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April 11, 2011

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Egypt Stops Building Anti-Smuggling Wall on Gaza Border - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Following the revolution in February, Egypt suspended construction of an underground steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza border to stop smuggling weaponry through tunnels into Gaza, defense officials said.
    While smugglers succeeded in breaching the wall in some parts, Israeli officials said the wall had made it more difficult for smugglers to dig tunnels across the border.
    Israel has urged Cairo to continue to take action to prevent the flow of arms to Gaza.
    "There is a new relationship between Hamas and Cairo today," one senior official said. "This is likely connected to the upcoming elections and the understanding in Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong player and as a result it is important to maintain contacts with Hamas."
    Israel is worried that Cairo’s new relationship with Hamas will come at the expense of its relationship with Israel.
    It is also concerned that Egypt will turn a blind eye to the movement of weaponry, cash and people across the border.

Why Aren't Western and Arab Media in Syria? - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
    It's not on the front pages of the Western press, and it's not leading the hour for the main Arab satellite networks like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but the Syrian uprising continues apace.
    People are in the streets of every major Syrian city except Aleppo, but there's been little attention paid to it. The same Western and Arab media that covered the Egyptian uprising is all but absent from Syria. The Assad regime has done an excellent job of keeping the curtains closed on events.
    Al-Jazeera, which has been exceptionally silent on Syria, perhaps because of the good alliance between Assad and Al-Jazeera's owner, the Sheikh of Qatar, cherry-picked its coverage of Syrian rallies. To go after Bashar Assad means reversing years of Al-Jazeera coverage sympathetic to the Syrian leader.
    So the Syrians find their struggle not enjoying the customary Al-Jazeera treatment - high in emotion and electric in the slogans of mobilization.

Israelis Remain Defiant under Gaza Fire - Gili Cohen and Yanir Yagna (Ha'aretz)
    In the communities bordering Gaza, residents are accustomed to the alarms warning of missiles being fired at them.
    Michal Levit from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak said, "We normally take walks in the kibbutz and the playgrounds or ride bicycles, but today [Saturday] the children did not leave the house and stayed near the secure room....The kids sleep in the secure room."
    Her husband, Yaron, said, "We are not going to run away. We are dealing with the situation and try not to disrupt our routine."
    See also Ashkelon Kids Watching Iron Dome Take Down Rockets - Ilan Lior (Ha'aretz)
    Haim Gahasi came to see the anti-rocket system with his children. "It has a calming effect on the children," he says.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Hails Success of New Rocket Interceptor - Ari Rabinovitch
    Israel said on Sunday its new Iron Dome interceptor had successfully shot down at least eight Palestinian rockets in mid-air aimed at Israeli cities, and other countries were already expressing interest. But smaller towns closer to the border remain exposed to shorter-range fire and have been repeatedly hit.
        Produced by state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up Katyusha-style rockets with ranges of between 5 km and 70 km, as well as mortar bombs, in mid-air. At least 120 rockets have been fired at southern Israel in the latest round of fighting. The system calculates the trajectory of each rocket and ignores those that will land in non-populated areas. Ofir Shoham, head of weapons development in the Defense Ministry, said the units had not missed a single rocket within their parameters, preventing "significant damage."  (Reuters)
        See also New Israeli System Alters War Against Gaza Rockets (AP)
        See also Video: Israel Intercepts Palestinian Rocket - Anshel Pfeffer
    The Defense Ministry released a video on Sunday showing the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting a Grad rocket fired from Gaza over the weekend. The system clicks into action automatically when any projectile is launched from Gaza toward Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza Rocket Threat Forces Fans from Two Games in Israel - Ori Lewis
    Israeli police barred spectators from attending two Premier League matches in southern Israel on Saturday because of a fear of possible rocket strikes by Palestinians in Gaza. The cities of Beersheba, about 30 km from Gaza, and Ashdod, 15 km north of the Strip, have been hit in the past few days by rockets. The games were played in empty stadiums.
        Residents of southern Israel close to Gaza have been instructed to be ready to seek cover in air-raid shelters within seconds of sirens sounding. Two years of periodic, low-level skirmishing on the border escalated suddenly last month when Islamist Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza showered rockets on Israel. (Reuters)
  • Syria’s Violent Protests Rage as Government Seals Port City - Fredrick Kunkle
    Violent protests continued to roil Syria on Sunday as human rights activists reported that President Bashar al-Assad was using soldiers and tanks against demonstrators and sealing off the port city of Baniyas. Four people were killed in Baniyas as security forces and rooftop snipers opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators outside the Al-Rahman mosque. (Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Forces Open Fire on Demonstrators in Two Cities
    Syrian security forces fired live ammunition at protesters in two cities on Saturday, a day after the single bloodiest day of Syria’s three-week antigovernment uprising. In Dara’a, security forces fired to disperse a funeral march for some of the 37 people killed in protests across the country a day earlier, wounding several people. Earlier, security forces fired live ammunition to break up a sit-in in the port city of Latakia, in the heartland of Syria’s ruling elite. On Friday, witnesses said security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters in Dara’a, killing 25 people and wounding hundreds. (AP-New York Times)
        See also Syrian Protests Are Largest and Bloodiest to Date - Liam Stack and Katherine Zoepf (New York Times)
        See also Race Against Time - Editorial
    Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to be seriously underestimating the nature of the protests shaking his nation. Syria's security forces met the peaceful protesters with force. The use of deadly force might buy a short amount of time for an embattled regime, but it represents a recipe for long-term resentment and further outbreaks of violence. It also sends a dangerous signal that the regime has no interest in substantial reform. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Egyptian Army No Longer Seen as Protesters' Friend - Hannah Allam and Mohannad Sabry
    A demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square turned into a melee of rock-throwing and gunfire Saturday, leaving at least one person dead and more than 70 others injured. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had staged a peaceful demonstration Friday in Tahrir Square calling for the prosecution of Mubarak-era officials and to pressure the military on promised reforms.
        The spark for the army attack on protesters who'd remained after curfew came when several uniformed army officers renounced their commanders, took to the stage before the stunned crowd, and stayed chanting and singing with the protesters. Activists said the attack was an effort by the army to arrest the alleged defectors. (McClatchy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Rocket Assault on Israel - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Over the weekend, over 100 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza at Israel, and hundreds of thousands of Israelis took shelter in secure areas. On Thursday, a 16-year-old Israeli was critically wounded after Hamas militants fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus. Had the bus been full, it surely would have set off another war. The claim by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri that the people who fired the missile were unaware that the target was a school bus is ridiculous.
        As far as Israel is concerned, the targeting of the bus means a red line has been crossed; this triggered a wide air assault on militant targets in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Response to Children's Bus Attack
    On April 8-9, Israeli aircraft and armored forces targeted 11 squads of terrorists in Gaza immediately following their firing of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. Israeli aircraft also targeted 15 terror infrastructure sites, Hamas outposts, smuggling tunnels, and weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.
        Additionally, Israeli aircraft targeted Hamas commanders and operatives, including senior Hamas operative Tayser Abu Snima, who was directly and physically involved in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Most recently, he was in charge of a terror attack from Sinai, firing rockets at the city of Eilat. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Video: Terrorists in Gaza Fire at Israeli Community from a Cemetery
    On Friday, April 8, a terrorist squad is spotted in a Gaza cemetery immediately after the firing of rockets at Israel. Four mortar shells fired from the cemetery, located in Sajaiya, hit the Israeli community of Nahal Oz. (Israel Defense Forces)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Does America Still Support Assad in Syria? - David Schenker
    Three weeks and hundreds of casualties into the Syrian uprising, resurfacing is the atavistic U.S. attachment to a regime that not only has killed thousands of its own citizens, but contributed to the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of U.S. troops and contractors in Iraq.
        Since 2006 alone, Assad's Syria has exponentially increased the capabilities of the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbullah, providing it with advanced anti-ship and highly accurate M-600 missiles, top of the line anti-tank weapons, and has allowed it to establish a Scud missile base on Syrian soil. At the same time, Assad continues to meddle (and murder) in Lebanon, harbor and support Hamas, and subvert Iraq. Damascus remains a strategic ally of otherwise isolated Tehran. And in 2007, it was revealed that Assad's Syria was progressing toward building a nuclear weapon. Given the pernicious effect of Assad's policies on U.S. interests and the region, it's difficult to imagine that a successor or replacement regime could be worse. It's time to revise the assumption that Washington somehow has a vested interest in Bashar Assad's political survival. (New Republic)
  • The Syria Peace Myth - Guy Bechor
    The Assads are a brutal family of dictators that comes from an isolated ethnic minority that lacks legitimacy. Had we finalized an agreement with this family and with this Syrian minority, the deal would have been worthless. We would have lost the Golan forever and the Syrian regime would have settled it with a million citizens that would spread "resistance" against Israel. Israel has an interest in living at peace with its neighbors, but we must secure agreements with peoples, not with isolated regimes or tyrants who won't be there forever. (Ynet News)

UN General Assembly "Uniting for Palestine" - Robbie Sabel (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Decision-making in the UN General Assembly is on the basis of one vote for each member state, giving equal weight to Micronesia and China. The drafters of the UN Charter were therefore careful not to grant the General Assembly any executive or legislative power. Except on matters of procedure and budget, all General Assembly resolutions are only recommendations.
  • The other main organ of the UN is the Security Council, which was granted the primary responsibility for matters of international security and peace.
  • During the early years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union used its veto power in the Security Council to prevent decisions being taken against North Korea. In order to bypass the stalemated Security Council, the U.S. initiated General Assembly Resolution 377, known as the "Uniting for Peace Resolution," which declared that where the Security Council could not reach a decision because of a veto, a special session of the General Assembly could be convened "with a view to making appropriate recommendations for collective measures... including the use of armed force when necessary."
  • There are reports that this September, the Palestinian delegation to the UN, which has observer status, will attempt to introduce a new "Uniting for Peace" resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 boundaries. In fact, a 2003 Arab-sponsored "Uniting for Peace" resolution has already called for "affirming the necessity of ending the conflict on the basis of...the Armistice Line of 1949."
  • If adopted, a new such resolution would not be binding on Israel or on any other state. Under international law, except for cases where a former border is inherited by new states, borders can only be delimited by agreement between the states concerned. No UN organ has the authority to delimit boundaries.
  • Even if the Palestinians were to declare themselves as a state, the General Assembly could then only accept Palestine as a member of the UN if there is a recommendation to that effect from the Security Council, where a permanent member of the Council could veto such a recommendation.

    The writer lectures in international law at Hebrew University and is a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

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