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Newsblog – 13-20 November

21/11/2012

This week’s news has been dominated by an escalation of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following Israeli air and naval attacks on the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2005. The onslaught followed days of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli strikes on militant targets in Gaza. Continued violence has so far caused more than 100, mostly civilian, Palestinian deaths and claimed three civilian victims on the Israeli side. The international community has responded by urging Israel, as well as Hamas, to moderation amongst mounting pressure for a truce agreement to avoid the threat of an Israeli ground invasion.

Egypt has been the site of truce negotiations between Hamas and Israeli representatives under the leadership of President Morsi with the help of Turkey and Qatar. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which Hamas emerged, expressed his solidarity with Gaza last week. On the 20th of November Morsi and a Hamas representative announced that a ceasefire should be reached on the same night. A deal would require  the fulfilment of Israeli conditions of no hostile fire from Gaza and international efforts to prevent Hamas from rearming as well as Hamas demands regarding an end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza and “Israel’s assassinations”.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Arab League Chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo before joining US Foreign Secretary Clinton who travelled to Israel to participate in the crisis talks.

Click here for a timeline of the latest violence between Gaza and Israel.

Following the formation of a more united and representative Syrian opposition to the regime of President al-Assad and the selection of a new leader, activist and imam, Mouaz al-Khatib, in Qatar two weeks ago, France immediately and fully recognised the new body, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary (SNC), as the legitimate representative of the opposition. France’s decision is presumably linked to geopolitical interests in the stability of the region and a particular commitment to Syria’s neighbour, Lebanon, which has been destabilised by events in Syria. Turkey and six Gulf states have also recognised the new Syrian opposition, with Turkey urging other Muslim countries to follow suit.

Initially more cautious, British Foreign Secretary  William Hague, announced his country’s decision to recognise the SNC on the 20th of November, whereas the EU recognised the new body as “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people, but not the sole ones.  Britain invited the Syrian opposition to appoint a political representative to the UK and promised help with communication equipment and the building of political and humanitarian structures.  The US’s position resembles that of the EU with President Obama regarding the Syrian opposition as “a legitimate representation of the aspirations of the Syrian people”, however, he is so far unprepared to acknowledge the SNC’s status as a “government-in-exile”.

Meanwhile brutal fighting between Syrian rebels and forces of the Assad regime continued uninterrupted amidst an increase in atrocities being committed on both sides.

by Hannah Ellerman