According to an Egyptian official, leaders of the Palestinian rival groups Hamas and Fatah agreed to implement a unity deal in talks in Cairo on Wednesday. Palestinian Authority President and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal met separately with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and later met directly for the first time in over a year. Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq said, "The two parties agreed to call on all Palestinian factions to implement the reconciliation agreement." The unity agreement, brokered by Egypt, was signed in May 2011, but the main provisions have not been enacted. Violence exploded between the rival nationalist groups in June 2007 when Hamas forces took control of Gaza a year after an unrecognized landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The factions have remained at odds over the recognition of Israel, use of violence, and arrests of members. A meeting for the groups to establish a timeline for implementation of the agreement is reportedly scheduled for the first week of February.
NATO has reported that the Syrian military fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday, the third in recent days fired in the direction of Aleppo and Idlib. The targets appeared to be strategic road intersections and military bases seized by opposition forces. A NATO official condemned the missile launches saying, "The use of such indiscriminate weapons shows utter disregard for the lives of the Syrian people." While the Syrian government has denied the use of ballistic missiles, their use could be seen as further justification for NATO Patriot missile batteries put in place to defend the Turkish border. The U.S. batteries could be operational within days, however the Dutch and German systems may not be ready for weeks. Meanwhile, Syria's pro-regime media has criticized comments made by U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday in which he questioned President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to a political transition and suggested he resign. British Foreign Minister William Hague said he is unsure if Brahimi will succeed in brokering an end to violence in Syria and he wants Britain to have the flexibility to arm opposition fighters if conditions continue to deteriorate. Fighting has continued between opposition fighters and government forces over the Taftanaz air base in northern Idlib province into Thursday with reports of regime air strikes. Additionally, air strikes were reported on opposition strongholds around Damascus.
- Three Kurdish activists, possibly including a founding member of the PKK, were shot dead in Paris late Wednesday in what could be an effort to derail recent peace talks.
- A car exploded in Tel Aviv on Thursday in an apparent mob-linked assassination attempt on Nissim Alperon, who was not injured.
- Saudi Arabia executed Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan maid accused of killing a baby in her care, who was convicted as a minor without having access to a lawyer.
Articles & Analysis
"Iraq War Poll Finds Most Think War Was Mistake" (Huffington Post)
"On the eve of a potential confirmation battle for secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel that may hinge on his opposition to the Iraq war, most Americans continue to think the war was a mistake and was not worth fighting, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.
According to the survey, 52 percent of Americans think it was a mistake for the U.S. to send troops to Iraq in 2008, while 31 percent say it was not. In addition, 55 percent of respondents said the war was not worth fighting, and only 27 percent said it was."
"Israel election: the view from outside" (Gideon Levy, Haaretz)
"Fear rules in these ads of yours, she notes, for example, using the image of Ahmed Ahmadinejad as a message. Of course the right plays on fear, but so does the left. It looks like a country that is in a state of war.
Your election season is about identity; politics here is about self-definition. If you consider yourself a leftist or a rightist, you will vote for a party that validates who you are in your own eyes. It has nothing to do with the party's message. There are hardly any messages, only images. People don't know what their parties say; it's sufficient that the parties define who they are. If you're a leftist you vote for Hadash. You have no idea what Hadash says, but it defines you as a leftist. If you consider yourself a right-winger you'll vote for Naftali Bennett without having any idea what he is saying. That is shallow and dangerous politics, a politics of self-image, not substance.
Something is wrong here,
everything is so fuzzy, she says. That isn't a normal way to conduct politics.
It's the same with your total focus on the heads of the parties. They are not
even presented as representing an ideology, or an ideological collective, and I
don't get the impression that they are fighting over anything real."
-- By Mary Casey
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images