Turkey blames Syria and international inaction for border attacks

Syria has denied responsibility for two car bombings on Saturday in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli that killed an estimated 46 people and injured 100 others. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said his country "did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that." Turkish police have ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Syria has denied responsibility for two car bombings on Saturday in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli that killed an estimated 46 people and injured 100 others. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said his country "did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that." Turkish police have arrested nine Turkish citizens suspected of having a connection with the attacks. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the people responsible for the bombings were from an "old Marxist terrorist organization" with ties to the Syrian regime. He said the attacks were a breach of Turkey's "red line" and called on the "international community to display a common stance against the regime, immediately and without delay." Concerns over the spread of the Syrian conflict continue to increase, and anger has heightened in the predominantly Sunni town that is housing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade reportedly released four Filipino U.N. peacekeepers who had been posted in the Golan Heights and were abducted last Tuesday. The brigade said the soldiers were held "for their own safety." The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has released a new estimate for the death toll in the Syrian conflict, saying that 82,257 have been killed since fighting began in March 2011. In February, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said the death toll was approaching 70,000.

Headlines  

A Russian-made Yemeni fighter jet crashed into a residential district of the capital, Sanaa, on Monday, killing the pilot and injuring at least 18 people in the third such incident in the past year. Iran's Guardian Council has accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of violating the election law by accompanying Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as he registered for the upcoming presidential election. Egyptian security forces arrested three suspected al Qaeda linked militants for planning an attack on a Western embassy in Cairo, likely the U.S. embassy. Egypt's El-Watan newspaper said one of its reporters broke through security lines to interview former President Hosni Mubarak, for the first interview since his ouster in February 2011. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week amid concerns that Russia may sell an advanced missile defense system to Syria. 

Syria has denied responsibility for two car bombings on Saturday in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli that killed an estimated 46 people and injured 100 others. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said his country "did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that." Turkish police have arrested nine Turkish citizens suspected of having a connection with the attacks. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the people responsible for the bombings were from an "old Marxist terrorist organization" with ties to the Syrian regime. He said the attacks were a breach of Turkey’s "red line" and called on the "international community to display a common stance against the regime, immediately and without delay." Concerns over the spread of the Syrian conflict continue to increase, and anger has heightened in the predominantly Sunni town that is housing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade reportedly released four Filipino U.N. peacekeepers who had been posted in the Golan Heights and were abducted last Tuesday. The brigade said the soldiers were held "for their own safety." The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has released a new estimate for the death toll in the Syrian conflict, saying that 82,257 have been killed since fighting began in March 2011. In February, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said the death toll was approaching 70,000.

Headlines  

  • A Russian-made Yemeni fighter jet crashed into a residential district of the capital, Sanaa, on Monday, killing the pilot and injuring at least 18 people in the third such incident in the past year.
  • Iran’s Guardian Council has accused Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of violating the election law by accompanying Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as he registered for the upcoming presidential election.
  • Egyptian security forces arrested three suspected al Qaeda linked militants for planning an attack on a Western embassy in Cairo, likely the U.S. embassy.
  • Egypt’s El-Watan newspaper said one of its reporters broke through security lines to interview former President Hosni Mubarak, for the first interview since his ouster in February 2011.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week amid concerns that Russia may sell an advanced missile defense system to Syria. 

Arguments and Analysis

Tunisia: Revise the Draft Constitution (Human Rights Watch)

"Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) should modify articles in the new draft constitution that threaten human rights. Human Rights Watch analyzed the draft constitution to identify human rights concerns.

Among the most worrisome articles or gaps are: a provision recognizing universal human rights only insofar as they comport with "cultural specificities of the Tunisia people," the failure of the constitution to affirm freedom of thought and conscience, and the overly broad formulation of permissible limitations to freedom of expression. In addition, the draft does not state clearly that human rights conventions already ratified by Tunisia bind the country and all of its authorities.

"The NCA should close loopholes in the draft constitution that would allow a future government to crush dissent or limit the basic rights that Tunisians fought hard for," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch."

Too Close for Comfort: Syrians in Lebanon (International Crisis Group)

"Syria’s conflict is dragging down its neighbours, none more perilously than Lebanon. Beirut’s official policy of "dissociation" — seeking, by refraining from taking sides, to keep the war at arm’s length — is right in theory but increasingly dubious in practice. Porous boundaries, weapons smuggling, deepening involvement by anti-Syrian-regime Sunni Islamists on one side and the pro-regime Hizbollah on the other, and cross-border skirmishes, all atop a massive refugee inflow, implicate Lebanon ever more deeply in the conflict next door. It probably is unrealistic to expect Lebanese actors to take a step back; Syria’s fate, they feel, is their own, and stakes are too high for them to keep to the sidelines. But it ought not be unrealistic to expect them – and their international partners – to adopt a more forward-looking approach to a refugee crisis that risks tearing apart their own country’s economic, social and political fabric, igniting a new domestic conflict that a weak Lebanese state and volatile region can ill afford."

"The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

Porous boundaries, weapons smuggling, deepening involvement by Sunni Islamists opposed to the Syrian regime on one side and, especially, the pro-regime Hizbollah on the other, and cross-border skirmishes are drawing Lebanon ever more deeply into its neighbour’s conflict which, in turn, increasingly morphs into a regional and international confrontation between opposing axes.

Lebanon is reaching a breaking point: the refugee influx rises daily and likely will soar if and when the battle for Damascus is fully joined; this Syrian presence is fueling pre-existing political, social and communal tensions and exposing Lebanon’s dysfunctions and declining economy; the government, divided and polarised, has been slow to meet the resulting challenges.

Once Lebanon’s factions negotiate a replacement for the government that fell in March, the new cabinet needs to tackle the refugee question head-on. Together with the political parties, it should plan the establishment of refugee camps, while exploring with security and military authorities how to ensure their safety without excessively intrusive measures.

The international donor community should give Lebanon, UN agencies and their partners the funds they need to address the refugee crisis."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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