Egyptian activists say Cairo in the past has refused to take a strong stand to protect citizens in Saudi Arabia so as not to alienate the wealthy rulers of the kingdom or endanger the millions of jobs that Egyptians hold in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. el-Gezawi’s sister, Sheren, told a private Egyptian television channel Monday night that her brother was arrested upon his April 17 arrival in the Saudi port of Jiddah.

She said he had been convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison and 20 lashes by a Saudi court for insulting the king. Mr. el-Gezawi had filed a lawsuit in Egypt against King Abdullah over what he said was an arbitrary detention of hundreds of Egyptians living in the kingdom.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Rushdi said Cairo was in constant contact with Saudi authorities over the arrest.

SYRIA

Rebel attacks kill 2 Assad security officials

BEIRUT — Rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime launched three attacks on his security forces across Damascus on Tuesday, killing two ranking officers and rocking the capital with a booby-trapped car, activists and state media said.

The attacks took place as a U.N. team observing Syria’s violence-ridden truce was visiting another area near the capital, the restive suburb of Douma.

Activists and amateur videos reported shelling and gunfire in that area, a day after 55 people were killed across Syria - most of them in a city that the observers recently visited.

The attacks Tuesday underline the increasing militarization of the 13-month-old conflict and show the effort by Mr. Assad’s opponents to chip away at the security services he uses to quash dissent.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one intelligence officer was killed in the capital’s Barzeh neighborhood but gave no information on how he died.

ISRAEL

Israel legalizes settler outposts in West Bank

JERUSALEM — Israel legalized three unsanctioned West Bank settler outposts and was trying to save another Tuesday, infuriating Palestinians as the chief U.S. Middle East envoy was in the region laboring to revive peace efforts.

The decision fueled suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition would try to legalize as many rogue settlement sites as possible to cement Israel’s hold on occupied land that Palestinians claim for a state.

Mr. Netanyahu faces stiff pressure from pro-settler hard-liners within his own coalition to fend off legal challenges to the unauthorized construction. Some hard-liners have even warned that the coalition, which until now has been remarkably stable, could unravel over the issue.

Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the core of their hoped-for state, and see all Israeli settlement as illegal encroachment on those lands. They have refused to restart peace talks until construction halts.

YEMEN

Army recaptures center of al Qaeda-held city

SANAA — Yemeni government troops fought their way into the center of an al Qaeda-held city in the country’s lawless south after a fierce, six-hour battle that ended early Tuesday, military officials said.

The soldiers, backed by artillery and tanks, launched the push into Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, under the cover of darkness, the officials said.

By the time they made it to the heart of Zinjibar, dozens were killed and wounded on both sides in the battle, the officials said, though they had no exact figures.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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