Gulf states pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in Syria aid as the Syrian government and opposition forces traded blame over mass killings in Aleppo. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia each pledged $300 million at the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addressed the group:"I appeal to all sides, and particularly the Syrian government to stop the killing" and called for more humanitarian aid. The United Nations was seeking $1.5 billion total in pledges and $1 billion for humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. The remaining money would go to the 4 million Syrians who are still inside the country and need assistance. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime and opposition forces are accusing one another of what appeared to be summary executions of dozens of people, almost all men in their 20s and 30s, whose bodies were found along a river in the Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo. At least 50 bodies were found, but estimates of the number killed reach over 100. Syrian state media, SANA, reported that the victims’ families "have identified a number of the killed, stressing that the Nusra Front abducted them because of their refusal to cooperate with this terrorist group." The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition activist group, said 80 bodies were found and blamed the government for the mass killings. About half of the victims identified by Tuesday night were from opposition controlled districts, and some local residents blamed government checkpoints on the opposite side of the river.
- Reversing its decision after the Palestinian status upgrade at the United Nations, Israel said it will transfer tax and customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority to ease the economic crisis, but stressed the decision was "a one-time event."
- The Lebanese army has reported increased activity of Israeli planes over Lebanese air space as Israel has expressed greater concern recently over the loss of government control in Syria.
- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has flown to Germany on a trip shortened by Egypt’s worsening crisis, but has unveiled a plan to amend several constitutional articles.
Arguments and Analysis
Does Jordan’s election change anything? (Julien Barnes-Dacey, The European Council on Foreign Relations)
"Last week’s parliamentary elections in Jordan have been widely hailed as a success. Domestic and international observers have praised the integrity of the vote and the turnout figure of 56.5 percent has been taken, by some, as a popular endorsement of King Abdullah’s reform track. The Royal Palace is likely enjoying a moment of renewed confidence following a difficult year, particularly as fears about the spread of instability from Syria are also dampening opposition activism. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the King hailed a "wonderful election outcome."
Yet while the general integrity of the electoral process was a positive improvement on past elections, in and of itself, the vote may not actually mean that much. Following two years of low level – but nationwide – protests provoked by a lack of substantial political reform or the tackling of state corruption, the country remains in a precarious position. Much will now depend on the King’s willingness to push through bolder measures aimed at cementing a more inclusive order if further unrest is to be avoided."
Why Palestine Should Take Israel to Court in The Hague (George Bisharat, The New York Times)
"If Palestinians succeed in getting the I.C.C. to examine their grievances, Israel’s campaign to bend international law to its advantage would finally be subjected to international judicial review and, one hopes, curbed. Israel’s dangerous legal innovations, if accepted, would expand the scope of permissible violence to previously protected persons and places, and turn international humanitarian law on its head. We do not want a world in which journalists become fair game because of their employers’ ideas.
If the choice is between a Palestinian legal intifada, in which arguments are hashed out in court, and an actual intifada, in which blood flows in the streets, the global community should encourage the former.
Indeed, Palestinians would be doing themselves, Israelis and the global community a favor by invoking I.C.C. jurisdiction. Ending Israel’s impunity for its clear violations of legal norms would both promote peace in the Middle East and help uphold the integrity of international law."