The Middle East Channel

Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clash in the West Bank

Thousands of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron. The protesters were mourning the deaths of two teenagers, Amer Nassar and his cousin, Naji Balbisy, who were killed by Israeli soldiers during protests ignited by the death of a 64 year-old Palestinian prisoner who had cancer. Palestinians accuse Israel of delaying Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh's diagnosis and treatment; but Israel maintains its medical care for Abu Hamdiyeh was forthcoming. Many of the protesters called for a third intifada and twenty-one Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas during the clashes. According to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, "It seems that Israel wants to spark chaos in the Palestinian territories...Israel, on every occasion, is using lethal force against peaceful young protesters, and peaceful demonstrations are being suppressed with the power of weapons. This is not acceptable at all." Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, replied that "We are concerned that there are elements in the P.A. that seem to refuse to jettison the harsh language of confrontation, and try to exploit different incidents to stir up trouble." The protests come days before Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to the region. Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid for 800,000 Gazans, has suspended its food distribution services in Gaza after protesters stormed its compound in anger over aid cutbacks.


The Syrian government verbally attacked Jordan and Turkey for their roles in the country's civil war. Broadcast via the state news media, Syria accused the Turkish prime minister of lying and warned Jordan they were "playing with fire" by providing the opposition with arms and training. In an interview to be broadcast on Friday, Bashar al-Assad lashed out at the Arab League, saying the group "lacks legitimacy." "Real legitimacy is not accorded by organizations or foreign officials...legitimacy is that which is granted by the people," Assad added. Meanwhile, Filippo Grandi, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said that refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war are inadequately provided for and on the verge of overwhelming the resources of the United Nations and their host countries. "This is the type of crisis that humanitarian agencies at some point cannot handle any more," he said. "It's unmanageable and dangerous." Meanwhile, a slew of rockets hit Barzeh district, a neighborhood in northeast Damascus. At least five people died and many others were buried under the debris. According to the Local Coordination Committees, there were fierce clashes in Zabadany and Abadeh, both suburbs of Damascus. Opposition groups have reported that at least 132 people were killed yesterday.


Iran and world powers resumed nuclear talks in Kazakhstan. Iran announced that it will present a new proposal for its nuclear program.

A fight between Muslim and Buddhist detainees at an immigration center in Indonesia killed eight people and wounded 15 others.

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to paralysis for the stabbing and paralysis of his childhood friend ten years ago. According to Saudi media, the perpetrator could be paralyzed if he is not able to pay the victim adequate compensation.

--By Jennifer Parker

The Middle East Channel

Syrian opposition seized military base near Dara'a

Members of Syria's opposition have seized an air defense base near Dara'a province that controls a highway used by President Bashar al-Assad's regime to resupply his troops, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The base, which was home to the 49th battalion, is located near the Jordanian border, a strategically important area. The capture of the military base adds to other territorial gains made by the opposition, including parts of the north near the Turkish border, the east near the Iraq border, and pockets of Aleppo. Additionally, Dara'a is the birthplace of the Syrian uprising. Meanwhile, the Syrian government, whose army has been depleted by fighting and defections, is sending guerrilla fighters to Iran for secret training at a combat base there, according to activists and soldiers. The irregular militias are comprised of ethnic minorities loyal to President Assad. Iran has reportedly trained up to 50,000 guerilla fighters. 


  • Israeli Defense Forces have shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank. Clashes have entered a third day after the death of a Palestinian in an Israeli jail.
  • According to Egypt's planning minister, the government will reach a final agreement with the International Monetary Fund regarding a $4.8 billion dollar loan in two weeks.

Arguments and Analysis

Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis (Lauren Wolfe, The Atlantic)

"Although most coverage of the Syrian civil war tends to focus on the fighting between the two sides, this war, like most, has a more insidious dimension: rape has been reportedly used widely as a tool of control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict. And its effects, while not always fatal, are creating a nation of traumatized survivors -- everyone from the direct victims of the attacks to their children, who may have witnessed or been otherwise affected by what has been perpetrated on their relatives.

Men are more than just witnesses to sexualized violence in Syria; they are experiencing it directly as well. Forty-three of the reports on our map - about 20 percent -- involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56. Nearly half of the reports about men involve rape, while a quarter detail sexualized violence without penetration, such as shocks to the genitals. Sixteen percent of the men who have been raped in our reports were allegedly violated by multiple attackers.

A Libyan Report Card (Robert Kaplan, Stratfor)

"In the starkest terms, a state is defined by a bureaucratic hierarchy that monopolizes the use of force over a specific geography. Ideally, nobody need fear the authorities except those who break the law. And because the authorities monopolize violence, nobody need fear his fellow man. Of course, tyrannical states induce general fear among much of the population. And weak states have a difficult time monopolizing the use of force -- the reason why they are weak in the first place. By these standards, many states in the world are weak. And Libya has gone from being a tyrannical state to being barely a state at all.

Given the calls for intervention in Syria, let's consider Libya, where a modest intervention was tried.

The authorities in the capital of Tripoli openly acknowledge the fact that they do not monopolize the use of force and have wisely opted for compromise and arbitration in eastern Libya (the Benghazi region) and in the far-flung Sahara to the south. It is difficult to predict whether Libyan affairs will carry on in the form of a benign and relatively mild anarchy (with some institutions working and others not) or will advance in the direction of a more coherent democratic state. Of course, a descent into worse chaos cannot be ruled out.

Libya's fundamental problem is that rather than comprising a compact cluster of demography like the Nile Valley, it is but a vague geographical expression -- a monumentally vast desert and coastal region between historic Egypt and Greater Carthage (Tunisia). Because Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are geographically associated with specific knots of civilization going back to antiquity, they did not require suffocating forms of tyranny to hold them together like Libya, and to a lesser extent like Algeria, which for decades during the height of the Cold War had a radical socialist regime. For Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's regime was, in fact, anarchy masquerading as tyranny."

--By Jennifer Parker