Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has sworn in a new unity government, agreed upon by rival factions Fatah and Hamas. The government will be headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, and includes 17 politically independent ministers, five of them from Gaza. It will be tasked with holding elections within six months. Abbas praised the new government saying, "Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case." However, ahead of the announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world leaders not to recognize the unity government saying it will strengthen terror not peace.
Syria will hold its first multicandidate presidential election Tuesday, in which President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win a third seven-year term. The opposition has dismissed the election as a sham, however Assad will likely see his victory as a popular mandate to continue his fight against rebel forces. Assad will face government-approved candidates Hassan al-Nuri and Maher al-Hajjar. Ahead of the election, opposition forces have increased attacks on government-held regions of the northern city of Aleppo, killing and injuring dozens of people over the past three days. Meanwhile, French authorities have arrested four people suspected of recruiting fighters to join the conflict in Syria.
- A FIFA investigator is meeting with organizers of the 2022 Qatar World Cup over corruption allegations, which Qatar denies.
- Fighting between Ansar al-Sharia militants and Libyan army special forces, backed by forces loyal to former General Khalifa Heftar, killed an estimated eight people in Benghazi Monday.
- The Israeli military returned fire into Syria after a mortar shell hit the Golan Heights and into Gaza after two rockets struck Israel.
- Turkish police arrested 154 people in protests Saturday marking the one-year anniversary of Gezi Park demonstrations.
Arguments and Analysis
'Sabbahi, Spoiled Ballots, and the Election' (Bel Trew, Middle East Institute)
"But the real story was in the spoiled ballots. Over a million, or around 4 percent, of the voting papers were invalid, the highest number recorded in all of Egypt's seven elections since the January 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Some of these were, of course, accidental violations, though the Egyptian authorities had even relaxed electoral rules and allowed voters to draw hearts or write 'I love you' on their ballots, provided that they ticked a box. In past polls, any excess writing on a ballot would have made it invalid.
The numbers of spoiled ballots this year was high enough not only to beat Sabbahi, but to defeat an organized campaign calling for such ballots in the 2012 elections that voted in Mohamed Morsi."
'The Forgotten Children of Zataari' (Scott Weiner, Muftah)
"The Syrian refugees in Zaatari have fled violence and suffering few outsiders can comprehend. Most come to Zaatari legally, but others pay up to 500 dollars to be trafficked across the Syrian border, out of the crossfire which has turned their homeland into hell on earth. The Zaatari village, home to about 12,000 Jordanians, was underserved even before the influx of refugees began in 2011. Today, residents report a shortage of basic staples. Baby milk and diapers are the top priorities.
Yet, the children in the village are like any other group of kids - boisterous, energetic, and eager. While the international community experiences Syria 'donor fatigue,' the children of Zaatari show a resilience and determination of a far higher caliber."
'A Dangerous Method: Syria, Sy Hersh, and the Art of Mass-crime Revisionism' (Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Los Angeles Review of Books)
"Five days after Hersh's article went live, a military helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on Kafr Zita. This one carried toxic chlorine instead of the usual TNT. The regime, like Hersh, blamed the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra. But only the regime has an air force.
In a time of ongoing slaughter, to obfuscate the regime's well-documented responsibility for a war crime does not just aid the regime today, it aids it tomorrow. As long as doubts remain about previous atrocities, there will be hesitancy to assign new blame. Accountability will be deferred."-- Mary Casey
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