Displaying items by tag: Middle East
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is backed by Iran, and its headquarters are in Syria. From 5 to 7 August it fired 600 rockets and mortars into Israel. Israel retaliated with jets, drones, helicopters, tanks, artillery and elite commando units against PIJ military bases, weapon production sites, rocket launching sites, and observation posts. Two PIJ cells were hit, killing twelve operatives and several civilians. Israeli military called this operation Breaking Dawn and said it could last a week. At 11.30 am on 7 August a truce was called. Israel had inflicted significant losses on PIJ in those three days, including killing two senior commanders. By the 11th a further eight individuals with ties to terrorism were arrested in Gaza. PIJ was still insisting on the release of prisoners from Israeli jails, warning that their continued custody was grounds for violence to breakout again.
A refugee agency in Lebanon noted discrimination and violence against Syrian refugees rose sharply recently, with more confrontations at bakeries where refugees often have to wait for bread behind Lebanese citizens. Rawan Haddad, of Tent Schools International, said that the refugees’ situation is sometimes better than most Lebanese. Nations provide basic support and limited facilities for refugees, but Lebanese below the poverty line have no support. There are shortages of bread, flour, and medicine. People don’t make enough to buy what they need, and the government won’t help. With these concerns in mind, Lebanese officials have now announced they plan to repatriate refugees back to Syria, but the problem is that European countries will not agree to that course of action.
The International Legal Forum has brought accusations of torture against the Palestinian Authority (PA) before the International Criminal Court, the first request of its kind, ahead of a UN report. They called for it to investigate President Mahmoud Abbas (in his 18th year in office after cancelling numerous scheduled elections) and the PA for ‘rampant, wide-spread and systematic torture’ against Palestinian and Israeli nationals. The forum’s CEO said, ‘The Palestinian Authority is yet to be held accountable under the law for committing such grave crimes as torture.’ Examples include Palestinian human rights activist Nizar Banat, who criticised the PA and died after being beaten in the custody of the security services in 2021. A trial against the officers responsible for his death has not yet concluded. Banat’s family call the trial a ‘farce’. The PA also took two mentally-ill Israelis hostage after they inadvertently crossed into Gaza, and refused to allow the International Red Cross access to them.
Joe Biden will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia from 13 to 16 July. The 16th is a Jewish fast day in remembrance of Jerusalem's walls being breached. On that day the president will visit Saudi Arabia where Washington has been brokering talks to transfer a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in a deal that would see Riyadh take small steps toward formal diplomatic ties with Jerusalem. It is also believed that Biden’s visit to the Gulf kingdom is to seek an increase in its oil production and coordinate with regional partners on Iran. The president’s schedule of two days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem indicates Washington also aims to solidify the two-pronged ties with Jerusalem while assuring the Palestinians that his administration is still proactively committed to the two-state solution.
Once again there is political tumult in Israel, where the fifth election cycle in three years is about to begin. Crippled by dysfunction and tribalism, Israel has joined the ranks of Italy and Greece, where general elections occur with infuriating frequency. In June 2021 there was a big change when the new government sworn in was not headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who had held the position for twelve years. A politically diverse coalition was cobbled together by Yair Lapid, leading the centrist Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party. The coalition government, headed by rightwing prime minister Naftali Bennett, was a grouping of eight political parties, including an Arab Islamist party. It began crumbling in recent months after two right-wing lawmakers defected, which meant that the coalition lost its majority. In recent weeks left-wing and Arab coalition members were not backing key legislation. The next coalition will form after October’s polls.
The World Bank has extended another year of financial aid to Lebanon despite political bickering. Inflation reached 206% in April, Lebanon’s currency dropped yet again last week, and Heart for Lebanon reports shortages of everything from electricity to fuel to bread. Everything costs more, and 78% of the population needs some kind of food assistance to survive. They are becoming more desperate every day. Divisions are deepening among the newly-elected parliament members. Fighting between parties that are for and against Hezbollah is taking priority over much-needed reform. People are looking for answers. They are turning to God in record numbers. Heart for Lebanon and local churches provide food and encouragement to families, showing them the love of Christ before telling them about the love of Christ. Ask God to strengthen and encourage Lebanese believers. They are staying put to care for people in need, instead of leaving the country to benefit themselves.
President Erdogan is giving signals of an imminent cross-border large-scale military incursion into Syria. Military equipment is on the frontier, and artillery shells now pound positions held by Syrian Kurdish armed forces. Senior officials and analysts believe operations against the groups will commence soon, hoping to conclude before the NATO summit on 29 June. ‘We will crack down on them suddenly overnight’, Erdogan told reporters. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it will coordinate with Syrian troops to fend off any Turkish invasion. An SDF commander said Damascus should use air defence systems against Turkish planes. Turkey’s vowed new offensive will be on areas controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, a key part of the SDF. Syria warned Turkey there will be no compromise on territorial integrity. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation. Syrian Kurdish forces are backed by Washington, and co-ordinated with Syria and its ally Russia. See
The EU is finding it difficult to decrease its dependence on Russian oil and gas. One alternative is the proposed EastMed pipeline, which would carry natural gas extracted from fields under the waters of Israel's and Cyprus's exclusive economic zones to Greece and from there to other European countries. The pre-feasibility studies of the pipeline, conducted from 2015-18 and paid for by the EU, found that the project is ‘technically feasible, economically viable and commercially competitive’. The US under secretary of state for political affairs, meeting with her counterparts in Turkey, has said that more pipelines are needed in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the USA prefers to steer business to Turkey rather than to America's democratic allies, Cyprus, Israel and Greece. Algerian gas pipelines are also acceptable to the Americans, but the long-planned EastMed pipeline is not.
A study by Tel Aviv University found anti-Semitic incidents dramatically increased across the world last year. The USA, Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK experienced the sharpest rise fuelled by radical left- and right-wing political movements and incitement on social media. The report's release coincides with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, 28 April, commemorating the six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany across Europe during World War Two. It is based on the analysis of dozens of studies from around the world, as well as information from law enforcement bodies, media, and Jewish organisations. Anti-Jewish hate crimes in New York and Los Angeles were almost twice that of the previous year. In France, anti-Semitic incidents increased by almost 75%. The gravest concern is the dark web, which shelters extremists. Anti-Semitic content is freely and openly spread, but is only accessible through special illegal browsing software.
On 25 April Turkish philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala was found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government and sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He had spent the last 4½ years in prison without being convicted. The sentence is the most severe to be given. He will be in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. He said, ‘The aggravated life sentence demanded against me is an assassination that cannot be explained through legal reasons.’ Human Rights Watch said the sentence was ‘the worst possible outcome to this show trial’. Amnesty International said, ‘We have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond. The decision defies all logic. Prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that substantiates the baseless charges. We call for his immediate release as he appeals these draconian verdicts.’ See