Posted by Albert Gersh - August 18, 2013
- "Execution-style" killings of Egyptian police officers raise stakes as U.S. Middle East allies throw support behind army
- Amid sectarian bombings, Hezbollah chief renews commitment to battling for Syrian regime
- Reports: Reconciliation meeting between Hamas and Fatah "failed to make progress"
- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.: Pro-Hezbollah Swiss official "unfit for continued service" at U.N.
What we’re watching today:
- At least 25 Egyptian police officers were murdered this morning in what the Associated Press describes as "execution-style" killings, with suspected Islamists ambushing two police minibuses traveling near border between Sinai Peninsula and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.The attackers forced the officers to kneel on the ground before shooting them in the backs of their heads, raising to more than 70 the number of security officials killed in recent clashes across Egypt. The Telegraph notes that the killings occurred "after 36 Islamist prisoners were killed in an attempted jailbreak," and comments that the two incidents are likely to "deepen the turmoil roiling the country, where nearly 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi since last Wednesday." Meanwhile regional actors are aligning themselves for and against the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur today urged the Egyptian army to "remain firm and strong" in seeking to quell Egyptian unrest, echoing the stance of Saudi King Abdullah, who according to the Wall Street Journal pledged support over the weekend "for what he called Egypt's fight against 'terrorism and extremism.'"
- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah last Friday literally doubled down on his organization's commitment to battle on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, declaring that "if we have a thousand fighters in Syria, they will become 2,000, and if we have 5,000 fighters in Syria, they will become 10,000." The boasts and threats came a day after a car bomb ripped through Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern Beirut district of Dahiyeh. The attack was claimed by a previously unknown jihadist group, which described the car bombing as retaliation for Hezbollah's critical role in helping the Assad regime erode nearly two years of gains by the largely Sunni rebels. Hezbollah has been under increasingly vocal criticism by Lebanese officials for entangling the country in the Syrian war, and the leader of one of the country’s largest Christian political parties declared that the Iran-backed terror group was "plung[ing] Lebanon into fire." A top Hezbollah commander was reportedly killed last week during a battle in Syria outside of Damascus.
- Palestinian media sources describe a meeting held late Sunday between Hamas and Fatah as having "failed to make progress" in achieving reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions, with Hamas rejecting calls to hold general elections in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and in Fatah-controlled West Bank territories. Efforts to bring the territories under a single Palestinian government have repeatedly failed despite pledges from both sides to make progress. A reconciliation deal inked in 2011 had the two sides agreeing to cease politically motivated arrests, but Fatah officials accused Hamas of targeting the group's members as recently as this weekend. Hamas accused Fatah of arresting six Hamas members in the West Bank, while Fatah slammed Hamas for detaining Fatah affiliates in the Gaza Strip. Establishing a single government capable of overseeing currently divided Palestinian territories is often considered a prerequisite to establishing a viable Palestinian state. A single state whose territories are ruled by competing governments is almost by definition a failed state.
- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power slammed the Swiss government last week for nominating Jean Ziegler - who has defended Hezbollah, Holocaust deniers, and the Gaddafi regime - for a position on the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Power tweeted that Ziegler was “unfit for continued service” at the UNHRC, a body that has come under repeated and consistent criticism as one that allows illiberal regimes and their supporters to target the Jewish state. Ziegler generated controversy in 2006 by telling an interviewer that he "refuse[d] to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group." The European Union later unanimously blacklisted Hezbollah's "military wing" as a terrorist group.
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