The Middle East Channel

Rocket hits Israeli resort city of Eilat

A rocket hit the southern Israeli city of Eilat -- a popular resort destination on the Red Sea -- 20 minutes after midnight on Thursday. According to Ron Gertner, the district's police chief, the Grad-type Katyusha rocket caused no damage or injuries after hitting a construction site over 300 yards from a residential area. The rocket was originally believed to have been launched from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula intensifying concerns that the Sinai desert has become a base for militants since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. However, the head of Egyptian security for the southern part of the Sinai said the rocket did not originate in the area. Officials continue to search the southeastern Sinai but have yet to find any evidence of rocket fire. Yitzhak Halevy, the mayor of Eilat, said he is in discussions with security officials about setting up Israel's anti-rocket defense system -- the "Iron Dome."

Syria

According to activists, violence has intensified in Syria leading up to the April 10 ceasefire deadline proposed as part of Kofi Annan's peace plan. At least 54 people were reported killed across Syria on Wednesday, with nearly half in the northwestern city of Homs, where additionally a Red Crescent distribution center was burned. On Tuesday, warplanes began attacking the city of Taltanaz in Idlib province and continued throughout Wednesday. Fresh clashes were additionally sparked in the Damascus suburb of Douma. According to Turkish officials there has been a surge of refugees fleeing from the fighting in the northwest adding up to at least 1,600 in the past two days. Conversely, in discussion with the United Nations and Arab League envoy, the Syrian government claimed to have started withdrawing troops from Idlib, Derraa, and Zabaadani, in efforts to begin implementing the Annan peace plan. The opposition is however accusing President Bashar al-Assad of stalling and intentionally ramping up violence ahead of a U.N. monitoring mission scheduled to arrive shortly after a ceasefire.

Headlines  

  • Ultraconservative Islamist Egyptian presidential candidate Abu Ismail may be disqualified due to his mother's U.S. citizenship; meanwhile, Mubarak's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has pulled out.
  • The International Criminal Court ruled that Libya must hand over Saif al-Islam, son of the former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, to the Hague to be tried for war crimes.
  • The Syrian conflict is spurring growing tensions within Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps.

Arguments & Analysis

'An Arab war-crimes court for Syria' (Aryeh Neier, New York Times)

"To overcome such obstructionism, another innovation is required: an Arab League tribunal to deal with the crimes against humanity that are taking place in Syria. Such a tribunal could have Arab judges, Arab prosecutors, Arab investigators and Arab defense attorneys and conduct its proceedings in Arabic. The Arab League could give it jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and war crimes as the treaty for the International Criminal Court defines them. And such a court should have jurisdiction over all crimes, including those committed by rebels. It is essential to uphold the principle that, no matter the justice of the cause or the crimes committed by one's opponents, all must be held to the same standards."  

'Syria's opposition in exile plagued by infighting' (Viktoria Kleber, Der Spiegel)

"That small scene from the fringes of the conference serves to illustrate just how far removed the SNC is from the people it claims to represent: the rebels in Syria, who have been demonstrating against the dictatorship, at first peacefully but now increasingly with weapons. As the rebellion has developed within Syria, the Syrian opposition abroad has failed to establish unified representation or agree on mutual demands, splitting instead into further divisions. Because they wanted more support for the armed resistance in Syria, prominent veteran dissident Haitham al-Maleh, who is in his early 80s, and other important activists recently broke away from the SNC, the largest opposition group. The meeting in Istanbul was called to bring the divided groups back together." 

'Damascus: beneath the facade' (Bushra Saeed, Open Democracy)

"So although Damascus has avoided the worst of the conflict, and the authorities have worked hard to maintain the an obedient facade through its security deployments and "spontaneous rallies", after all not everything is calm and quiet on the Damascus front. Life has lost its normalcy. The economy is crumbling, the social fabric is tearing, the city's peace is undermined by car-bombs (four in recent months), and the quality of life is threatened by severe power-shortages and economic crisis. In the midst of all that, the most challenging question facing Syrians is where their country is heading. The bloodshed, including sectarian violence, threatens the diversity that is at the heart of Syrian society."

--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey

AFP/Getty images

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