The two-day Arab League summit concluded Wednesday in Kuwait with the 22 members stating in a final communique, "We condemn in the strongest terms the massacres and the mass killing committed by the Syrian regime's forces against the unarmed people." Meanwhile, the first Syrian refugees arrived in Britain Tuesday as part of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation program. It is expected that several hundred Syrian refugees will relocate over the next three years under the new program, which immediately grants the rights and benefits of humanitarian protection status, including access to public funds and the labor market. Approximately 3,800 Syrians have sought asylum in Britain since the conflict began in March 2011. A spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has confirmed that the last trucks of a 78-truck aid convoy crossed the Qamishli border, completing a five-day mission to move humanitarian aid into Syria. In Lebanon, a Syrian mother of four is in critical condition after she set herself on fire Tuesday at a U.N. refugee registration center in Tripoli. Islamist rebel forces have seized control of the seaside village of Samra near the Turkish border, gaining access to the sea for the first time since the conflict began.
- The trial of 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including leader Mohamed Badie, was adjourned until April 28 after opening remarks on Tuesday.
- Members of the board of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission have resigned ahead of elections slated for April 30 in response to conflicting legislative and judicial rulings regarding electoral candidates.
- Turkish police raided several buildings in Istanbul Tuesday in a search for members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), leaving three policemen and two suspected ISIL militants wounded.
- The U.S. White House has protested a decision by Saudi Arabia to deny a visa to the Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, the only White House correspondent rejected by the Saudi government ahead of President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to the kingdom March 28 and 29.
- Israeli naval forces opened fired on two suspected smuggling boats, sinking both vessels off the coast of Gaza Wednesday.
Arguments and Analysis
'The Next Round in Gaza' (International Crisis Group)
"The ceasefire between Israel and Gaza has eroded during the past several months and recently threatened to come to an abrupt end. The day after three members of Islamic Jihad were killed by Israel in a border clash on 11 March 2014, the group, apparently in coordination with Hamas, launched the largest salvo of rockets toward Israel since the last major escalation (known in Israel as Operation Pillar of Defence), in November 2012. In a little over a day's mediation, Egypt restored quiet. But with Hamas's fortunes declining and Gaza suffering its worst isolation and economic constriction in years, it is likely a matter of time until a flare-up escalates to major conflagration - unless the sides reach an understanding to extend a fragile quiet. Given Hamas's isolation and worsening relations with Cairo, it is hard to imagine full implementation of the ceasefire Egypt brokered to end the 2012 fighting. But a rump deal, comprised of that ceasefire's core elements, still could lessen the chance that Hamas and Israel will be dragged into a conflict neither currently desires, while helping both to secure advantages beyond the Gaza-Israel theatre.
Periodic escalations between Israel and Gaza militants are the rule, not the exception. Their shared border has witnessed regular, low-scale violence punctuated by short, intense escalations, typically when one or both sides feel the implicit rules of engagement have been undercut. Hamas and Israel have been headed toward such a clash since 3 July 2013, when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed, and Cairo, as part of its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi-jihadis in Sinai, initiated a push to further isolate Gaza by closing the tunnels under its border with Egypt. Among Hamas's limited tools for dealing with its downward spiral is directly participating in a military escalation in the hope that a new crisis would bring about at least temporary alleviation of the closure; call the world's attention to the resultant economic distress; increase sympathy for the territory in Egypt and elsewhere; and embarrass Egypt's leaders about their role in immiserating Gaza."
'Why do Egyptian courts says the darndest things?' (Nathan Brown, Washington Post)
"I do not mean to imply that journalists have a monopoly on asking the wrong question. In fact, those that I speak with are very happy to try and understand the questions they should be asking. The same is true for academics who keep on honing in on better questions. For a while we have been asking the wrong question: 'Why would an authoritarian regime allow an independent judiciary?'
I have been part of the effort to answer that question since I began work on judicial politics. But at least in the Egyptian case, I think we may be realizing that the question misdirects our attention. It treats the judiciary as if it is a creature of intelligent design by a masterful authoritarian ruler. It is actually the produce of historical evolution, accretion, large doses of judicial agency, and, of course, even larger doses of regime tinkering. Understanding the judiciary as an evolving institution -- one with a strong corporate identity but also one operating in a thoroughly authoritarian environment -- will help guide our way to a better understanding of the problems."
-- Cortni Kerr
YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images