Israel and the Gaza Strip's Palestinian factions, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are reported to have agreed to a truce brokered by Egypt after four days of cross border attacks. However, neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials have confirmed the reports. According to Israel, Israeli Air Forces carried out 37 strikes, killing an estimated 26 Palestinians, including five civilians and 18 militants. The Gazan militants launched 200 rockets into southern Israel, where reports range from either zero to up to 35 Israelis were wounded. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged the success of the new Iron Dome defense system saying it "has proven itself." Despite the truce agreement, five mortar shells were since fired into southern Israel. Israeli officials said they will keep watch, and if militants stop firing, "then the IDF will stop its activities accordingly." At the same time, Islamic Jihad spokesman Daud Shehab said, "We accept a ceasefire if Israel agrees to apply it by ending its aggressions and assassinations." The ruling Palestinian faction within the Gaza Strip, Hamas, did not participate in the fighting, and appeared eager to avoid escalation. According to Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, the recent violence "appears to be behind us."
Members of the United
Nations Security Council met Monday to discuss options for ending violence
in Syria with the United States continuing to clash with Russia and China on strategy.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has maintained that there is no
equivalence between the premeditated assaults of the regime of President Bashar
al-Assad and the self-defense measures espoused by the opposition. According to
Crisis Group (ICG), "Faced with mounting casualties and a political
deadlock, outside actors at best have been ineffectual, at worst have poured
oil on fire." Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has reported that Syria is laying
landmines along its borders with Lebanon and Turkey. This practice is of
increased concern as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that already
about 300,000 people have fled abroad, 200,000 are internally displaced, and
greater numbers are expected to flee for the border. Elsewhere, Syrian opposition
activists reported a massacre
in Homs overnight during which dozens of men, women, and children were
assaulted and some set on fire in an presumed effort to frighten remaining
citizens out of Homs. Syrian forces were also reported to have killed up to 55 people
in the Idlib province, where army
defectors killed 10 soldiers. According to the United Nations General
Assembly, the death toll in the yearlong uprising has exceeded 8,000. This
staggering violence prompted the main opposition group, the Syrian National
Council, to call for "urgent"
international military intervention.
Arguments & Analysis
'Popular protest in the Middle East and North Africa: Dallying with Reform in a Divided Jerusalem' (International Crisis Group)
"Protesters have failed to reach critical mass, and images from Syria almost certainly dampen the appeal of a protest movement, lest it trigger chaos. But these are poor substitutes for tackling the causes of anger. A far wiser course would be to deal seriously with the issues that unite all those -- East Bankers and Palestinian-Jordanians alike -- whose impatience is fast growing. A credible electoral reform that provides fairer representation of urban centres would be a huge start. While some East Bankers are reluctant to see urban areas acquire greater political weight, increased government attention to rural socio-economic needs would go a long way in allaying those fears."
'For refugees in Libya, hard to stay or go' (Rebecca Murray, Al Jazeera English)
"On a sodden, winter day at a Tripoli railway yard that a Chinese company was building before the war, hundreds of refugees from Somalia and to a lesser extent, Eritrea, live in ramshackle housing. The government-owned property is now "managed" by a local militia, replete with 4x4 trucks patrolling with anti-aircraft guns, and a detention cell. This militia is entrepreneurial -- charging refugees $24 each per month to stay, and assigning them laminate ID cards. They offer "protection" and paid daily labour -- as well as harassment, the residents claim."
'Wanted: maybe a president' (The Economist)
"A rising moderate is Abdel Moneim Abolfotoh, a former senior Muslim Brother who was expelled for questioning the group's rigid hierarchy. A doctor who spent years in prison under Mr Mubarak, he attracts mild Islamists who chafe at the grip of the Brotherhood's number two and strongman, Khairat al-Shater, a probable future prime minister in a coalition government. The rivalry between Mr Abolfotoh and Mr Shater is likely to stop the Brothers from endorsing his candidacy, but will not stop some Islamists from voting for him. Mr Abolfotoh's campaign has inspired unlikely followers. His economic adviser, a Marxist professor, was drawn by its commitment to progressive tax rates and to free health care and education. Mr Abolfotoh is also the only candidate to demand not just civilian oversight of the army, but mandatory retirement for ageing generals. This has increased his appeal to reformist youths without estranging him from the wider, stability-seeking public."
--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey
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