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Report: Syrian Officer Killed over Refusal to Open Fire at Protesters - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
A Syrian colonel was killed along with two of his sons over his unwillingness to open fire at anti-government protesters, websites linked to Syrian opposition groups said on Monday.
Hamas Kills Murderers of Italian Activist - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas policemen on Tuesday raided a house in Nuseirat in Gaza where three men who kidnapped and murdered Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni were hiding. Two suspects were killed and a third wounded.
All three belonged to the radical Salafi group Tawheed wah-Jihad. Three Hamas policemen were also wounded.
Israel Indicts Saudi Man for Working for Hamas - Naama Cohen-Friedman (Ynet News)
Iyad Rashid Abu Arga, 47, a Saudi holder of Australian and Jordanian passports, was indicted Sunday in Israel for spying on behalf of Hamas.
He assisted on computer issues and tracking devices, including encrypted telephones, panoramic photography devices, and technologies to track and guide missiles.
Druze in Golan Rally For, Against Assad - Hagai Einav (Ynet News)
Following an anti-Assad protest by Druze in Syria, some 200 Druze residents of Golan Heights villages demonstrated against the Syrian ruler on Saturday. The protestors held up Syrian flags and signs supporting anti-Assad protestors across the border.
Earlier Saturday, other Druze residents in the Golan held a pro-Assad rally.
Leadership Vacuum in Suez Illustrates Egypt's Instability - Hannah Allam (McClatchy)
For the past
two months, the bustling seaport of Suez - home of the Suez Canal - with a population of 550,000, has had no working police force.
"There is absolutely no one to run the city. Even in this transitional period, we don't see any administrators, any government workers; the governor isn't here, no secretaries of the governorate, nothing," said Hani Haddad, 32, an unemployed accountant. "The consequences are showing up: drugs all over the street, thuggery, robberies, no traffic control, rising food prices. The only positive thing I see is that people are now free to talk."
Israeli Economy Grows by 7.8 Percent - Tomer Avital (Calcalist-Ynet News)
The Israeli economy grew by 7.8% in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to figures released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Exports (excluding diamonds) were up 27.3% in Jan.-Mar. 2011, following a 19.9% increase in Oct.-Dec. 2010.
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- Israel Under Pressure to Offer Peace Plan - Edmund Sanders
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under mounting pressure to unveil a new plan for solving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict or risk having the U.S. and international community move ahead with a strategy of their own.
Israel won some breathing space with the postponement last week of a meeting of international powers in Berlin, but American and European diplomats are continuing to prod Netanyahu to lay out his vision for restarting peace talks and ending the occupation of the West Bank.
If he does not, diplomats warned, the Mideast Quartet may attempt to jump-start the process by formally endorsing, for the first time, the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital. Netanyahu's government has vehemently opposed such a move.
UN and EU representatives were hoping to use the meeting to push for a Quartet statement endorsing the pre-1967 war borders, with agreed-upon swaps, as a basis for future talks. But U.S. officials argued for a delay, saying they first wanted a guarantee from the Palestinians that if such a statement were released, they would return to the negotiating table. The U.S. also worried that the move might lead Israel to boycott talks. (Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S. Rejects Palestinian Bid to Seek UN Recognition
The U.S. again Tuesday rejected Palestinian plans to seek recognition for an independent state unilaterally from the UN without reaching a peace accord with Israel.
"We don't believe it's a good idea, we don't believe it's helpful," said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
"We continue to press both sides to begin talking again in direct negotiations," Toner said.
- Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters in Homs as Crackdown Intensifies - Tara Bahrampour
The Syrian government Tuesday fired live ammunition into a crowd of protesters even as it lifted decades-old emergency laws in an attempt to appease its critics.
In Homs, four people were killed after tens of thousands of demonstrators tried to stage an Egyptian-style sit-in in a main square, activists said. After firing warning shots into the air, security forces fired into the crowd and dispersed it, using tanks to secure the area.
"What happened in Homs was really scary for the regime. It shows that the main urban Sunni population is starting to come out," said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma. (Washington Post)
- UK Weighs Release of Arab Terrorist Who Plotted to Blow Up El Al Jet
Nazir Hindawi, an Arab terrorist jailed for duping his pregnant Irish fiance into trying to sneak a bomb aboard an El Al flight in 1986, became eligible for parole in 2001. In October 2009 a parole board recommended his release, but Britainís then-Justice Secretary Jack Straw overruled the decision.
On Tuesday, Londonís High Court ruled that a parole board should have the final say, effectively bypassing British ministers who have repeatedly blocked attempts to free him.
A one-time journalist for a London-based Arab publication, Hindawi tricked Anne-Marie Murphy into traveling to Israel, where he claimed the pair were to marry.
Hidden in her suitcase were 10 pounds of plastic explosives and a timer set to go off while the plane was in flight. Murphy would have been among the 375 potential victims. (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Abbas: Britain and France Would Recognize Palestinian State - Avi Issacharoff and Danna Harman
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that the PA does not agree with the Israeli idea of temporary borders.
Abbas also said the PA would fulfill the vision of President Obama, who said he wanted to see a Palestinian state established in September.
"We have more than 130 nations set to recognize the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and even if we make no further efforts, that number could be increased to 140 or 150." He also said countries that in the past had not recognized a Palestinian state, like Britain and France, would accept such a state. (Ha'aretz)
See also Israeli Officials Believe Europe Won't Endorse Palestinian State in UN - Elior Levy
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Tuesday: "The Palestinian threat for a unilateral move in the UN is an idle threat. I believe the Europeans will not vote in favor of this in the end." Another Israeli official noted, "Not everyone in the PA believes it's the right move for the Palestinians right now. They all understand that a vote will not change reality on the ground. The Europeans are not likely to vote for the Palestinians. Should the resolution address clear borders and the right of return - they won't get the Europeans' support." (Ynet News)
- U.S. Lawmaker: Palestinian State Declaration Could Hurt U.S. Aid to PA - Hilary Leila Krieger
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign aid, has warned that the U.S. could reduce aid to the Palestinians if they pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN.
"That would be a very, very bad thing to do," she told the Jerusalem Post. "It would be a very serious step. It also could affect our funding at the UN."
According to an aide to a Democrat on Granger's subcommittee, "The aid to the Palestinians includes the U.S.' understanding that the Palestinians will continue to keep pursuing peace with Israel as per the Oslo agreement. If they were to unilaterally declare a state, they would be violating that understanding....There's no question that if they were to unilaterally declare a state, it would affect our aid." (Jerusalem Post)
See also The Freedom Funder - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
- Why Does the U.S. Keep Ignoring Syria's Villainy? - Joel Brinkley
For years, Washington has worked under the premise that, while Syria is unquestionably problematic, it is at least stable. Another government might be worse. But how could any new government be worse? Since the Iraq war began, Islamic extremists have crossed Assad's border by the busload, in full view of U.S. spy satellites.
He sells missiles to Hizbullah, the terrorist group in southern Lebanon and avowed enemy of Israel and the U.S. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted Hizbullah now "has tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, more than most governments in the world" - all pointed at Israel.
Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, actually lives in Damascus and does his murderous business openly from a storefront. American intelligence shows that Syria has a vast store of chemical weapons. Assad pursued a secret nuclear-weapons development program, until Israel bombed it in 2007.
Compare Syria to the other states in turmoil. Egypt was Washington's best friend in the region. Tunisia's leader was praised for his cooperation with anti-terror investigations, as was Yemen's. Libya gave up its nuclear and chemical-weapons programs at Washington's urging. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
In fact, all of the other nations in play have tried to be American allies. To be sure, all of them have horribly oppressed their own people. But in recent years none has openly worked against Washington, as Syria does even now. (Kansas City Star)
- Syria: Another Day, Another Massacre - Jackson Diehl
Reports are coming in of yet another episode in which Syrian security forces have opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protestors. Which raises the question: What will it take to move Western democracies to respond to the serial slaughters of civilians by the regime of Bashar al-Assad?
Mass shootings of civilians by security forces are becoming a near daily event in Syria. In the southern town of Daraa, where the protest movement began last month, there have been multiple massacres, including one on April 8 in which gunmen opened up on a crowd marching with olive branches, killing 27. There have been similar episodes in the city of Banias and in several nearby villages. And these are just the ones that human rights groups have been able to document.
All together, considerably more than 200 people have been killed by the regime.
In nearly every instance where state-sponsored murder on this scale has taken place in recent years, the U.S. and other democracies have reacted strongly. Uzbekistanís massacre of protestors in the city of Andijon in 2005 led to a rupture of relations with Washington and the EU. And NATO has intervened in Libya to protect civilians from Gaddafi. Yet the response to Assadís bloodshed has been limited to rhetoric.
The U.S. has refrained from taking even diplomatic measures to express its dissatisfaction, such as withdrawing the U.S. ambassador in Damascus. It has failed to bring Syriaís case before the UN Human Rights Council - not to speak of the UN Security Council. (Washington Post)
Palestinian Statehood Has Lost Its Glitter - Ahmad Samih Khalidi (Guardian-UK)
Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.
Barring unforeseen developments, it appears as if the PLO and its Ramallah-based arm, the Palestinian Authority, will head to the UN General Assembly in September seeking international recognition of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
But as the PLO inches towards this goal, it seems out of tune with prevailing Palestinian sentiment.
- For one thing, the PLO is as much a part of the crumbling Arab order as any of the collapsing regimes around it; and it is now losing the last vestiges of its founding legitimacy as a product of the era of armed struggle and the contemporary national movement forged by Yasser Arafat. Today the PLO can claim no genuine representative status.
What is emerging instead is a slow but sure manifestation of a new transnational movement, centered less on statehood and more on forging a national project that will traverse the existing Palestinian divides - diaspora, occupied territories and Israeli Arab citizens - and bypass the notion of an independent Palestinian state on part of Palestinian soil.
- This shift is premised on forging a new common identity and common national goal - embracing all sectors of Palestinian society and aimed at the entirety of Palestine before 1948.
- From this perspective West Bank statehood seems an irrelevance, almost an anachronism. It matches neither the popular revolutionary zeitgeist of the Arab world nor wider Palestinian aspirations.
The writer is a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford, and a former Palestinian negotiator.
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