The Israeli Air Force struck 29 targets in the Gaza Strip Wednesday evening and seven sites Thursday in response to a barrage of rocket fire launched from Gaza since Wednesday morning. Over 60 rockets have been fired toward Israel by Islamic Jihad militants in an apparent act of retaliation for the death of three Islamic Jihad militants by Israeli fire on Tuesday. Rocket fire has sounded alerts in four Israeli towns. There have not been any reported causalities. This level of activity has not been witnessed since Israel carried out Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. Egypt is reportedly attempting to broker a truce to calm tensions, which threaten a 16-month-old cease-fire. The escalation of violence coincides with British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Israel and the West Bank.
In a statement on the third anniversary of the Syrian uprising, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged and Russia and the United States to revive stalled peace talks, calling Syria "the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world." British street artist Banksy has launched a global art campaign, #withsyria, to mark the anniversary. Meanwhile, on Wednesday Iran hosted its own version of a "Friends of Syria" conference attended by lawmakers from Russia, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Cuba, Venezuela. Conference participants discussed potential diplomatic solutions to Syria's conflict and criticized alleged Western interference. Ali Larijani, Iran's parliament speaker, challenged Syria's rebels to put down weapons and to challenge Bashar al-Assad at the ballot box, calling elections "the best way to determine the destiny of a country."
- A young man died in Istanbul Wednesday amid a police crackdown on protests over the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan. The death of a police officer in the eastern province of Tunceli has also been linked to the protests sparked by Elvan's death.
- Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have arrested two members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who are wanted on charges of inciting August 2013 violence in Port Said. This is the first case of international cooperation to detain Muslim Brotherhood members. Meanwhile, Egypt's army has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for a fatal attack on an army bus in Cairo Thursday.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's first official visit to Muscat has resulted in a deal to export 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Oman. The agreement, valued at $60 billion, involves building a pipeline across the Gulf at an estimated cost of $1 billion.
- The deadline for Egypt's presidential election has been pushed from mid-April to mid-July.
- A North Korean official has said that the country had nothing to do with the oil tanker that evaded a Libyan naval blockade, adding that North Korea had the vessel's revoked the registration after learning of the incident. The official reported that an Egyptian company owned the tanker.
Arguments and Analysis
'Jordan's Energy Balancing Act' (David Schenker and Simon Henderson, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
"With an estimated forty years of gas reserves in Tamar and the larger, as-yet-unexploited Leviathan field, Israel could provide Jordan with an inexpensive and reliable means of meeting all of its domestic gas requirements. Israel is heavily invested in the kingdom's stability and the survival of the moderate monarchy, and it would undoubtedly be glad to fill this need. Reflecting this interest, it has reportedly agreed to sell the gas to Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine at a price comparable to the Egyptian pipeline deal.
Yet King Abdullah has been hesitant to proceed with more Israeli gas deals for fear of domestic backlash. On February 24, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Islamic Action Front, described the agreement with the 'Zionist entity' as 'criminal,' 'contrary to the best interests of Jordan,' and 'an attack on the Palestinian cause.'"
'Would UN Sanctions Help Yemen's Transition?' (Nasser Arrabyee, Sada)
"Given the difficulty of identifying and holding accountable the spoilers, the UNSC has decided to form a committee from all the 15 members to help identify the spoilers independent of the efforts of Benomar, whom some parties in Yemen describe as 'not neutral and not wanted.' Yet even if a completely neutral and strong committee is put together, it might not be able to accomplish as much as Benomar in terms of meeting and working with a cross-section of actors -- including President Hadi and the majority of the parties and groups involved in the political process -- and identifying spoilers, let alone find enough evidence to implicate them.
Given these challenges, the committee would face three possible scenarios. In the best case, spoilers-even before being identified-would fear serious sanctions and the UN's authority under Chapter VII of its charter to take military and nonmilitary action to 'restore international peace and security.' In this case, the fear of repercussions might lead actors to cooperate and prevent obstructions. The second case would involve the committee gathering clear and convincing evidence that identifies these spoilers and that can be submitted to courts to determine their culpability. The spoilers could then be tried either in Yemeni courts or, more likely, outside the country because Yemeni judges might be unwilling or unable to oversee such process. However, this scenario is unlikely, because it requires hard evidence, which has been extremely difficult to obtain. Alternately, the last and worst case would involve the committee designating spoilers based on fabricated reports, politicized information, and media guesses or prejudices. In this case, conflict would abound, and there would be little fear of such consequences as international sanctions."
-- Cortni Kerr
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