Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have signed a reconciliation deal aiming to end seven years of division. The accord came after talks Wednesday in Gaza and paves the way for a unity government within five weeks and parliamentary elections in six months. The move is the latest attempt to repair relations between the groups after previous deals were not implemented. The agreement has come less than a week ahead of the deadline for U.S. sponsored peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately denounced the deal saying Palestinian Authority President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas would have to choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington was "disappointed" with the deal, which she said could jeopardize peace efforts. Abbas said that a reconciliation agreement would contribute to negotiations with Israel. The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, therefore a senior U.S. official noted Thursday that the United States would have to reconsider its annual $500 million in assistance to Palestinians if a unity government is formed.
The heads of five U.N. agencies have said that diplomatic efforts to end suffering caused by the over three-year war in Syria have failed. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused all parties in the conflict for "flagrant violations" of international law preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid to nearly 3.5 million civilians in need after a Security Council resolution passed in February demanded uninhibited access. Meanwhile, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an air strike on a market in the village of Atareb in Aleppo province killed up to 25 people Thursday. The air raid came as part of a regime offensive that began in December 2013 targeting opposition-held areas in the province and the city of Aleppo.
- Iran's highest prison official Gholam Hossein Esmaili has been removed and transferred following protests by inmates' families accusing guards at Tehran's Evin prison of attacking a cellblock.
- Saudi Arabia reported two more people have died from the MERS virus and 13 more cases have surfaced just days after the kingdom replaced its health minister.
- A suicide car bomber killed at least 11 people and wounded 27 others in the Iraqi city of Hillah during Thursday morning's rush hour.
- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian accused Turkey of "utter denial" of the mass killings of Armenians during WWI marking the 99th anniversary of the massacres.
- The militant group Ajnad Misr (Egypt's Soldiers) claimed responsibility for a car bombing that killed a police officer on Wednesday saying it was in retaliation for killings and arrests of Morsi supporters.
Arguments and Analysis
'Why Israel may need to rethink its assumptions on Palestinian unity' (Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor)
"Israel's approach rests on two assumptions: that Mr. Abbas, who is also leader of Fatah, could enforce a peace deal without reconciling with Hamas; and that Hamas would never give up its stated intention to destroy Israel. Both may need rethinking.
Abbas, elected eight years ago, has consistently marketed himself as a committed peacemaker who will show Palestinians it is better to negotiate than resort to violence. But two rounds of negotiations later, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank has grown by more than 60,000 or 22 percent, and talks with Israel have failed to deliver a single meaningful benefit to Abbas's constituency.
His legitimacy is wearing dangerously thin, and he lacks the leverage to convince Palestinians to make the sacrifices necessary for lasting peace. Hamas could sabotage any deal he reaches with Israel by sending rockets into Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv."
'Of Transitology and Counter-Terror Targeting in Yemen' (Sheila Carapico, Muftah)
"The GCC and the United States are engaged in retrograde policies in Yemen. The American role is especially reactionary. Washington does not have a Yemen policy, much less a progressive vision for the country. Instead, American policies in the Peninsula privilege the permanence and prosperity of the GCC monarchies, notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have regarded Yemen as a real place with real politics. Instead, they have bowed to the misogynist Saudi gerontocracy in treating Yemeni politics as a problem to be managed for the sake of Gulf stability. President Obama's visit with King Abdallah on March 28/29 is meant to reassure the House of Saud that Washington has its interests at heart."
'How Iran's Gadget Bloggers Became Victims of the Revolutionary Guard' (Danny O'Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
"The Narenji team's
treatment is another example of how technologists are targeted by governments
worldwide as a result of their work. It doesn't matter if you're writing a blog
about Android development or distributing anti-censorship proxies: to many
governments, simply being well-known online or having a latent power to
influence or change society through your technical knowledge can quickly turn
you into an unacceptable threat to the social order.
Popular but apolitical bloggers like Narenji's also risk being caught in internecine battles over which they have no control. Iranian political experts we've spoken to consider that Narenji's arrest by the local Kermani Revolutionary Guard may be a deliberate response by local radicals against the Rouhani administration's encouragement of tech entrepreneurs: a signal that makes clear that Tehran should not go too far in its moderation. Narenji's high visibility may not have given them protection against the Revolutionary Guard; rather, it may have made them more of a target."
-- Mary Casey
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