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News Summary: August 5 – 11

12/08/2011

This week the Israeli Interior Ministry approved the construction of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. The announcement came just a few weeks before the Palestinian Authority is to ask the UN to approve their bid for statehood. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry stated that the approval was made purely for economic, not political, reasons. The UN stated that the ‘provocative’ action ‘undermines’ any attempt at future peace negotiations.

Popular marches and protests have continued across Israel for the fourth week. The protests are predominantly directed at the increasing cost of living in Israel. The protests spread to Haifa for this first time this week, organised by Israeli-Arabs. Last Saturday saw the largest protest yet as 250,000 took to the streets of Tel Aviv.

A large rally was held in Lebanon on Tuesday in solidarity with neighbouring Syria, it was attended by a number of Lebanese actors, musicians, intellectuals and former militants. A government crackdown on protestors has intensified in recent weeks as the Assad-regime attempts to suppress growing resistance. Last week, Lebanon distanced itself from UN condemnation of Syrian actions stating it did not want to meddle in the internal affairs of Syria. The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, of which Syria has traditionally been a strong supporter, risks losing an important ally in the region if the Assad regime were to fall.

Internal support for the Assad regime in Syria has shown more signs of weakening, as former politicians and businessmen distance themselves from their leadership. Externally, the US government has imposed further sanctions on the government, though it has not yet stated that Assad must step down. The government crackdown has now expanded into the cities of Saraqib near the border of Turkey, and Qusair closer to the Lebanese border.