Yemen's army killed up to 43 suspected al Qaeda-linked militants during airstrikes in a three-day offensive in the southern provinces of Aden and Abyan. According to the government, forces have reclaimed control of strategic cities that serve as links to the north, including what has become the al Qaeda base in the al-Rahha mountainous region of Lahj. The assault came after two attacks by militant fighters on Yemeni army bases in the area. Al Qaeda has been exploiting instability in Yemen to strengthen its control in the region. According to Mohammed al-Qadhi, a Sanaa-based journalist, "Al-Qaeda [is] using the stalemate in the political process and the continued division of army and security forces...to expand their activities in different southern provinces." Meanwhile, the al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for bombing an oil pipeline in southern Yemen on Monday. It was the second such attack in what the group said would be "a chain of attacks" in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed five militants on Friday. President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, who recently replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been more cooperative with the United States and more active than his predecessor in the offensive against al Qaeda.
In a brief from United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in front of the U.N. Security Council, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to withdraw heavy weapons and troops from populated areas by April 10. According to U.S. envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice, Annan said he had received commitment from Assad that he would begin the withdrawal immediately. However, Syrian official Bashar Jaafar said that the "the Syrian government is committed but we are expect Mr. Kofi Annan and some parties in the Security Council also to get the same kind of commitments from the [opposition]." At the same time, however, clashes continued in the center of Homs and according to the opposition, troops and tanks are moving into rebel-dominated areas. As such, and because of prior empty statements by the Syrian government, Security Council members have met the withdrawal agreement with suspicion, including Annan who requested a contingency plan of a United Nations observer mission, which would likely get rejected by Russia and China. Meanwhile, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, is meeting with Syrian officials Tuesday to push for greater access to detainees and people who are sick, wounded, or displaced. He is additionally calling for a daily two-hour halt to fighting to allow for Red Cross access. According to the United Nations more than 9,000 people have been killed in the over year-long conflict.
- The Red Cross has begun delivering fuel to the Gaza Strip which will maintain 13 hospitals for 10 days, after the territory's only plant closed eight days ago.
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Defense Minister Barak to delay the evacuation of settlers from a West Bank home in Hebron to allow time for pursuit of legal options.
- Libyan militia leaders turn to politics furthering concerns over national fragmentation.
Arguments & Analysis
'Crisis in Zion Square' (Daniel Levy, The Atlantic)
"If Israelis are to make hard choices, re-think their policies, acknowledge that the occupation carries costs, and even just remember that a Green Line exists, then disincentives may need to come into play. Is that not a pro-Israel position? That it is better for the country's long-term survival to hold it to certain standards of international law than to maintain the status quo of impunity. Beinart's two specific policy suggestions -- to exclude settlement goods from the Israel-U.S. free trade agreement, and to end the tax-deductible status of gifts to settler charities -- would be reasonable, good starting points. The EU-Israel Association Agreement already denies free trade benefits to settlement products. Still, Zionist BDS alone is unlikely to change Israeli policy. Boycotting settlement products and donations would probably have a negligible impact on Israel's economy. And...the sad reality is that there is no Green Line when it comes to the Israeli economy."
'Egypt's spring break' (Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera English)
"It's not clear how the presidential campaign will evolve following al-Shater's nomination or who will make it to the second round to face him. Be that as it may, the Brotherhood has taken a risky gamble. If they lose, the Brotherhood's political standing would be terribly undermined, even shattered. If they win, they will be accused of monopolising power like the previous Mubarak led National Democratic Party (NDP). When I asked al-Shater about such comparisons, which I had heard in Tahrir Square, he dismissed them as unfounded creations of the remnants of the NDP. However, already the Brotherhood's insistence to take control of the Constitutional Assembly has led to a major fiasco with basically all but the organised Islamists remaining on board. The Muslim Brotherhood's attempt to lead on all fronts, including the presidency, is alienating many Egyptians and creating a political mess in the process. Their on-and-off conflict and complicity with SCAF has also created confusion, bitterness and lack of progress in the country with many accusing both sides of advancing their interests at the expense of the revolution and the Egyptian people."
--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey