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Iran Snipers in Syria as Part of Crackdown - Rob Crilly (Telegraph-UK)
Iranian snipers have been deployed in Syria as part of an increasingly brutal crackdown on protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a former member of the regime's secret police.
The officer, who crossed into Turkey last week, said during the past two months he was aware of Iranian troops alongside his team as they fired on protesters in Damascus.
Sinai's Above-Ground Underground - Abigail Hausloher (TIME)
The mass uprising that unseated Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made waves in Sinai as well.
On Jan. 28, Bedouins clashed with police in towns across Sinai. That night, the police withdrew from their posts and never came back.
For years the Bedouin communities of Sinai have relied heavily on smuggling as a means of survival in a territory with few other economic options.
People, diesel, iron rebar, cement, and Libyan cars remain top trafficking commodities. Palestinians - still weighed down by strict border entry regulations into Egypt - move freely through the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza.
In Egyptian Rafah, on Gaza's border, Kias, Toyotas, and luxury cars - many with their Libyan license plates still attached - await their underground passage into Gaza.
Smuggling in North Sinai Surges as the Police Vanish - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
The smuggling business has grown so exponentially in Sinai that Hamas recently limited car imports through the smuggling tunnels to 30 a week.
Until Hamas began to slow the flow last month, as many as 250 cars a week went through the tunnels, smugglers said.
Man Sentenced in Iran Missile Plot (UPI)
Davoud Baniameri, 38, an Iranian national who pleaded guilty to attempting to export missile components and radio test sets to Iran, was sentenced in Chicago to 51 months in prison.
Widow Takes on BBC over Israel "Bias" - Jonathan Wynne-Jones (Telegraph-UK)
For six years, Steven Sugar pursued a one-man legal battle against the BBC in an attempt to force it to disclose an internal assessment of its coverage of the Middle East conflict which he believed would reveal bias against Israel.
Mr. Sugar won an appeal for a full court hearing but died of cancer in January at the age of 61.
Now, his widow, Fiona Paveley, has taken up the fight to reveal the contents of the 20,000-word document and the case is to be heard at the Supreme Court.
The BBC has spent more than £270,000 on legal fees to prevent the public from seeing the report.
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- Syria Orders Thousands into Stadium in Latakia Crackdown - Borzou Daragahi and Roula Hajjar
Syrian security forces in Latakia herded thousands of people into a stadium including Palestinians from a refugee camp, activists said Monday. "They were told they should leave their homes and go to stadiums because the armed forces were going to flatten the area," said an activist.
(Los Angeles Times)
See also Palestinians Flee Syrian Assault - Joshua Mitnick and Nour Malas (Wall Street Journal)
See also Syrian Tanks Shell Latakia as Death Toll Reaches 31 - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Syrian forces shelled Sunni Muslim districts in Latakia Monday on the third day of a military assault, residents said. Latakia has a large Alawite population, partly because Assad and his father before him encouraged Alawites to move from their nearby mountain region by offering them cheap land and jobs in the public sector and security apparatus. Bashar al-Assad's late uncle Jamil controlled Latakia port and a new generation of family members and their friends has taken over.
- Egypt Deploys Soldiers to North Sinai - David D. Kirkpatrick and Heba Afify
Egyptian soldiers sent to crack down on lawlessness in Sinai killed a man in a gunfight on Monday and captured a dozen others in a series of early morning raids, security officials said. In the six months since the Egyptian revolution, the Egyptian police have all but vanished from the region, leaving local Bedouin tribes to provide the only law and order. Egyptian security officials said some of those arrested were prison inmates who escaped during the revolution. Other escaped inmates are believed to have slipped into Gaza through smugglers' tunnels. (New York Times)
- Palestinian Authority Has Cash Crunch Amid Statehood Drive - Maher Abukhater
After earning international praise over the last two years for its financial reforms, the Palestinian Authority is facing its worst cash crunch in years. Palestinian banks, which lent the authority about $200 million to cover shortfalls, have stopped making new loans. Aid from Arab nations was above $500 million in both 2008 and 2009, but dropped to half that level in 2010. So far this year, it has dropped to about $79 million.
Polls show that Palestinians are now more concerned about jobs and the economy than they are about peace talks with Israel. The cash crunch is a reminder of the PA's heavy reliance on foreign aid, which accounts for about half of its more than $2 billion annual budget.
(Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Gives U.S. Lawmakers Questions for Abbas - Tovah Lazaroff
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with 27 visiting Republican congressmen on Monday and suggested they ask Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas two questions when they meet him later this week.
"Ask him, 'why don't you come and negotiate with Israel.'...I am willing to immediately start direct negotiations with him without preconditions. I am willing to invite him to my house in Jerusalem and I am willing to go to Ramallah." "Ask Abu Mazen [Abbas] why he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. I have recognized a Palestinian state, he [Abbas] should be able to recognize a Jewish state."
Netanyahu also spoke about the importance of a U.S. veto against the anticipated Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at the UN Security Council in September. He said a UN vote in favor of Palestinian statehood would harden the Palestinian position for years and make it extremely difficult to negotiate a peace agreement. Netanyahu also thanked the congressmen for U.S. support for the Iron Dome missile defense system which thwarts Palestinian missiles launched from Gaza.
- Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rockets at Beersheba
The Israel Air Force launched five airstrikes early Tuesday at targets in Gaza
in response to rocket fire which struck near the Israeli city of Beersheba.
Hamas sources said three gunmen involved in firing rockets at Israel were hit.
Another air strike targeted a squad of terrorists planning to carry out mortar attacks on Israel moments before their attack. (Ha'aretz)
- Hello World: Israel Is Out-Classing You in Civil Disobedience - Roi Carthy
Social protests in Israel began 4 weeks ago with a national outcry over the rising price of basics such as cottage cheese. They then snowballed into a full-blown national movement after a then unknown young woman pitched a tent in Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard in protest of high apartment rental costs.
It's been four weeks and zero acts of the barbaric, non-discriminatory violence we've seen across the Middle East, and even in the UK. No shots fired. No stores looted.
While in neighboring countries regimes are slaughtering the opposition, in Israel we have complete free speech to criticize our politicians and leaders.
The backbone of the movement has unquestionably been Facebook, via pages, and events, and of course Twitter.
I wonder how many future civil disobedience movements will be modeled upon Israel, where technology and love trumped violence.
- Boycotting Jewish-Owned Business Not the Way to Make the Point - Editorial
How a picket outside a popular Melbourne chocolate shop would bring the State of Israel to its knees was always something of a puzzle.
But the split between pro-Palestinian supporters over protests against the Max Brenner chain demonstrates the protest is not only futile but counter-productive. The BDS movement has every right to express its point of view, but for any student of 20th-century history there is something deeply offensive about targeting a Jewish-owned business. Australians are overwhelmingly uncomfortable about such tactics, whatever their views about a Palestinian state.
The BDS movement has surely lost its bearings when it likens this ridiculous protest to the actions of those who supported anti-apartheid boycotts against South Africa. (The Australian)
See also Pro-Palestinian Leader Condemns Violence at Brenner Boycott - Chip Le Grand
The Reverend Jim Barr, president of the newly formed Australia Palestine Advocacy Network,
has described the actions of anti-Max Brenner protesters who prevented shoppers from entering the chocolate store as indefensible and stupid. (The Australian)
- Questioning the Legality of Proposed Palestinian Statehood
The charters of both wings of the Palestinians - Fatah (PA) and Hamas - call for the elimination of Israel.
Ethnic cleansing is specifically forbidden by the UN, but the Palestinians openly demand a Jew-free state. Palestinian incitement to hatred and violence against Israel and Jews continues in violation of UN decrees.
The PA is bound by the 1993 Declaration of Principles and subsequent Oslo accords agreements to solve outstanding issues with Israel through direct negotiations, rather than through
a unilateral declaration of independence.
Raising the Stakes on Jerusalem - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
In the spring of last year, the Obama administration picked a fight with Israel over the routine approval of some housing starts in the Ramat Shlomo district of Jerusalem because it coincided with a visit to the country by Vice President Joe Biden. Last week the Israeli government gave final approval for the construction of the same apartment buildings in the city.
- While no American government has ever recognized Israeli sovereignty over any part of the ancient capital, it is equally true that never before had an American president made an issue of the building of homes in the existing Jewish neighborhoods begun in the immediate aftermath of the reunification of the city in 1967.
- It was Obama's personal condemnation of the creation of new apartments in these existing Jewish parts of the city that has made their future a matter of dispute and encouraged Palestinians to hold onto false hopes that one day the Jewish residents of these homes will be forcibly evicted. The decision to raise the stakes on Jerusalem has forced the Palestinian leadership to ramp up their already unrealistic demands on the issue and therefore made peace an even more remote possibility.
- Referring to housing starts in Jerusalem as obstacles to peace is absolutely false. Because everyone knows that neither Ramat Shlomo nor any other of the existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem will ever be given up, it doesn't matter how many homes are built there.
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