The Middle East Channel

Surge of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip

Surge of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip

Violence has continued for a fourth day between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. An estimated 21 Palestinians have been killed, and 74, mostly civilians, wounded since attacks began Friday. Israel has carried out continuous air strikes, and according to an Israeli spokeswoman "targeted a weapons storage facility and four rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as a rocket launching site in the southern Gaza strip." Meanwhile, Israel has reported its Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted at least 40 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel since Friday, the majority of which were believed to have been launched by Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). Islamic Jihad sources reported that Egypt is working to negotiate a truce "at the behest of Hamas" between Israel and the Palestinian factions. However, efforts at establishing a truce overnight failed. Quartet representatives from the United Nations, European Union, Russia, and the United States are scheduled to meet for the first time in six months to discuss the flare-up which is the greatest violence seen in the Gaza Strip since Israel's Operation Cast Lead began in December 2008.

Syria

United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan spent two days in meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but has appeared to have made no progress in brokering a ceasefire. Heavy violence continued, specifically in the Karm al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Homs and the northwestern Idlib province. In Homs, activists' death counts ranged between 25 and 47, including women and children. The opposition blamed the Shabiha, regime militants; however Syria's state television, SANA, accused "terrorist armed groups" for kidnapping and killing civilians to garner increased international attention. Meanwhile, U.N. Security Council officials from 15 countries will meet Monday to discuss upcoming regional challenges in light of the past year's Arab uprisings. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled for private bilateral talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss contrasting strategies on addressing violence in Syria.

Headlines  

  • An Egyptian military court acquitted an army doctor accused of conducting "virginity tests" on seven women, a practice a civilian court ordered stopped in December, citing conflicting testimony.
  • Yemeni officials said the United States conducted four airstrikes Saturday targeting al-Qaeda facilities, killing at least 18 al-Qaeda-linked militants in the southern province of Bayda.
  • Following a call by a leading Shiite cleric, tens of thousands of Bahrainis protested Friday outside Manama demanding political reform in the biggest demonstration in a year.
  • Egypt's parliament is considering a vote on cutting off $1.3 billion in assistance from the United States over the case of U.S. NGO workers allegedly instigating unrest.
  • Jewish settlers in Migron, the biggest illegal outpost in the West Bank, have agreed to a relocation deal, in a move condemned by Israeli activist group Peace Now.

Arguments & Analysis

'Strategic thinking: Interview with Ahmet  Davutoglu' (Cairo Review, Scott MacLeod)

CAIRO REVIEW: What is the most effective way for outsiders-whether it is Turkey, Arab states, or a combination of international action-to address a crisis like the one in Syria?

Ahmet Davutoglu: The most effective way of dealing with the crisis in Syria is the adoption of a unified position by the international community as a whole. It will be only then that the Assad regime will finally comprehend that persisting in its current policies will only lead to more bloodshed and nothing else. Sharing a 910-kilometer-long border with Syria, Turkey will continue to be at the center of the efforts in order to address the crisis in this country. As a regional organization, the Arab League has a pivotal role in steering the efforts of the international community. The recipe for ending the crisis should ideally originate from the region and be implemented with the support of the international community.

Debate: Will Israel attack Iran? (Daniel Levy et al. GPS w/ Fareed Zakaria)

Daniel Levy:

The kind of speech that the prime minister gave in Washington, holocaust analogies, everywhere, he hasn't made that speech in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. He was criticized for doing that. The opposition leader said it was scare mongering, it was hysteria, it was shameful use of the holocaust. But I think the most important outcome of the visit this week is that the Israeli security establishment folks who are not enthusiastic about an Israeli solo mission, vis-a-vis Iran, I think they got the kind of assurances that they wanted to hear from the American president or enough of them. Because the Israeli and American positions are actually rather close, ruling out of containment, ruling in at some stage of a military option. In fact, the critique that should be heard perhaps of President Obama's position is not that it's not hawkish enough. But perhaps that given everything going on in the region, given that the Iranian regime is actually weakened now, we're not right sizing the Iranian threat. 

'No Saudi Spring: Anatomy of a failed revolution' (Madawi Al-Rasheed, Boston Review)

"Saudi Arabia's experience of the Arab Spring demonstrates that it lacks the structural conditions for mobilization, organization, and protest, let alone revolution. The economic and social deprivation, political oppression, and corruption that triggered revolutions elsewhere are all present in Saudi Arabia, but these alone are not sufficient to precipitate an uprising. Saudi Arabia does not have trade unions-the majority of its working population is foreign, which has stunted the growth of organized labor-a women's movement, or an active student population, three factors that helped to make protests in Tunis and Cairo successful. Elsewhere in the Arab world, in the absence of these important factors, revolt stumbled, turned violent, and could not progress without serious foreign intervention. Libya is a case in point." 

--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey

AFP/Getty images

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