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Attack on Protesters in Egypt Leaves 22 Dead - Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan (Los Angeles Times)
At least 22 people were killed Wednesday when unknown attackers armed with guns and firebombs clashed with protesters near Egypt's Defense Ministry in Cairo.
Police did not intervene for hours, and authorities said as many as 200 people were wounded.
The protesters at the Defense Ministry were a mix of supporters of Hazem Salah abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Islamist preacher recently disqualified from the presidential race, and activists and young revolutionaries opposed to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
See also Calls for Massive Demonstrations across Egypt - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (CNN)
Hundreds of demonstrators extended their sit-in outside Egypt's defense ministry on Thursday as organizers called for mass protests following violence that killed 22 people.
A coalition of political and civil groups - known as the Board of Trustees of the Revolution - demanded the resignation of the government.
Alaa Younis, who took part in the sit-in, said "dozens of military men dressed in plainclothes started pelting" them "with stones, cement blocks, and fired tear gas from rifles, so they were obviously security officers under cover."
Israel's Handicapped Miracle - Giulio Meotti (Ynet News)
Israel's determination in tackling the physical problems that arise either from natural causes, terrorism or war is astounding and says much about Israel's moral lesson to the world.
The Jewish state is in fact the world's most important laboratory for healers of diseases. There is an amazing quantity of research, inventions, and newfound techniques for curing and helping the ill, the blind, and the paralyzed to return to normal life.
Scientists at Hebrew University have developed the drug Exelon for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injuries.
The Weizmann Institute has led the development of promising new therapies for acute spinal cord injuries.
In Israel it is very common to see children with Down's syndrome in television programs and there are special parks for disabled people.
Paraplegic war heroes are the protagonists of soap operas and disabled athletes are extremely successful.
2,248 "children of Chernobyl" were brought to Israel for treatment after the nuclear plant meltdown in Ukraine.
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News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Iran's Nuclear Talks Agenda Aims at Easing Western Sanctions
Iran has made no secret of its hopes for the next round of nuclear negotiations with world powers: Pledges by the West to ease sanctions. But Iran's pitch is certain to smack head-on into resistance and counter proposals by the West. Iran has cultivated a sunny approach - with officials repeatedly saying they are "optimistic" about the May 23 session in Baghdad and their hopes for goodwill gestures from the other side.
From the Western corner, the mood is much tougher. U.S. officials have rejected the idea that they could ease sanctions against Iran as a confidence-building measure. They have said sanctions will only be pulled back if Iran complies with demands that include suspending uranium enrichment. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that Washington wants "to see Iran live up to its international obligations including the suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple UN Security Council resolutions." (AP-Washington Post)
- Methodists Vote Against Ending Investments Tied to Israel - Laurie Goodstein
The United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S., voted against two proposals on Wednesday to divest from companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola that provide equipment used by Israel in the territories. At the church's quadrennial convention in Tampa, after an impassioned debate and several votes, the delegates overwhelmingly passed a more neutral resolution calling for "positive" investment to encourage economic development "in Palestine." The Methodists also passed a resolution calling for "all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land."
More than 1,200 rabbis representing every stream of organized Judaism signed a letter to the delegates beseeching them to vote against divestment. They argued that the tactic "shamefully paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating peace," and said a vote for divestment would "damage the relationship between Jews and Christians." (New York Times)
- UN Seeks More Recruits to Monitor Truce in Syria - Rick Gladstone and Neil MacFarquhar
The top UN peacekeeping official, Herve Ladsous, said Tuesday that his organization had recruited only about half of the 300-member contingent he hoped to station in Syria. He also said Syrian authorities had not yet removed their heavy weapons from population centers, as required under the cease-fire plan, and had not granted a UN request to allow the monitors to use helicopters for rapid mobility.
(New York Times)
See also Rebel Fighters Kill 20 Syrian Troops
Syrian rebels killed 15 soldiers - including two colonels - in a dawn ambush in the northern province of Aleppo, where two rebel fighters also died, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Clashes near Damascus killed an additional six troops.
Human Rights Watch reported that during an April 3-4 attack on Taftanaz, northeast of Idlib, 19 members of the Ghazal family, including two under the age of 18, were executed by regime forces. Nine males were shot in the head or back.
See also Amid Unrest, Syrians Struggle to Feed Their Families - Alice Fordham
Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to feed their families in the parts of Syria hardest hit by violence, activists and aid workers say. Homs activist Waleed Fares said that military checkpoints have prevented trucks with food from entering the areas of the city where most people support the opposition, with security forces sometimes stealing food and attacking the drivers.
See also Inside Syria's Broken City of Homs - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Six IDF Reserve Battalions Called Up to Meet Growing Threats on Egypt, Syria Borders - Aaron Kalman
The IDF has issued emergency call up orders to six reserve battalions in light of new dangers on the Egyptian and Syrian borders. The Knesset has given the IDF permission to summon a further 16 reserve battalions if necessary, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Former deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel on Wednesday cited Egypt's deteriorating control over Sinai. The Syrian situation was also highly combustible, Harel said, "and it could explode at any moment." Maariv reported that the army chose to summon additional reserve units rather than cancel training sessions for enlisted soldiers. (Times of Israel)
- Mount of Olives Police Post Fails to Allay Fears of Arab Rock-Throwing - Melanie Lidman
Three taxi drivers in a row refused to take me to the new police post on the Mount of Olives.
"It's 10:15 a.m.," one driver explained. "At 10:30 a.m. the students at the boys' school will go out for recess and they'll just throw stones at us for fun." Activist groups have cited an increase in stone-throwing attacks against Jewish vehicles heading to the Mount of Olives cemetery in the past year.
- Survey: Israel-Palestinian Conflict Not a Big Issue for Arab Youth - Amir Mizroch
Earning a fair wage and owning a home are now the two highest priorities for young people in the Middle East, according to the latest ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey. One year after the start of the Arab Spring, the survey highlights how larger political concerns have been superseded by more personal, economic anxieties.
Asked "What do you believe is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East?," apart from Saudi Arabia, very few said "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." In Egypt, only 10% said the conflict was the region's biggest obstacle. The number was also low in most of the Gulf emirates.
- Declassified Bin Laden Material Sheds New Light on Al-Qaeda - Brian Bennett
Osama bin Laden's personal notes and letters, which were seized a year ago in the U.S. raid on his compound in Pakistan, show a leader removed from day-to-day operations of the terrorist organization he founded. A declassified selection of the material will be published online Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. (Los Angeles Times)
See also Poll: Muslims Think Poorly of Al-Qaeda - Emily Alpert
A new poll of Muslims in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Lebanon found that most thought poorly of al-Qaeda a year after Osama bin Laden's death.
The Pew Research Center poll showed that al-Qaeda was most popular in Egypt, where 21% of Muslims said they had a favorable opinion.
Yet 71% disliked the group. In Jordan, only 15% said they had a favorable opinion; in Pakistan, 13%; in Turkey, 6%; and in Lebanon, 2%.
More than a third of Muslims polled in the Palestinian territories in 2011 said they had confidence in bin Laden.
(Los Angeles Times)
- Israel Builds a Wall in the North - Michael J. Totten
Israel just began construction of a high cement wall on its northern border between the Israeli town of Metulla and the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila. The wall will only be a kilometer long, and is being placed there to prevent anyone from shooting across the border at that specific location.
In 2005, I drove down there from Beirut and was thunderstruck when we arrived at Kfar Kila. Israeli houses were mere feet from the border fence. Some of those homes are so close to it that a person could walk right up to an Israeli backyard and, while remaining inside Lebanese territory, throw a hand grenade through somebody's window. This is the part of Lebanon that's controlled by Hizbullah. If you're an American, how would you feel if the Taliban set up shop a few feet from your yard? The border here used to be open until the Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000.
The Anarchy Factor in Syria - Itamar Rabinovich (Toronto Star)
- The failure of the U.S., its Western allies and several Middle East regional powers to take bolder action to stop the carnage in Syria is often explained by their fear of anarchy. Yet anarchy is setting in now: it is preceding - and precipitating - the regime's eventual fall.
- On the surface, the regime appears almost intact, but in the country as a whole it is collapsing. Some areas are now beyond its control, public services are unavailable, and the economy is in free fall.
- Assad's fall does not yet seem imminent, but it has become inevitable. The regime has lost all legitimacy and its effectiveness is weakening.
- Fear of another Islamist takeover is another argument against toppling Assad, but the longer he stays in power, the greater the gains made by Islamists on the ground.
- The current preference for inaction, while perhaps understandable, threatens to lead to precisely the outcomes that its advocates want to avoid.
The writer, a former ambassador of Israel to the U.S. (1993-1996), is currently based at Tel Aviv University, New York University and the Brookings Institution.
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