The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters has banned all work and activities of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the country and ordered the seizure of its offices and assets. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip bordering Egypt to the north, was founded as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December 2013, and an Egyptian lawyer demanded a ban on Hamas because of its ties to the group. The military-backed government has accused Hamas of conspiring with militant groups in Sinai, who have targeted attacks at the government and security forces killing hundreds of people since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. According to security officials, after crushing the Muslim Brotherhood, military leaders planned measures to undermine Hamas. Hamas has denied allegations of interfering in Egyptian affairs and condemned Tuesday's court ruling. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, "The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause."
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported Tuesday that Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical stockpile for destruction abroad. The OPCW said the Syrian government has handed over six shipments of its declared chemical agents and confirmed that two more shipments are being transported to the Syrian port of Latakia. The chemicals will be sent to the U.S. ship Cape Ray and transferred to destruction facilities in Britain and Germany. After missing a February deadline for the removal of its chemical weapons arsenal, Syria submitted a revised plan with a deadline of the end of April. The Dutch diplomat heading the mission to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program, Sigrid Kaag, said removal of chemical agents is speeding up and the June 30 deadline for destruction of Syria's arsenal is achievable. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has increased an offensive on the town of Yabroud, the last opposition stronghold near the Lebanese border. According to a Syrian army commander government troops, backed by Hezbollah fighters, seized the village of al-Sahel Monday, bringing down the rebels' "first defense line" of Yabroud.
- Egyptian defense minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has given his strongest indication yet of his intentions for a presidential bid saying, "I cannot turn my back when the majority wants me to run."
- Gunmen seized the city council headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra Tuesday killing at least three policemen and three civilians and taking employees hostage.
- Meeting with Israel's prime minister, President Obama called for compromise to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks though Netanyahu said Israel is "doing its part," meanwhile settlement building soars.
- A remote detonated bomb killed three policemen Monday in the Bahraini village of Daih as security forces worked to disperse protesters.
- An Israeli air strike reportedly targeting a "rocket-launching squad" in northern Gaza killed two Palestinian men and injured two children Monday night.
Arguments and Analysis
'Yemen in Transition: Between Fragmentation and Transformation' (Philip Barrett Holzapfel, United States Institute of Peace)
"Decades of nepotism also eroded state institutions. Possibly the main reason why so many Yemeni were alienated from the central authority and drawn toward their respective centers of gravity was that the Saleh state had failed to deliver the services citizens expected from their government. Resolving this failure will require long-term institutional reforms and greater attention to creating and enforcing institutional checks and balances through an independent judiciary and watchdog mechanisms such as the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption (SNACC) and the Central Organization for Control and Auditing (COCA). Greater accountability over how government officials are appointed, whether by reviewing recruitment processes or considering an automatic rotation and retirement system for both military and civil leadership positions, would also help prevent personal fiefdoms and the entrenchment of corruption.
Despite the fact that Yemen is de facto a highly decentralized country with distinct regional identities, state resources and decision making are primarily in the hands of the government in Sanaa, where they have been spent in a highly unequal fashion favoring some constituencies over others. This disparity has caused much disillusionment, leading to the emergence of peripheral opposition groups such as al Hiraak and the Houthis as well as a general discontent with the central government in various other parts of the country (such as the western coastal plain of the Tihama, the industrial city of Taiz, and the eastern province of Hadhramaut). As a result, the central government yields limited control over many parts of the country and has lost it almost completely over others. The need is therefore urgent for a new contract between the capital and the periphery that allows for an orderly decentralization of power and resources in return for universal recognition of the central state."
'An optimist's case for the Kerry peace process' (Michael Omer-Man, +972)
"The truly flawed aspect of the two-state paradigm is the insistence that such an agreement constitute a conclusive end to all claims and a final resolution to the conflict. If one accepts that argument, then the two-state solution is only doomed as a framework for a catch-all solution meant to herald in an era of peace and coexistence -- or as liberal Zionist speakers love to metaphorize the conflict, an Israeli-Palestinian divorce.
But if the two-state solution is not the resolution to the conflict, it could still be an important stepping stone toward a final resolution. The two-state solution could still be the best solution right now, regardless of whether it leads to ever-lasting peace and harmony. Both Israeli and Palestinian societies are plagued by conflict-driven hyper-nationalism, and any resolution that does not physically separate the two sides must be preceded by an end to violence. It follows then, that after a few decades of living in two states, should such a situation emerge, Israelis and Palestinians could foreseeably decide that it is in both their interests to form a single liberal democratic state, or any other alternative arrangement that addresses the remaining issues of conflict."
--Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr