Violence kills 23 Syrian soldiers in Rastan as divides spark clashes in Lebanon
During overnight clashes in the Syrian city of Rastan, 120 miles north of Damascus in Homs province, at least 30 people were killed, including 23 Syrian soldiers, in what has possibly been one of the deadliest attacks on government troops in the 14-month revolt. The attacks came after a weekend of shelling by Syrian security ...
During overnight clashes in the Syrian city of Rastan, 120 miles north of Damascus in Homs province, at least 30 people were killed, including 23 Syrian soldiers, in what has possibly been one of the deadliest attacks on government troops in the 14-month revolt. The attacks came after a weekend of shelling by Syrian security forces on the opposition-held town during which dozens of people were injured. Additionally over the weekend, Syrian forces raided the Damascus suburb of Qaboun and a Sunni farming village in the province of Hama killing at least five people and torching homes. Meanwhile, in an online video, an obscure Islamist group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s car bombings in Damascus that killed over 55 people. Al-Nusra Front said it orchestrated previous attacks and the group is suspected to have ties to al Qaeda. However, the video has been met with suspicion as it was vague and did not come through the typical channels. The European Union has imposed new sanctions on Syria, in its 15th round of doing so. The Syrian regime claims to be conducting reforms, as it held parliamentary elections last week for which the results are expected to be released on Tuesday. The opposition condemned the elections as "a farce." Violence appears to be spilling over into neighboring Lebanon in the city of Tripoli. The clashes were sparked by weekend protests demanding the release of a man detained on charges of terrorism. Approximately four people were killed including one soldier in violence believed to be fueled by sectarian tension.
- Human Rights Watch called for a NATO investigation into last year’s air campaign in Libya claiming 72 civilians were killed.
- Egypt is close to a deal between Israel and a committee representing an estimate 2,000 Palestinian prisoners who have been on a hunger strike.
- United Nations investigators push Iran to permit access to nuclear development sites as a second round of international talks kick off in Vienna.
- The United States has renewed arms sales to Bahrain, which were frozen after the February 2011 crackdown on protests.
- Saudi Arabian King Abdullah dismissed a conservative advisor, Sheikh Abdelmohsen al-Obeikan, after comments criticizing plans to "change the natural status of women."
Arguments and Analysis
‘To understand opposition’s failures, look to Syria’s east’ (Hassan Hassan, The National)
"If the Syrian opposition’s failure to forge a truly inclusive national movement can be traced to one geographic area, then that failure shows up most clearly in Syria’s east. For it is here where the Syrian National Council has been unable to win over influential leaders. And without them, efforts to topple the regime will remain in jeopardy…In many ways, Syria’s east has been forgotten by all sides. An estimated 75 per cent of the region has no presence of regime forces as it mainly consists of agricultural lands and small towns or cities. Many areas had been declared "liberated"; the regime has launched assaults to reclaim areas only when it had a surplus of forces…In their minds, Syria’s east has been neglected by the Baathist regime for decades; the current opposition would do the same if it comes to power. To counter this perception, the SNC must coordinate with groups from the region inside and outside the country, especially in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where Al Jazira is well represented."
‘Can Islamists be Liberals?’ (Mustafa Akyol, The New York Times)
"For years, foreign policy discussions have focused on the question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy. But this is becoming passé. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists, who were long perceived as opponents of the democratic system, are now promoting and joyfully participating in it. Even the ultra-Orthodox Salafis now have deputies sitting in the Egyptian Parliament, thanks to the ballots that they, until very recently, denounced as heresy…But there is another reason for concern: What if elected Islamist parties impose laws that curb individual freedoms – like banning alcohol or executing converts – all with popular support? What if democracy does not serve liberty?"
‘Netanyahu ordered evacuation of Hebron home over fears of war crimes suit’ (Chaim Levinson, Haaretz)
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the evacuation of a Hebron home taken by settlers last month after being informed that the expropriation of Palestinian homes and lands could complicate Israeli officials in war crimes litigation, Haaretz learned on Sunday. Last month, Israeli security forces evacuated Israeli settlers from a house in a Palestinian neighborhood in Hebron, in a surprise move that ended an affair that sparked controversy across Israel and caused a rift in the government…Sources in the Justice Ministry indicated that they fear the State of Israel or Israeli officials could be charged by the ICC, in operation since 2002. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupier moving population into occupied land constitutes a war crime."
‘Egypt’s Real Crisis: The Dual Epidemics Quietly Ravaging Public Health’ (Laurie Garrett and Steven A. Cook, The Atlantic)
"Lost in the recent political jockeying and protest violence leading up to Egypt’s May 23 presidential elections is the unfolding public health disaster there. Avian flu and foot and mouth disease are running rampant, killing people and livestock as well as inflating the price of food. It’s a serious health and economic issue, but it has potentially much larger implications for Egypt, and this little-discussed crisis is beginning to resemble those that occur in failed states. The Egyptian state, which was not particularly well-prepared for public emergencies even before the February 2011 revolution brought it into near-chaos, has little capacity to cope with the outbreaks threatening not only Egypt, but also Sudan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jordan. Egypt’s public health infrastructure barely functions. The sort of social service that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have provided over many years, it falls far short of what is needed to combat the current crisis. Cairo does not have the money to throw at the problem, having burned through more than half of its foreign currency reserves in the 15 months since Mubarak’s fall."
–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
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