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News Summary: July 20 – August 4

05/08/2011

Hezbollah has threatened retaliation against Israel after it accused Israel of plotting to steal Lebanon’s maritime oil and gas resources. The maritime border has long been a point of contention between the two countries and both have submitted (conflicting) boundary proposals to the UN as they do not maintain diplomatic relations. Israel had also threatened to use force to defend the gas fields, which were only discovered in the past two years. The reserves are thought to contain enough natural gas to keep Israel energy self-sufficient for decades.

As the potential UN vote for Palestinian recognition approaches plans are being made to hold peaceful marches in the West Bank in late September. Already labelled the ‘Palestine 194’ marches, in hopes of becoming the 194th member of the UN, Palestinians hope that international recognition from the UN would give them improved status is future negotiations. The Arab League met on this week to finalise the bid, while Israel fears that this vote willundermine Israel’s standing in the eyes of the world. America has thus far hinted it would veto such a vote in the UN Security Council and President Netanyahu has been making plenty of foreign visits to secure such a veto.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak pleaded not guilty of the charge of ordering the killing of protestors in January or February or abusing his position as leader during his thirty year rule at his trial in Cairo, which started this week. Mubarak, who spoke from a hospital bed which was wheeled into a defendant’s cage for the court proceedings, reportedly suffered a heart attack when informed of the charges. Protests held outside the courtroom injured a number of people. Mubarak is on trial with seven co-defendants, including his sons, security chief and police officials.

Thursday saw Israel face a number of large-scale protests throughout the country, which have been dismissed by President Netanyahu as ‘a populist wave’. Some grievances of the protestors are the high costs of rent, raising children, fuel as well as problems with the education system. The most significant protests (estimated at 100,000 last Saturday) have thus far focussed on a controversial housing bill which would require the establishment of national committees to approve new housing projects. Opponents of the bill say that that it could take away affordable housing and environmental standards could suffer.

For the first time in five months, there has been international agreement from the UN on President Assad’s violent crackdowns in Syria. The UN condemned Syria’s violations of human rights and extreme use of force against civilians. Lebanon was the only country to distance itself from the statement, while Syria’s Turkish neighbour issued its harshest statement yet calling the events in Hama “an atrocity”. The UN has not yet passed any resolutions or applied international sanctions to Syria.