Violence has flared over the weekend between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip for the second time in less than a month. Hamas affiliated militants from the Popular Resistance Committees fired a rocket into Israel Saturday hitting an Israeli patrol jeep and injuring up to four Israeli soldiers. Israel quickly retaliated with air strikes reportedly killing up to six Palestinians and wounding over 20 more people. Since Saturday night, over 50 rockets were fired from Gaza toward the Israeli border, according to Israeli sources. Israeli officials are debating an operation into Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned a meeting for Monday with foreign ambassadors. Egypt stepped in Sunday night in efforts to broker a truce -- however, Israel reported nine more rockets were fired into Southern Israel on Monday morning.
Syria's fractious opposition signed a tentative agreement in Doha, Qatar on Sunday to form a new opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The agreement came after days of tense negotiations spurred from western and regional pressure aimed at creating a unified body for international financial and possibly military aid, as well as to serve as a future transition government if President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. The new assembly unanimously elected Sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, a well-respected figure amongst Syrians and former Imam of the historic Umayyad mosque in Damascus, as president. The previous main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, will hold 22 of the 60 seats on the new coalition's leadership council. Meanwhile, Israel fired into Syria for the first time since 1973 after a stray mortar shell hit an Israeli army post in the disputed territory of the Golan Heights. Israel's army called the missile fire into Syria a "warning" as fighting in Syria has been spreading closer to the Israeli border with several recent errant munitions falling into Israeli-held territory. Additionally, a Syrian jet has bombed the opposition held town of Ras al-Ain near the Turkish border on Monday. Witness accounts have cited up to 15 people died in the attack, and many wounded were brought to the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar for care. The Turkish military has been increasing deployments to the tenuous border and the government has reportedly been considering asking NATO to station Patriot missiles at the border.
- Iran launched its "biggest ever" air drill on Monday as tensions increase with the United States after Iran shot down an unarmed U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf.
- Sectarian clashes broke out in the south Lebanese coastal city of Sidon on Sunday between Sunni Salafist supporters and Shiiite Hezbollah supporters killing at least three people.
- The United States is concerned that a Hezbollah operative accused of helping to kill U.S. troops in Iraq may soon be released.
- An agreement between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a $4.8 billion loan is stalled as the IMF waits for an Egyptian government economic reform package.
Arguments and Analysis
Women Fight to Define the Arab Spring (Carol Giacomo, The New York Times)
"When Mabrouka M'barek is in the Tunisian capital these days, much of her time is spent writing a new constitution as an elected member of the National Constituent Assembly. It is a role the 32-year-old mother of two embraces with idealistic passion and more than a little amazement. Before President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011, she never imagined herself a "founding mother," as she referred to herself in a recent interview, of this country or any other.
Now Mrs. M'barek - a Tunisian-American whose constituents are Tunisians in the United States, Canada and Europe - is deep into one of the most important tasks of any new democracy. She is helping to write the document that will underpin the rights and responsibilities shared by the government and its citizens."
How the Brotherhood builds power in Syria's opposition (Hassan Hassan, The National)
"The MB was perceived as moderate, preaching more about socialism than about Islam. It then alienated minorities when it successfully campaigned to change the constitution to be more Islamic, and engaged in sectarian violence. Finally, it had been subject to a systematic cleansing for over three decades by the Baathist regime.
On what basis, then, does the Brotherhood dominate political and military councils today?
In a democratic Syria, the Brotherhood would have the right to engage in politics and build support. But its current dominance is not justified by true representation and this is one of the major causes of rift and hesitation among Syria's political and social forces. Its dominance needs to be addressed with urgency by activists and countries that have leverage in Syria."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey