Palestinian Israeli Conflict Deepens as Lebanon Strikes

http://thehigherlearning.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/israel-palestine.png?w=1038&h=576&crop=1

Courtesy of Higher Learning

On Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says he will not give in to international pressure to stop a military offensive in Gaza and will continue until rocket fire out of Gaza ceases. According to Aron Heller, Israel leader: World pressure won’t stop military offensive, the Prime Minister had a good conversation with many world leaders in recent days including President Barack Obama and has decided to continue with his plans. So far, Netanyahu has attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza during the four day operation using twice the force used in a similar 2012 offensive. The death toll after the four day offensive comes to 100 Palestinians with no word how many Israelis have died so far.

However, as the death toll from Israel’s massive air campaign in Gaza topped 100 Friday, militants in neighboring Lebanon fired rockets at Israel as Gaza militants continued rocket fire reaching deeper into Israel. According to Heller, Gaza militants have fired 550 rockets against Israel in the offensive with Israeli military hitting more than 1,100 targets identified as launch sites and bombarding the territory every 5 minutes on average. In Gaza, an Israeli Airstrike on Friday and overnight strikes has killed eight people raising the death toll to at least 98 with a later strike pushing the total over 100 along with 670 wounded, the Associated Press reports. Hamas says it intends to fire rockets at the airport and warned foreign airlines to stop flying to Israel. However, Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets so far with its “Iron Dome” defense system. In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border causing the military to respond with artillery fire toward southern Lebanon, according to military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. The Lebanese military stated that militants fired three rockets toward Israel around 6 am and the Israelis retaliated by firing 25 artillery shells on the area. Lebanon’s state run National News Agency confirmed one militant firing the rockets was wounded and taken to the hospital, while the Lebanese’s military said troops found the two rocket launchers and dismantled them. The recent rocket fire from Lebanon was blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah, a Shiite militant stronghold in Southern Lebanon, was not involved. The  Associated Press reports that a pair of Lebanon based al-Qaida groups, the Battalions of Ziad Jarrah and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, in the past have claimed responsibility for similar rocket attacks on Israel.

The recent conflict between Israel and Gaza came after the death of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank and a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death as retaliation. Lerner states that the military was trying to prevent civilian causalities calling residents ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks and using “non-explosive munitions” to warn people to leave before the attack. Lerner blames Hamas for the deaths of innocent bystanders by firing into heavily populated areas. Israeli leaders are considering a ground assault in Gaza to target Hamas, even though, this would most likely increase Palestinian civilian casualties and put Israeli troops at risk. Israel has mobilized more than 30,000 reservists to aid in the possible ground invasion. In the past, the Associated Press reports, a ground incursions in 2009 left hundreds of civilians dead and both sides drew war crimes accusations in a United Nations report. Middle East envoy Tony Blair said that efforts to reach a truce were being made. According to the Associated Press, Blair state, “We are in a critical point. I think we have got to do everything we can to … create a situation in which the people in Gaza and the West Bank and in Israel feel that this is not then going to recur and there is some genuine plan in place.”

International Conflicts: Bridging the Divide

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Conflict Map 2014 Courtesy of the International Institute of Strategic Studies

The recent advancement of the Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria has led both countries into violent chaos and instability, while Israel and Afghanistan are experiencing similar situations with various militant factions. Similarly Russia and Ukraine are undergoing a different type of exclusion policy orchestrated by their own governments causing unrest between its own people. While the wars or conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained prolonged as the problems within their governments have never been addressed, the larger global cause of these conflicts seems to be the policies of exclusion that create an environment which allows radical organizations like ISIS to gain ground. According to Marwan Muasher, How the Iraq Crisis Highlights a Need for Inclusion Policies Across the Middle East, the Iraqi crisis highlights how sectarian conflicts are tearing the Arab country apart with Syria serving as an extreme example. During the Arab Spring, many of its leaders have used the religious and ethnic divides to gain or stay in power while taking away the rights of the non-ruling sectors of society. Muasher explains:

“Governments that have risen to power during the Arab Spring claiming visions of building pluralistic societies have, once in power, embraced exclusionary policies that only benefit certain sectors of society. Inclusionary policies in Iraq and throughout the region must be embraced in order to achieve political pluralism. The Arab world must accept and pride itself on the diversity of its people and allow all voices to be heard. The Arab uprisings demand that all regimes reconsider their policies to allow for differences of views, ethnicities, and beliefs, so they treat every citizen as equal.”

The focus in Iraq and with many of these exclusionary governments should be to build a pluralistic society rather than living in the past. The process itself will be painful and take some time, but each country must take action and responsibility for their own destiny. For democracy to take hold, each country must build a national identity stronger than any individual allegiance by embracing all people regardless of political, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, and gender equity. Muasher brilliantly and simply points out that the U.S. and international community needs to look at these conflicts not just as military actions to secure the region, but as a transition period for each. The transition period may take years to see progress, however inclusion not exclusion must be embraced in order to having a functioning society as a commitment to pluralism will lead to a sustainable political and economic renewal. In addition, Muasher points out that inclusion in the political process for all parties will allow everyone to feel they have a stake in the system:

“What is worse than the Skyes-Picot agreement, which produced artificial boundaries in the Eastern part of the Arab world, is its dissolution. Ethnically or religiously pure states are not the answer to achieving productive societies. Rather, it will lead to non-viable entities at war with each other. A separated Iraq will only result in more war and strife for years to come.”

If inclusion doesn’t become a standard policy, then not only the Middle East but Afghanistan and Ukraine will also become victims of their own exclusionary policies that so far has caused devastation, death and destruction. Here is a summary of the numerous news stories this week about what exclusion policies can do:

Israeli military masses troops along Gaza border
Jul 8th 2014 4:53PM
JOSEF FEDERMAN AND NAJIB JOBAINJERUSALEM (AP)

On Tuesday, Israel launched its largest offensive in Gaza in nearly two years aiming at numerous targets and killing 19 people in order to end weeks of heavy rocket fire. While Gaza militants unleashed rockets onto Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel mobilized its troops along the Gaza border for a possible invasion making this offensive the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since the 8 day battle in November 2012. In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the rocket attacks on Israeli communities would not be tolerated. Israel and Hamas have remained bitter enemies over the years with numerous rounds of fighting, however, a truce had ended the conflict in 2012. The fighting continued throughout the day with many Palestinian residents of Gaza running from their homes as Israel continued its airstrikes leaving some with bloody faces and many to pick up the motionless bodies of fellow Palestinians. In addition, many residents, fearing an Israeli ground operation, moved deeper into Gaza to stay with relatives. In southern Israel, hundreds of thousands of citizens were ordered to stay indoors due to the rocket fire from Gaza leaving the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem deserted. According to military Israeli military officials, when asked by Channel 2 TV if a cease fire is possible, the military spokesman replied “Not now.” The U.S. State Department condemned the rocket fire on Israel and hoped Israel’s strong message would deter further attacks, according to spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The escalation on Tuesday has led many world leaders to condemn the actions of Hamas and call for restraint. According to the article:

” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the indiscriminate multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and demanded an immediate halt to the attacks, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to take necessary measures to stop the violence.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attacks and urged calm. ‘The people of Israel have the right to live without constant fear for their security; the people of Gaza also have the right to live in peace,’ he said.”

Afghanistan Suicide Attack Near Clinic Claims At Least 16 Lives, Including 4 Foreign Troops
By AMIR SHAH and RAHIM FAIEZ
Posted: 07/08/2014 3:22 am EDT Updated: 07/08/2014 2:59 pm EDT

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah told his supporters on Tuesday that he will claim victory in the country’s election claiming massive fraud caused his rival to take the lead in the preliminary results. In response, the United States warned both camps against seizing power as it would put international financial and security support at stake. According to the article, violence has escalated once again across the country as a suicide bomber struck Afghan and foreign forces near a eastern province clinic in Parwan that killed 16 people. Abdullah will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday at the Afghan capital on Friday in a bid to defuse the situation. The Afghan Independent Election Commission on Monday said that June 14 preliminary results put former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the lead for the presidency however no winner has been declared due to millions of ballots being audited for fraud. The article states: “According to the preliminary results, Ahmadzai had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent. Turnout was more than 50 percent.” In the first round of voting on April 5, Abdullah had more votes with46 percent to Ahmadzai’s 31.6 percent but did not get the majority need to avoid a runoff. While Abdullah refused to recognize this second round of voting, Ahmadzai, a U.S. educated former finance minister and World Bank official, had this to say:

“‘We welcome him (Kerry) coming here, but the real responsibility is up to us and we are hopeful that we will fulfill all our responsibilities,’ he said at a news conference at his home in Kabul. ‘We are prepared to engage in political discussion in order to make sure that we move to insure the legitimacy of the process, its fairness and the acceptance of its results.'”

The election commission does admit that vote rigging had occurred and will audit ballots from 7,000 of the 23,000 polling stations. Abdullah claims that the President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadzai and the election commission were colluding against him. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan called for both candidates to show restraint and take steps to control their supporters in order to prevent civil disorder and instability.

Ukraine takes aggressive stance toward separatists
Jul 9th 2014 2:31AM
By YURAS KARMANAU and PETER LEONARD

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian government announced it would remove  pro-Russia separatists from their reduced area of control and impose new condition before peace talks happen. However, the government will not use air and artillery strikes to regain control of rebel held territories in eastern Ukraine in order to avoid terrorizing civilians. After losing Slovyansk, the militants regrouped in Donetsk where they occupy government building and move around the city. Adrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self proclaimed independent Donetsk People’s Republic, said the rebels have 15,000 fighters and will defend the city a major industrial hub of 1 million. More than 400 people have died and tens of thousands have fled during the three month long standoff between the government in Kiev who took power after the ousting of the Russia friendly president in February and rebels. Rebels in Ukraine and nationalists in Russia want the Kremlin to protect insurgents, however Russian President Vladimir Putin remains wary of further sanctions by the West which has already banned visas and asset freezes on Russian officials and members of Putin’s inner circle after Crimea was annexed in March. According to the article, Defense Minister Valery Heletey on Tuesday said the cease fire negotiations will not continue until the rebels lay down their arms which is something the rebels refuse to do.

Algeria Hostages Freed: 25 Escape, 6 Killed In Operation At Gas Plant Occupied By Al-Qaeda-Linked Group

Algeria Hostages Freed: 25 Escape, 6 Killed In Operation At Gas Plant Occupied By Al-Qaeda-Linked Group.

The world is becoming a nastier place day by day. It sucks that everyday people are paying the price for governments waging war and militant group bent on revenge.  Today in Algeria, 25 foreign hostages escaped and six killed when Alergian forces launched an operation to free them from a remote desert gas plant. Mohamed Said, an Algerian government spokesman, stated that Thursday evening the operation was still ongoing and many of the terrorist have been killed. Three more people have been freed by the army as the operation continues after dark according to a local source (source Reuters). The standoff begain when the Battalion of Blood stormed the gas facility on Wednesday morning taking 41 foreigners hostage and demanding the halt of French military operation against al Queda linked Islamist militants in Mali. The raid increases fears that more of these attacks will occur as Algeria is just recovering from conflict with Islamist rebels in the 90s that cost 200,000 lives. The incident only raised the stakes for the French military campaign in neighboring Mali, as French President Francois Hollande said “What is happening in Algeria justifies all the more the decision I made in the name of France to intervene in Mali in line with the U.N. charter.” The exact number and nationalities of foreign hostages could not be confirmed but some countries include: Britain, United States, Norway, Japan, and Spain.

However, the concern of all countries involved is that the French action in Mali could cause backlash worse than the initial threat. The militants through contacts with media in Mauritania stated that they have men with mortars and anti-aircraft missiles in the compound and have rigged it to explode. “We hold the Algerian government and the French government and the countries of the hostages fully responsible if our demands are not met, and it is up to them to stop the brutal aggression against our people in Mali,” read one statement carried by Mauritanian media. They condemned the Algerian government for letting French warplanes fly over to Mali and shutting the borders to Malian refugees.