The Middle East Channel

Israeli and Lebanese Soldiers Trade Cross Border Fire

Israeli troops shot two Lebanese soldiers early Monday, hours after an Israeli soldier was killed along the border near an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) outpost at Rosh Hanikra, on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the IDF, a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier, Shlomi Cohen, as he was driving along the border late Sunday night. Lebanon's National News Agency confirmed the shooting, but it is not clear why the sniper opened fire. The Lebanese soldier reportedly hid after the shooting, but returned to his base on Monday morning. The Lebanese army has not given an official response, but issued a statement Monday saying that an Israeli drone violated Lebanese airspace in the area Sunday night. IDF spokesman Major Arye Shalicar said, "After the incident, we reached the area to conduct searches ... and saw two suspects on the other side of the border." He continued that Israeli soldiers then opened fire. The Israeli military has not given information as to the condition of the Lebanese soldiers, and the Lebanese news agency did not report any casualties. Israeli, Lebanese, and U.N. military officers are scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the incident in efforts to diffuse tensions. 

Syria

The United Nations has made a record appeal seeking $6.5 billion for humanitarian aid to Syria. It estimates that nearly three-quarters of Syria's population, or around 16 million people, will need assistance in 2014. About $2.3 billion is slated for civilians still living in Syria, and the remainder would be designated for Syria's five neighboring countries, hosting up to 4.1 million Syrian refugees. The aid will go to providing food, water, shelter, health services, and vaccinations. Meanwhile, Syrian government aircraft reportedly dropped "barrel bombs" on over 10 rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo Sunday killing between 76 and 125 people. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 28 children were among those killed. The attack came as two members of the Islamic Front, a coalition of major Islamist militant factions, denied reports they had met with U.S. officials in Turkey.

Headlines

  • A series of attacks in Baghdad and across Iraq Monday killed up to 32 people following weekend violence that resulted in the deaths of 19 people.
  • After seven weeks, Gaza's sole power plant has resumed operations after Qatar paid for fuel amidst severe flooding from a storm that has forced around 10,000 people from their homes.
  • In negotiations Saturday, Tunisia's political parties selected Mehdi Jomaa as the country's caretaker prime minister until elections to be held next year.
  • Yemen's parliament called for an end to drone strikes in a symbolic vote Sunday that can be struck down by the president.
  • Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has criticized the Obama administration for indecision on the Middle East, secret diplomacy with Iran, and inaction on Syria. 

Arguments and Analysis

'Year Four of the Arab Awakening' (Marwan Muasher, Carnegie Endowment)

"There has been a significant drop in public support for Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia. This development has seriously challenged the notion of the 'Islamist threat' -- the idea, widely held in some circles and often used by secular parties to discourage the election of Islamists, that political Islamist forces would never leave power once they acquired it. The same Egyptians who voted Islamists in demonstrated in unprecedented numbers against them in the short course of one year, confirming what many polls have already suggested: no matter how conservative or religious the Arab street is, it judges the forces in power by their performance, not their ideology.

In Egypt, the fact that then president Mohamed Morsi was removed by the military rather than by voters may well negate any lesson that might have been learned about the consequences for leaders who fail to deliver results. But in Tunisia, the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, has been steadily losing support to a coalition of secular forces. And unlike in Egypt, the Tunisian army has not mitigated this process by intervening. Meanwhile, the largest Salafi political force in Egypt has aligned itself not with the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist Freedom and Justice Party but with the military. These developments suggest that Islamists, even radical Islamists, are open to compromise once they become part of the political process.

Over the past few years, Islamists have lost their 'holiness' in the Arab world. Their once-popular slogan, 'Islam is the solution,' is no longer attractive to wide sectors of the population. Three years after the Arab uprisings, youthful and pragmatic populations are starting to embrace the triumph of performance over ideology in the region. Faced with such pressure, Islamists will have to reinvent themselves, offering practical solutions to economic challenges facing Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and other countries if they are to retain what once appeared to be their invincible popularity."

'Palestinians and Israelis can coexist if occupation ends' (Hussein Ibish, The National)

"The relationship of occupied Palestinians and Israeli occupation forces is essentially that of prisoners and prison guards. There is an ordered, legalised hierarchy of power and privilege inherent in the occupation. There is nothing hard-wired in either Israeli or Palestinian culture that makes people on either side relate to each other as they do.

Instead, each individual acts out the position to which they are assigned in a highly structured interaction between rulers and ruled. The same formula could be transplanted between any two other national groups anywhere in the world with similar results. A mere reversal of fortunes would likely see a concomitant reversal of roles.

Violence, incitement and abuses can and should be minimised by all authorities. But there is only one way to actually end this vicious circle of inhumanity. The occupation must end, so Israelis and Palestinians can live, at long last, not as the oppressors and the oppressed, but side-by-side as citizens of equally sovereign, independent states."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

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