English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For March 08/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Jesus touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you & their eyes were opened
Matthew 09/27-35: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this.’But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district. After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 07-08/2024
Elias Bejjani/Video/ Let us be unequivocally clear, Hezbollah is an Iranian jihadist terrorist organization.
Video and Text/To All Owners of Tamed Political Parties, Politicians, Clergymen, and Mouthpiece Figures such as Gebran Bassil and Melhem Riachi: Let us be unequivocally clear, Hezbollah is an Iranian jihadist terrorist organization.
Elias Bejjani/
Quintet ambassadors to meet at Qatar Embassy in Beirut
Reports: Israel gives March 15 deadline, Hochstein drops Hezbollah withdrawal demand
Political movements step up efforts to ease southern Lebanon crisis
Hezbollah targets Israeli command center as war enters 6th month
Hezbollah delegation meets Aoun after tensions
LBCI source confirms positive outcome as Hezbollah and Aoun express satisfaction over Thursday's meeting
Loyalty to the Resistance bloc leader emphasizes constant contact with former President Aoun
Seeking common ground: Aoun and Hezbollah work toward resolution
Alain Hakim to LBCI: The opposition alone defends Lebanon's sovereignty. Here's what he said about separation with Hezbollah
Prospects for War With Hezbollah Drawing ‘Closer,’ Israeli Defense Minister Says
Throwback to when Berri and Mikati decided to delay daylight saving time
Hezbollah is getting stronger and its threat is growing: What can Israel do?/Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post
Opportunity for girls in Lebanon to become an Ambassador for a day
Has Lebanon’s Hezbollah been strengthened or weakened by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza?/Nadia Al-Faour/Arab News

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/2024
10 Things to Know About the Palestinian Authority
Hamas says Cairo talks to resume next week, truce before Ramadan unlikely
Israeli tank in 'likely scenario' fired machine gun at reporters after deadly shelling, report finds
Talks for Gaza ceasefire at a standstill, no deal likely by Ramadan
Hamas delegation leaves Cairo with ceasefire talks ongoing until agreement - statement
Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert
Biden will announce a plan for a temporary port for aid on Gaza’s coast as ceasefire talks stall
Turkish Red Crescent sends its biggest Gaza aid shipment yet
At least 200 people, mostly women and children, abducted by extremists in northeastern Nigeria
287 students abducted by gunmen in the latest school attack in Nigeria, headteacher says
UN calls for increased aid delivery to Gaza, emphasizes broad distribution
Spain announces a €20 million aid to UNRWA
Trudeau won't say if Canada will restore funding to UN relief agency in Gaza Strip
Houthi leader boasts of targeting Red Sea ships with over 400 missiles, drones
First fatal attack on shipping by Houthi rebels escalates risk for reeling Mideast
Saudi crown prince transfers another 8% of Aramco shares to sovereign wealth fund
Zelensky to visit Istanbul on Friday: official
Britain says it will provide 10,000 drones to Ukraine in its fight with Russia

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on March 07-08/2024
Biden's Disastrous Qatar Policy/Robert Williams/Gatestone Institute/March 07/2024
Ending the war in Gaza is essential for regional security/Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/March 07, 2024
UK election speculation mounts in wake of budget/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/March 07, 2024
Why Southeast Asia prefers neutrality amid superpower rivalry/Ehtesham Shahid/Arab News/March 07, 2024
Investing in women to unlock Africa's potential/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 07, 2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 07-08/2024
Elias Bejjani/Video/ Let us be unequivocally clear, Hezbollah is an Iranian jihadist terrorist organization.

March 05, 2024

Video and Text/To All Owners of Tamed Political Parties, Politicians, Clergymen, and Mouthpiece Figures such as Gebran Bassil and Melhem Riachi: Let us be unequivocally clear, Hezbollah is an Iranian jihadist terrorist organization.
Elias Bejjani/March 05, 2024

It is imperative to uphold the truth and address national matters candidly, devoid of falsehoods. It is our staunch belief that any Lebanese politician, political party owner, journalist, activist, citizen, or religious figure who propagates the false notion that Hezbollah is a legitimate Lebanese resistance entity is not only deceiving the public, but also inflicting harm upon Lebanon and its people. Such individuals must be Judicially held accountable.
It is high time to debunk the fabricated myths, legends, and delusions surrounding Hezbollah, the Iranian terrorist proxy. None of the below following assertions hold any truth:
Hezbollah is a Lebanese entity representing the Shiite community in parliament.
Hezbollah is a legitimate armed resistance body in Lebanon.
Hezbollah liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation in 2000.
Hezbollah defeated Israel in the 2006 war.
Hezbollah's armed members killed in Lebanon or abroad while fighting in Iranian battlefields are martyrs.
Hezbollah is defending Lebanon from Israel and jihadist groups such as ISIS, Daesh, and Al Qaeda.
These claims, in addition to many other similar false allegations are nothing but lies, illusions, and self-deception.
The undeniable reality about Hezbollah is as follows:
Hezbollah is solely an Iranian jihadist armed proxy and an enemy of Lebanon and its people. This fact has been explicitly stated and proudly proclaimed by the party's leaders, from the highest echelons to the ranks.
Contrary to claims, Hezbollah does not represent the Shiite communities in Lebanon; instead, it holds them hostages through coercion and terrorism. It sends their youth to senseless deaths in battles for the Iranian regime across various countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Gaza. Furthermore, Hezbollah has imposed its 27 members of parliament on the Shiites through force, intimidation, and assassinations, preventing any opposition against its terrorist agenda.
The deaths of Hezbollah members in South Lebanon, and i other Iranian battlefields are not martyrs but victims. Legally, Hezbollah leaders who recruit individuals without any legal Lebanese or international law standards must face judicial accountability.
Hezbollah did not liberate South Lebanon in 2000, nor did it emerge victorious in the 2006 war. Instead, it continues to occupy South Lebanon, as well as exert control over the entire country following the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. The 2006 war brought catastrophe upon Lebanon and its people, while Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 was solely driven by Israeli political and strategic agendas.
Contrary to popular belief, it was Hezbollah that declared war against Israel and initiated aggression following the start of the Gaza war in October, 07/ 2023, not the other way around.
Therefore, anyone who promotes the fallacy of appeasing Hezbollah within the Lebanese framework, altering the Lebanese system, or legitimizing its Iranian weapons under the guise of a defensive strategy must face legal consequences.
In accordance with global standards of sovereignty and independence, leaders of the terrorist Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, must be apprehended and brought to justice.
Additionally, UN resolutions pertaining to Lebanon (such as the Armistice Accord, Resolution 1559, Resolution 1701, and Resolution 1860), as well as the "Taif Agreement", must be enforced. These resolutions and agreements mandate the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and the establishment of state authority through legitimate and sovereign forces across Lebanese territory. In conclusion, Lebanon's current woes stem not from its system but from the Iranian occupation masked by corrupt and deceitful politicians and rulers. That is the undeniable truth.

Quintet ambassadors to meet at Qatar Embassy in Beirut
Naharnet/March 07/2024  
The ambassadors of the five-nation group - the U.S., France, Egypt, Qatar and KSA - are meeting today at the Qatari Embassy, local media reports said Thursday. The meeting will discuss a presidential dialogue initiative by the National Moderation bloc, al-Jadeed reported, while another local report in the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper said that the quintet will adopt in a statement the bloc’s initiative. Crisis-hit Lebanon has been without a president since Michel Aoun's term ended in October last year, with neither of the two main blocs -- Hezbollah and its opponents -- having the majority required to elect one. The international community and the five-nation group have long urged Lebanese leaders to end months of political wrangling and stem the financial meltdown.

Reports: Israel gives March 15 deadline, Hochstein drops Hezbollah withdrawal demand
Naharnet/March 07/2024 
Israel has informed Western countries that it has set a “March 15 deadline for reaching a political settlement with Lebanon” after which it would “escalate military operations to a broad war,” Western diplomats told al-Akhbar newspaper. Diplomats meanwhile told the Nidaa al-Watan daily that U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein “has backed down from the condition of Hezbollah’s withdrawal” from the border region, and that “he is no longer mentioning this matter in his meetings.”“His entire demand has become a ceasefire with guarantees from both parties,” the diplomats said. A diplomatic source meanwhile told the newspaper that “Hochstein’s visit to Beirut did not only aim to ‘defuse the bomb’, but rather included “a follow-up mechanism that was agreed on with the official sides, to pave the way for readiness on the ground when a temporary ceasefire gets declared in Gaza.”The Gaza truce “is supposed to apply to Lebanon through kickstarting negotiations over the implementation of U.N. resolution 1701 with all its stipulations,” the source added. The source also revealed that Hochstein has “formed a U.S. work group led by U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson that will hold meetings at the embassy and devise a political paper for implementing Resolution 1701.”

Political movements step up efforts to ease southern Lebanon crisis
NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arab News/March 07, 2024
BEIRUT: Political efforts are intensifying to prevent further escalation of the violence in southern Lebanon amid growing opposition among Christians to the confrontation leading to open war. The fear of escalation has increased due to the involvement of Hezbollah in the conflict in the Gaza Strip, as well as the instability caused by the presidential vacuum in Lebanon. There are growing calls to peacefully resolve the situation in southern Lebanon and avoid further violence. The most prominent of these came from the Council of Maronite Bishops, which announced its “categorical refusal of dragging Lebanon into the Palestinian-Israeli war, from the flames of which all Arab countries have distanced themselves.”The bishops expressed their concern about “any Lebanese negotiations moving forward regarding the situation in the south without the presence of a president who has the authority to deal with this issue.”
A delegation of Hezbollah MPs met former Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Thursday after political tension between the two parties had continued for months. MP Mohammed Raad, head of the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc, said that Aoun “was briefed on the exact and objective situation on the ground, and we expressed our keenness to reinforce national unity in the face of Israel’s challenge. “We need to show our good intentions and insist on responsible communication between all groups and those concerned about this country so we can ultimately solve the main issues we are facing,” he said. In a statement, the Free Patriotic Movement — founded by Michel Aoun — feared “linking the presidential election to the war in Gaza.” The party also expressed concern over “some people’s actual intentions to compromise the partnership, stall the process of electing a president, and govern the country without him (the president), therefore excluding Christians from the governance.”Several MPs representing Christian parliamentary blocs told US envoy Amos Hochstein, who met them at the Parliament on Monday night, that they disagreed with “the division of the contents of Resolution 1701 as a fundamental issue and refuse to have the internal presidential elections affected by the war in the Gaza Strip or any other detail.”They also said that “external support should be limited to preventing non-Lebanese interventions in the elections.”Meanwhile, Lebanese civil defense teams found the remains of a young Lebanese civilian on Thursday morning. Rabih Al-Yassin, 25, was at his house in the southern border town of Dhayra on Wednesday night when an Israeli airstrike hit the residential home. The rescue team had previously found no trace of him after long hours of lifting rubble during the night. The team found his remains on Thursday morning. Al-Yassin was laid to rest by residents. Israeli bombing — which uses highly destructive weapons — killed dozens of Hezbollah members as well as civilians. Their bodies were recovered from under the rubble of buildings and in nearby fields. On Thursday, Hezbollah announced “the targeting of the Afdoun settlement with Katyusha rockets in response to the enemy’s attacks on the town of Dhayra and the death of a citizen there.”The tension along the southern front eased as confrontations between Hezbollah and the Israeli army entered their sixth month. Complex negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip before Ramadan are underway, and Hezbollah is counting on the ceasefire covering south Lebanon as well. The Israeli army — for the second time in two days — directed gunfire at the outskirts of the agricultural area of Wazzani to intimidate farmers. Israeli shelling also targeted the outskirts of Naqoura, Alma Al-Shaab and Yaroun in the Bint Jbeil District, along with some neighborhoods in Kfar Kila and fields in the Marjayoun Plain. Israeli warplanes bombed the towns of Aitaroun and Aita Al-Shaab. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the army bombed Hezbollah military buildings in Aitaroun and Aita Al-Shaab.Hezbollah targeted the Israeli military site of Zabdin and said in a statement that it was “a direct hit.”It also targeted “a newly established command headquarters for the sector in Liman with artillery shells and directly hit it” and targeted the “Al-Zaoura position with rockets,” it said.

Hezbollah targets Israeli command center as war enters 6th month
Agence France Presse/March 07/2024 
Hezbollah attacked Thursday a command center in northern Israel as the conflict stretched into its sixth month. The group said it has attacked a "newly created" command center in Liman while Israeli artillery shelled Aita al-Shaab, Salib near al-Ghajar, the Yaroun reserve and the outskirts of Rmeish in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah later targeted an artillery position in al-Zaoura in the occupied Golan Heights and the Avdon settlement in response to Israel's attacks on civilians and the killing of a civilian in a strike on his house in Dhaira on Wednesday night, while Israeli warplanes struck Aitaroun. On Wednesday Hezbollah carried out four attacks on northern Israel, including one with a suicide drone as the group held a funeral in southern Lebanon for two of its fighters and a woman, all members of the same family, who were killed in an Israeli strike the day before. An AFP photographer saw hundreds of people turning up for the funeral in Houla, near the border with Israel that has seen deadly exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces since the start of the Gaza war. Tuesday's strike on Houla killed a man and his son who were initially identified as civilian victims but later claimed by Hezbollah as fighters "martyred in battle".
During the funeral, the coffins of Hassan Hussein, his wife Ruwaida Mustafa who was also killed in the same strike, and their 25-year-old son, Ali Hussein, were draped with the Hezbollah flag, the AFP photographer said. The family's three-storey house was completely razed, the photographer added. Hezbollah has targeted Israeli positions across the border almost daily since an October 7 attack by its Palestinian ally Hamas triggered war with Israel. Israeli forces along the country's northern border have responded with strikes against Hezbollah positions as well as targeted operations against senior officials.
Ali Fayyad, a member of Lebanon's parliament for Hezbollah, issued fresh threats against Israel during the funeral. "Do not make a mistake, think a thousand times before committing an error," he was quoted as saying by Lebanon's National News Agency. "We will use every method at our disposal... if the enemy decides to move towards an open war."Shortly after the deadly strike on Houla on Tuesday, Hezbollah fired at civilian targets in northern Israel. On Wednesday Hezbollah announced it had launched an explosive drone against an Israeli army position on the border "in response to the Zionist enemy's aggressions against the villages of the south and civilian homes".U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein was on a tour of Lebanon and then Israel earlier this week in an effort to reach a negotiated resolution to the cross-border hostilities. Hezbollah has insisted its fighters would not stand down before a ceasefire is secured in the Israel-Hamas war. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said recently that any truce in Gaza would not change Israel's goal of pushing Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon, by force or diplomacy. The border clashes since October have killed at least 302 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters but including 50 civilians, according to an AFP tally. On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and seven civilians have been killed.

Hezbollah delegation meets Aoun after tensions
Naharnet/March 07/2024
A delegation from Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc comprising MPs Mohammad Raad, Ali Ammar and Hassan Fadlallah on Thursday met with former president Michel Aoun in Rabieh. The talks tackled the situations in the south and the domestic situations. “The communication between us and Mr. President, General Michel Aoun, is constant and continuous. It was not severed in the past and will never be severed,” Raad said after the meeting. “This communication brings reassurance and tranquility to the spirits of the Lebanese, regardless of their regions and sects, in light of the history of coexistence and real partnership between us in addressing the national issues,” Raad added. “This visit was an opportunity to put Mr. President in the picture of the delicate military situations (in the south) away from the exchanges of tirades from here or there. We have expressed what can boost national unity in the face of the Zionist enemy, which is carrying a genocide today in Gaza,” the lawmaker went on to say. “As for our Lebanese situation, we are required to show good intentions and insist on responsible exchanges between all groups and those concerned with the affairs of this country, in order to resolve the main problems that we are suffering from,” Raad said. Aoun and his son-in-law, Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, had recently criticized Hezbollah's activation of the southern front against Israel in support of the Palestinians in Gaza. Relations between the two parties were already strained by differences over the presidential file and the caretaker Cabinet.

LBCI source confirms positive outcome as Hezbollah and Aoun express satisfaction over Thursday's meeting
LBCI/March 07/2024
A Hezbollah source confirmed to LBCI that the party and former President Michel Aoun were satisfied with the meeting's highly positive results. During the meeting, emphasis was placed on the importance of the Mar Mikhael Understanding, which was considered a safeguard for the Lebanese situation. The source noted that the conflict in the South was the main focus of the meeting. Former President Aoun inquired about matters related to this issue and directly received answers that he expressed satisfaction with. The source revealed that the issue of the presidency was addressed with the intention of separating it from the current situation in the South. It is worth mentioning that Thursday's meeting took place in Rabieh between former President Michel Aoun and a delegation from Hezbollah, including MP Mohammad Raad, the head of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc, and MPs Ali Ammar and Hassan Fadlallah.

Loyalty to the Resistance bloc leader emphasizes constant contact with former President Aoun
LBCI/March 07/2024
MP Mohammad Raad, the head of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc, affirmed that the line of communication with former President Michel Aoun is ongoing, has never been severed in the past, and will never be interrupted. He emphasized that this line instills reassurance among the Lebanese, regardless of their sects and regions, due to the historical coexistence and partnership in approaching national matters and issues. After he met with Aoun at his residence in Rabieh, leading a delegation from the bloc, Raad pointed out that the visit provided an opportunity for Aoun to be informed about the precise on-the-ground and objective situations, away from the verbal exchange happening elsewhere. He stated, "We took action that can enhance national unity in the face of the challenge posed by the Zionist enemy, which is currently committing genocide in Gaza. It is perplexing that international voices remain entirely silent and do not rise to bear human responsibility in addressing such brutality practiced by the enemy in Gaza." Raad emphasized that the Lebanese situation requires expressing good intentions and a commitment to responsible dialogue among all sectors and stakeholders concerning this country, ultimately leading to resolving the major problems it faces.

Seeking common ground: Aoun and Hezbollah work toward resolution
LBCI/March 07/2024
Former President Michel Aoun, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on one side, and Hezbollah on the other are attempting to mend fences following Aoun's opposition to the war in the South and the presidential vacuum, despite his expressed commitment to the resistance or what they term as the "strength" card.
In the context of this reconciliation effort, Aoun met with a delegation from Hezbollah, including MP Mohammad Raad, head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, and MPs Ali Ammar and Hassan Fadlallah. According to statements made by Raad after the meeting, there are indications, albeit uncertain, that the process has begun: Hezbollah informed LBCI that both the party and President Aoun were pleased with the meeting's outcomes, emphasizing that the Mar Mikhael agreement provides immunity to the Lebanese situation. Aoun inquired about matters concerning the ongoing war in the South and expressed satisfaction with the answers received. Regarding the presidential file, Hezbollah stated that it was discussed to separate it from the situation in the South. It was notable that MP Gebran Bassil was absent from the meeting. According to available information, communication between Hezbollah and the head of the FPM is ongoing, but it has not yet reached the level of direct engagement.

Alain Hakim to LBCI: The opposition alone defends Lebanon's sovereignty. Here's what he said about separation with Hezbollah

LBCI/March 07/2024
Member of the Political Bureau of the Kataeb Party and former minister Alain Hakim considered that Hezbollah bears responsibility for its actions and what is happening in the south. He pointed out that the party has no Lebanese role but is solely Iranian, serving as a "deterrent force" used by Iran.Hakim stated in an interview on LBCI's "Nharkom Said" TV show: "We are the fiercest opponents of Hezbollah, but we are the only ones extending a hand to all Lebanese." He noted that the Kataeb Party had initiated dialogues with Hezbollah, led by former minister Elie Marouni, but discussions stalled on the issues of sovereignty and arms. Regarding the alleged separation that the Kataeb Party discussed with Hezbollah, Hakim said that this separation has several criteria, emphasizing that the Kataeb Party will not accept continuing in the same situation in the next phase. He described the opposition as the defender of Lebanon's sovereignty and interests today, demanding a state and Lebanese sovereignty. Hakim affirmed that the opposition is fulfilling its duties and "disturbing" those who are undermining the state. Hakim said, "We must send a message to the outside that we are not satisfied with the current situation in Lebanon."
He added, "It is important for us that the opposition be a unified and strong front, and all our political actions are based on consultation with all opposition parties."He highlighted that the recent meeting with US envoy Amos Hochstein confirms the opposition's unity towards external issues and proves that the front can reach practical solutions. He concluded that a state without effective institutions is futile, and the only solution today is to reconstitute it.

Prospects for War With Hezbollah Drawing ‘Closer,’ Israeli Defense Minister Says
FDD/March 07/2024
Latest Developments
Hezbollah’s continued attacks on Israel are bringing the two closer to war, warned Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on March 5. “We are committed to the diplomatic process. However, Hezbollah’s aggression is bringing us closer to a critical point in the decision-making regarding our military activities in Lebanon,” Gallant said during a meeting with U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein in Tel Aviv. Hochstein visited Israel after stopping in Beirut on March 4 to hold talks with senior Lebanese officials, including Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Through his visit, Hochstein said he seeks to find a diplomatic solution to prevent ongoing clashes between Israel and the terrorist group from devolving into a full-scale war.
Gallant and Hochstein met the day after Hezbollah launched an anti-tank missile at the northern Israeli community of Margaliot, killing an Indian foreign worker and injuring seven other foreign workers from India and Thailand. In response, Israeli forces shelled the missile’s launch site and conducted airstrikes on Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Shortly after their meeting, Hezbollah launched a rocket barrage at northern Israel, with two rockets striking a home and a clothing store in the town of Kiryat Shmona, causing no injuries.
Expert Analysis
“Preventing war is noble and desirable. But none of the proposals for ending the ongoing round of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel would do so in any meaningful sense — they are mere stopgap measures and would only delay a war for which Hezbollah will continue preparing assiduously, leaving Israel to confront an unrepentant and far more lethal iteration of the group in the future.” — David Daoud, FDD Senior Fellow
“Hamas created problems for Hezbollah on October 7. It made any future attempts at a surprise attack and infiltration of the Galilee region by its Radwan Force much more difficult to carry out. This development also led to a credible Israeli military warning about the removal of Hezbollah positions along the Lebanon-Israel border. Thus, it may be in Hezbollah’s interest to find a diplomatic solution where it will move its forces north of the Litani River in exchange for concessions by Israel.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal
Hezbollah’s Near-Daily Attacks
Hezbollah began launching attacks on Israel using rockets, missiles, and drones shortly after Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel. Since then, Israel has replied to near-daily attacks from Hezbollah on its northern communities by targeting Hezbollah leaders, cells, and infrastructure in airstrikes. On March 3, Hezbollah carried out attacks on the northern Israeli communities of Metula, Ghajar, and Malkia. Sirens also sounded in numerous other northern Israeli communities. On February 29, Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system intercepted rockets near Israel’s populous northern city of Haifa.
Israel Calls for International Community to Contain Hezbollah
At the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Israel evacuated more than 80,000 residents from communities along the Israeli-Lebanese border, fearing attacks from Hezbollah. Israeli officials have continuously warned that if diplomatic efforts fail, Israel will use force to move Hezbollah from the border to north of the Litani River, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said during a February 13 address that “it would be easier to bring the river to the border, than Hezbollah to the river.” Hezbollah is believed to have stockpiles of more than 150,000 rockets and long-range missiles aimed at Israel in addition to an air defense system. Senior Hezbollah officials have threatened that its missiles can reach all of Israel, not only the north

Throwback to when Berri and Mikati decided to delay daylight saving time
Associated Press/March 07/2024 |
Once again, Lebanese will set their clocks forward by one hour at the end of March, losing perhaps a bit of sleep but gaining more glorious sunlight in the evenings as the days warm into summer. Last spring, chaos ensued when the government announced a last-minute decision to delay the start of daylight saving time by a month — until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Some institutions made the change and others refused as citizens tried to piece together their schedules. Within days, the decision was reversed. "It really turned into a huge mess where nobody knew what time it was," says Anne Buckle, web editor at timeanddate.com, which features information on time, time zones and astronomy.
Where did this all come from, though?
No reason was given for the decision, but a video of a meeting between Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri leaked to local media showed Berri asking Mikati to postpone the implementation of daylight savings time to allow Muslims to break their Ramadan fast an hour earlier. Mikati responds that he had made a similar proposal but goes on to say that implementing the change would be difficult as it would cause problems in airline flight schedules, to which Berri interjects, "What flights?"
Sectarian controversy and two time zones
After the postponement of daylight savings was announced, Lebanon's state airline, Middle East Airlines, said the departure times of all flights scheduled to leave from the Beirut airport between Sunday and April 21 would be advanced by an hour. The country's two cellular telephone networks sent messages to people asking them to change the settings of their clocks to manual instead of automatic in order for the time not to change at midnight, although in many cases the time advanced anyway. While public institutions, in theory, are bound by the government's decision, many private institutions, including TV stations, schools and businesses, announced that they would ignore the decision and move to daylight savings on Sunday as previously scheduled. In some cases, the debate took on a sectarian nature, with many Christian politicians and institutions, including the small nation's largest church, the Maronite Church, rejecting the move. "A decision like this should have been announced a year earlier to avoid harming people's lives," church spokesman Walid Ghayyad told AFP. "It cannot be made over a cup of coffee." Two prominent Christian political parties -- the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces -- called on the government to reverse its decision. Many schools, mostly Christian, went into daylight savings time, but some other institutions have complied with the government. While in many cases, the schism broke down along sectarian lines, some Muslims also objected to the change and pointed out that fasting is supposed to begin at dawn and end at sunset regardless of time zone.
Within days, the decision was reversed.
Why are clocks set forward in the spring?
How we came to move the clock forward in the spring, and then push it back in the fall, is a tale of that spans over more than a century — one that's driven by two world wars, mass confusion at times and a human desire to bask in the sun for a long as possible. There's been plenty of debate over the practice, but about 70 countries — about 40% of those across the globe — currently use what Americans call daylight saving time. While springing the clocks forward "kind of jolts our system," the extra daylight gets people outdoors, exercising and having fun, says Buckle. "The really, really awesome advantage is the bright evenings, right?" she says. "It is actually having hours of daylight after you come home from work to spend time with your family or activities. And that is wonderful." Here are some things to know so you'll be conversant about the practice of humans changing time:
In the 1890s, George Vernon Hudson, an astronomer and entomologist in New Zealand, proposed a time shift in the spring and fall to increase the daylight. And in the early 1900s, British home builder William Willett, troubled that people weren't up enjoying the morning sunlight, made a similar push. But neither proposal gained enough traction to be implemented. Germany began using daylight saving time during World War I with the thought that it would save energy. Other countries, including the United States, soon followed suit. During World War II, the U.S. once again instituted what was dubbed "war time" nationwide, this time year-round.
In the United States today, every state except Hawaii and Arizona observes daylight saving time. Around the world, Europe, much of Canada and part of Australia also implement it, while Russia and Asia don't currently.
After World War II, a patchwork of timekeeping emerged across the United States, with some areas keeping daylight saving time and others ditching it. "You might have one town has daylight saving time, the neighboring town might have daylight saving time but start it and end it on different dates and the third neighboring town might not have it at all," says David Prerau, author of the book "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time." At one point, if riders on a 35-mile (56-kilometer) bus ride from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, wanted their watches to be accurate, they'd need to change them seven times as they dipped in and out of daylight saving time, Prerau says. So in 1966, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which say states can either implement daylight saving time or not, but it has to be statewide. The act also mandates the day that daylight saving time starts and ends across the country.
Confusion over the time change isn't just something from the past.
Changing the clocks twice a year leads to a lot of grumbling, and pushes to either use standard time all year, or stick to daylight saving time all year often crop up. During the 1970s energy crisis, the U.S. started doing daylight saving time all year long, and Americans didn't like it. With the sun not rising in the winter in some areas till around 9 a.m. or even later, people were waking up in the dark, going to work in the dark and sending their children to school in the dark, Prerau says. "It became very unpopular very quickly," Prerau says. And, he notes, using standard time all year would mean losing that extra hour of daylight for eight months in the evenings in the United States.
In 1908, the Canadian city of Thunder Bay — then the two cities of Fort William and Port Arthur — changed from the central time zone to the eastern time zone for the summer and fall after a citizen named John Hewitson argued that would afford an extra hour of daylight to enjoy the outdoors, says Michael deJong, curator/archivist at the Thunder Bay Museum. The next year, though, Port Arthur stayed on eastern time, while Fort William changed back to central time in the fall, which, predictably, "led to all sorts of confusion," deJong says. Today, the city of Thunder Bay is on eastern time, and observes daylight saving time, giving the area, "just delightfully warm, long days to enjoy" in the summer, says Paul Pepe, tourism manager for Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission. The city, located on Lake Superior, is far enough north that the sun sets at around 10 p.m. in the summer, Pepe says, and that helps make up for their cold dark winters. Residents, he says, tend to go on vacations in the winter and stay home in the summer: "I think for a lot of folks here, the long days, the warm summer temperatures, it's a vacation in your backyard."

Hezbollah is getting stronger and its threat is growing: What can Israel do?
Seth J. Frantzman/The Jerusalem Post/March 07/2024 |
Israel embraced diplomacy and the “reward” was thousands of rockets fired at northern Israel, 500 homes damaged, 80,000 people evacuated and a dozen people murdered by Hezbollah in the North.
An attack in northern Israel on Monday killed Patnibin Maxwell, a thirty-one year old from India working in Israel with a wife seven-months pregnant, India Today reported. Nine others were wounded.
“The incident happened near Margaliot, targeting agricultural workers, Israel confirmed,” the report said.
It’s not known if they were the target, but Hezbollah’s attacks are calculating. In addition to thousands of unguided rockets, it has also used anti-tank guided missiles to target many specific locations on the border. It has damaged 500 buildings in this war, since October 8 in support of the Hamas massacre the day before. Hezbollah is only displaying the threat that could emerge in a larger war, enabled by the international community the past two decades. Israel left Lebanon in 2000 and Hezbollah became exponentially more powerful. This happened in Gaza too Israel left it in 2005. In both instances terror groups moved closer to Israel’s border and with the backing of Iran and connivance of other countries, the groups became massively powerful. In essence, Hamas today is like Hezbollah was a decade ago. Hezbollah is considered the stronger of the two groups. However, Hamas showed on October 7 that it poses an existential threat. We now know the number of Hamas tunnels was underestimated. In addition we know Hamas likely pushed messages via third countries that were designed to lure Israel into a false sense that Hamas was “deterred.”
No mixed messages from Hezbollah
There are no mixed messages with Hezbollah, which is simply an undeterred threat. However, there are many problematic trends taking place. US envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Lebanon this week and is pushing for diplomacy as the “only way” to stop the Hezbollah attacks. It’s important to remember that back in October 2022 Israel was pressured into a maritime deal with Lebanon. Hochstein and the US at the time claimed that this deal would somehow reduce tensions by demarcating the maritime border.
Oddly, Israeli leaders at the time bought this, even though the deal was only achieved after Hezbollah threatened war. Basically, someone thought that letting Hezbollah threaten war and then rewarding it was a good way to make a deal.
We now know the deal did not reduce the chances of war. Israel embraced diplomacy and the “reward” was thousands of rockets fired at northern Israel, 500 homes damaged, 80,000 people evacuated and a dozen people murdered by Hezbollah in the North.
Pat Maxwell, the Indian worker, now joins the list of Hezbollah’s crimes. However, the international community and the UN has not condemned Hezbollah. The UN was supposed to make sure Hezbollah would not be on the border after 2006. Instead, the UN helped pave the way for Hezbollah. This also happened in Gaza. In both instances the international community has played a major role in enabling these illegal terrorist groups to grow stronger and increase their threats by embedding in a civilian population.
Israel today is engaged in a difficult campaign against Hezbollah. Because Israel is always seen as the aggressor, even when Hezbollah murders people with rockets, the IDF must weigh escalation. There is a belief among Israel’s top brass and political leadership that the Hezbollah threat must end. However, it’s not clear if Israel has the political capital to engage in an offensive in the north, while it is dealing with the Hamas threat in Gaza.
Hezbollah can read Israel’s media just as well as anyone else and understands that Israel’s threats against Hezbollah are weighted against concerns about a two-front war. This isn’t 1967 or 1973. Hezbollah believes it will receive “proportional” responses to its endless daily attacks. It also chooses the time and place to attack.
Sometimes it targets military bases such as the northern command in Safed or Mount Meron, sometimes it targets homes. It has openly said that the residents of northern Israel will not return until Hezbollah’s demands are met.
Hezbollah wants Israel to cave into a deal in Gaza. This is what Iran wants and what other patrons and hosts of Hamas want. The goal of course is to get Israel to leave Gaza and reset the clock to October 6, so that another October 7 can happen when Iran or Hezbollah are ready.
Israel has also shifted messaging a bit. While Israeli leaders had previously threatened to turn parts of Lebanon into Gaza, basically a widespread intense military campaign, it’s clear now that the messaging is about removing Hezbollah from the border. Pressure from the US or France for a diplomatic deal will come. Israel has learned what these deals mean. It means Hezbollah got stronger and decided when to raise tensions. Israel’s northern residents have said they don’t want to live under this kind of threat in the future. This leaves a narrowing set of choices for Israel to follow.
Meanwhile the Hezbollah threat continues. Hezbollah took credit Monday for targeting a kibbutz and other villages and IDF vehicles. Hezbollah also took credit for a rocket barrage that led to a power outage in Nahariya. Iranian media highlighted the Hezbollah claims.
*Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Opportunity for girls in Lebanon to become an Ambassador for a day
Naharnet/March 07/2024
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the British Embassy in Beirut is launching its ‘Ambassador For A Day’ (AFAD) competition, now jointly with the Embassy of Canada to Lebanon. AFAD winners will get to shadow an Ambassador in Lebanon for one day, to see first-hand how girls can become leaders and advocates for change. Each winner will be paired with an Ambassador or head of a U.N. Agency in Lebanon to spend a day with them and their team, and be invited as Guests of Honour to a ceremony hosted by the British and Canadian embassies. "This promises to be an unforgettable opportunity to build skills in diplomacy, confidence, and leadership," the British Embassy in Beirut said in a statement Thursday. "We encourage all girls from all backgrounds living in Lebanon, aged 15-18 years old and not at university to apply,"the embassy said. The competition closes midnight 7 April 2024. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Inspire Inclusion. To enter, participants should submit either a video or short essay in English or Arabic answering the question:
"If you were an Ambassador for a Day, how would you inspire better inclusion of others in your community?"
For the full competition details and how to enter: Link https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lebanon-ambassador-for-a-day-competition-2024
Competition terms and conditions: Link https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lebanon-ambassador-for-a-day-competition-2024

Has Lebanon’s Hezbollah been strengthened or weakened by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza?
Nadia Al-Faour/Arab News/March 07/2024
Lebanon is fearful tit-for-tat violence between Israel and Hezbollah could escalate into devastating conflict
Pressure to support Hamas in Gaza while avoiding all-out war with Israel puts Iran-backed Hezbollah in a bind
DUBAI: After a string of losses suffered by Hezbollah since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began on Oct. 7, Middle East analysts are increasingly asking whether the Iran-backed group has been politically and militarily weakened by the contained conflict in southern Lebanon.
Despite talk of a potential ceasefire in Gaza, there is no guarantee that Israel and Hezbollah will halt their deadly exchanges along Lebanon’s southern border. Nor would it put a stop to the suspected targeted killings of militia leaders deep inside Lebanese territory.
For Lebanon, even this relatively contained tit-for-tat between Israel and Hezbollah has been costly. Civilians living along the border have been killed while thousands have fled north over fears of an Israeli invasion.
On Monday, US envoy Amos Hochstein landed in Beirut in a bid by Washington to reduce regional tensions. His visit coincided with an attack on northern Israel, launched from Lebanon, that left an Indian worker dead and seven others wounded.
In a statement during the visit, Hochstein said an escalation “will not help the Lebanese or the Israelis return to their homes. There is no such thing as a limited war; a diplomatic solution is the only way out.”
To achieve “a lasting fair security arrangement between Lebanon and Israel,” Hochstein said “a temporary ceasefire is not enough” and that “a limited war is not containable.”
Security along the Blue Line, demarcated by the UN in 2000 after Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon, “has to change in order to guarantee everyone’s security,” he added.
Some analysts believe Hezbollah has done enough to demonstrate support for Palestinians and Hamas, and therefore has nothing more to prove by dragging Lebanon into a major war with Israel.
“It will emerge much stronger and already is stronger internally, because it can claim that it has deterred an Israeli attack,” Nadim Shehadi, former head of the Middle East program at London’s Chatham House, told Arab News.
“If there is no all-out war, then Hezbollah can shut down all the critics of its arms and declare all its opponents as collaborators with the enemy, because they will claim that Hezbollah’s arms protected Lebanon and deterred an attack.
“This is, of course, getting less convincing as Israel escalates, but in the end, they will twist it in their favor.”
• 10 Israeli soldiers and reservists killed by Hezbollah and other militia attacks since Oct. 8.
• 229 Hezbollah members killed by Israel, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria.
• 30 Civilians, three of whom were journalists, killed by Israeli strikes on Lebanon.
Although all sides appear keen to avoid a direct military confrontation that could lead to a major regional conflict, there has been no lull in hostilities except as part of the temporary ceasefire in November last year during the Israel-Hamas war.
Speaking on Monday, Hezbollah’s deputy chief, Naim Qassem, reiterated that the militia, which says it is acting in support of Palestinians in Gaza and Hamas, would stop its attacks on Israel once the war in the enclave ends. “Stop the assault on Gaza and war will end in the region,” he said.
However, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, has said that there will be no let-up in Israeli operations against Hezbollah even if a Gaza ceasefire is secured.
Israel has warned that there would be no letup in its operations against the Hezbollah in Lebanon for as long as they continue to post a threat. (AFP)
Indeed, there is pressure from more hawkish elements in Israel for the government to act decisively against the Hezbollah threat on the country’s northern border. Likewise, Hezbollah is under pressure to ride to the rescue of its Hamas brethren.
There are practical reasons why Hezbollah may be keen to avoid an all-out war with Israel. The availability of weapons, finance for postwar reconstruction and the objectives of Iran could all be key considerations in Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s calculations.
Through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, “Tehran has invested billions of dollars in Hezbollah’s missiles,” Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli lecturer, author and professor of Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel, told Arab News.
“Their job, their most important priority, is to deter Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear installations. If Hezbollah gets involved in a war against Israel now, with all those missiles, then Iran’s nuclear program will be left badly exposed.”
Indeed, no matter how sincere its support for the Palestinian cause, Hezbollah has an incentive to keep its powder dry so it can continue to act as a credible deterrent against a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran.
“Another is the fact that if there is a war, this time around Iran cannot pay to rebuild Lebanon back like it did in 2006,” said Javedanfar.
“Iran’s economy is doing terribly now and has been under sanctions since 2012. Iranians won’t be able to pay nor restock Hezbollah’s ammunition, and this will all undermine Hezbollah’s position.”
Since Hezbollah began its campaign in solidarity with Hamas on Oct. 8, ostensibly to draw Israeli resources away from the Gaza Strip, Israel has launched a series of targeted drone strikes on militia commanders in Lebanon.
Hussein Yazbeck, whose precise rank in the militia is unknown, was killed on Jan. 3. Wissam Hassan Al-Tawil, a commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan Force, was assassinated on Jan. 8, while Ali Hussein Burji, aerial forces commander, was killed in southern Lebanon on Jan. 9.
Israel has also struck suspected IRGC and Hezbollah weapons depots and missile launch sites in Lebanon, many of which were situated in residential areas.
So far, the armed exchanges have resulted in seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 Israel Defense Force soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks on Israel from Syrian territory, without any injuries.
Hezbollah has named 229 members who have been killed by Israel, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 37 operatives from other groups, a Lebanese soldier and at least 30 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.
Lebanese ministers have continued to urge restraint. “At a time where we insist on calm and call on all sides to not escalate, we find the Israeli enemy extending its aggression,” Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, said in a statement last month.
The statement came in response to a deadly Israeli airstrike in Nabatieh, southern Lebanon, which left 10 civilians dead, including seven members of the same family and a mother and her two children. A day of mourning was called in the aftermath of the attack.
Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, condemned the “massacre,” adding that “the bloodshed in Nabatieh is on the hands of the international envoys, the UN and human rights organizations” for failing to act to reduce tensions.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, vowed to retaliate for the attack. “The enemy will pay the price for these crimes,” Hassan Fadlallah, a senior Hezbollah official, said in a statement.
Soon after, a barrage of rockets was fired toward a military base in Safed in northern Israel, killing Israeli army Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo.
Although Hezbollah may have strengthened its position politically in Lebanon, while preserving its strategic advantage on behalf of Iran, there are some who will view the militia’s restraint as a sign of weakness at a time when its Palestinian allies were most in need.
“We don’t want war, but if they (the Israelis) attack us we’ll be sure to attack them back,” Ali Chedid, a resident of Dahiyeh, a predominantly Shiite suburb of Beirut and Hezbollah stronghold, told Arab News.
“Hezbollah has been doing a great job of showing restraint so far. It is not a matter of not having enough weaponry or funding to launch a war. Rather it is because we know if we set out to destroy Israel, we also will be destroyed in the process. We never claimed we would remain unscathed.”
For Chedid, the war in Gaza has put Hezbollah in an impossible fix that will be hard for its leaders to navigate if they hope to avoid, at the very least, tarnishing their reputation as champions of the Palestinian cause and the main bulwark against Israel.
“Hezbollah is damned if it attacks because then people will claim it is dragging the country into war for its own interests,” said Chedid. “It is also damned if it doesn’t because it will be accused of being all smoke and mirrors and having left Gazans to suffer alone.”

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on March 07-08/2024
10 Things to Know About the Palestinian Authority
FDD/March 07/2024
Israel has long sought a partner for peace to establish a two-state solution — the proposed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that predates the 1948 establishment of the Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority (PA), forged initially from the 1993 Oslo Accords, is a transitional government that is still touted as the most obvious choice. However, after more than three decades and two presidents, the Palestinians have failed to convert the PA into a viable government. Poll after poll indicate that the PA’s corruption and dysfunction make it deeply unpopular among Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
1. The PA was created 30 years ago by the Oslo Accords
Founded in 1964 as an umbrella organization for Palestinian terrorist groups, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is today recognized by international bodies as the official representative of the Palestinian people. In 1993 and then 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a pair of agreements known as the Oslo Accords. By recognizing the State of Israel, the PLO emerged as the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations with Israel. The Oslo Accords also led to the establishment of the PA to serve as an interim governing body in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. While technically distinct, the PLO and the PA have had the same leadership (currently Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat).
2. The PA is not a democratic representative of Palestinians
The last presidential election in the West Bank was held in 2005, when PLO and Fatah faction representative Mahmoud Abbas swept to power. Abbas is now 88 years old, serving the 20th year of his original four-year presidential term. In the 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas emerged victorious, prompting Washington to urge Abbas to retain power so as to prevent a designated terrorist group from taking over. There have been no presidential or legislative elections since. Washington has optimistically described Abbas as committed to making peace with Israel. However, Abbas has since ruled by decree, incited violence against Jews, peddled antisemitic tropes, proved unwilling to make diplomatic compromises, and dissolved the Palestinian parliament. He exercises autocratic power in the West Bank.
3. The PA is widely unpopular among Palestinians
If offered the opportunity to exercise self-determination and vote, Palestinians would not vote for Fatah — the political party that dominates the PA and PLO — in either Gaza or the West Bank.
GAZA: After Hamas’s 2006 legislative victory was effectively nullified by Abbas with backing from the United States, Hamas took control of Gaza in a bloody civil war against the Palestinian Authority. Despite the fact that Hamas has brought multiple wars upon the people of Gaza and that the coastal enclave has suffered from economic sanctions as a result of the Hamas conquest, the group remains popular. A poll in December 2023 by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that if similar parliamentary elections were held today, 52 percent of Palestinians in Gaza would vote for Hamas, compared to 21 percent for Fatah. In presidential elections, 71 percent of Palestinians in Gaza would vote for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh over PA President Abbas.
WEST BANK: A poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development in November 2023 found that 85 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank have a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” view of the PA. The December 2023 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll found that 92 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank want Abbas to resign. If presidential elections were held today, 82 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank would vote for Hamas’s Haniyeh over Abbas. In parliamentary elections, 50 percent of West Bank Palestinians would vote for Hamas, compared to 18 percent for Fatah.
4. Hamas and the Fatah faction have repeatedly failed to reconcile since the 2007 Civil War
Attempts to reconcile the Palestinian factions over the years have repeatedly failed. The Saudis, Turks, Egyptians, Qataris, and others have unsuccessfully attempted to end their dispute. In April 2014, the PA sidestepped peace talks with Israel and signed a unity pact with Hamas. The unity government dissolved in June 2015 because Hamas would not allow the PA to operate in Gaza. Subsequent attempts to reconcile in 2017 and 2023 also failed. The Russian government launched a new round of Palestinian unity talks in February 2024.
5. The PA has rejected multiple peace offers
The PA has rejected or failed to respond to multiple peace offers from Israel and the United States over the last 25 years. In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered PLO chairman Yasser Arafat a Palestinian state encompassing all of Gaza and at least 94 percent of the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capital. Arafat turned the offer down. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered more land in 2008 and “accepted in principle” allowing some Palestinians to live in Israel as part of an agreement — a concession that no previous Israeli prime minister was willing to make. Again, the PA rejected Israel’s offer. When Prime Minister Netanyahu said in 2015 that he was “prepared to go to Ramallah or anywhere else right now” to resume peace talks, the PA refused. In 2016, then Vice President Joe Biden reportedly presented a peace plan to Abbas while visiting Ramallah. Abbas rejected the proposal. The PA also rejected the Trump administration’s peace plan in 2020.
6. The PA is rife with corruption
Corruption within the PA is widespread, including embezzlement, nepotism, and blackmail. Initially touted as a reformer compared to his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has diverted public funds and international aid to enrich himself and his family. In 2020, a Palestinian whistleblower revealed that Abbas’s office had been regularly transferring European aid money to the president’s personal accounts. Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat was repeatedly arrested for criticizing the PA’s corruption and human rights abuses, including a final 2021 arrest during which he was beaten to death by PA security forces.
7. The PA encourages violence by issuing stipends to Palestinians who commit acts of terrorism
The PA provides monthly stipends to Palestinians imprisoned in Israel for committing terrorist attacks. Former prisoners and the families of “martyrs” are also eligible for compensation. The payments, which American legislators refer to as “pay-to-slay,” are based on a sliding scale relative to the amount of time an individual spends in prison, which typically correlates to the severity of the attack. The PA spends upwards of $300 million per year on pay-to-slay. With the addition of 3,550 Palestinian terrorists who were arrested since the attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023, that figure is expected to grow.
8. The PA incites violence against Jews in its schools
The themes of violence and martyrdom permeate the PA’s school curriculum. For example, a PA textbook praises Dalal Mughrabi, the perpetrator of a 1978 terrorist attack that killed 38 civilians, as a heroic female role model. An elementary math exercise asked students to calculate the number of martyrs who died during the First and Second Intifadas — the violent Palestinian uprisings marked by frequent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Despite the European Union pledging in 2021 to “work with the Palestinian Authority” to revise its curriculum, PA textbooks remain largely unchanged.
9. PA security forces have occasionally attacked Israeli troops
The Israeli security services and the Palestinian security forces engage in security cooperation under the auspices of the U.S. military. However, after the PA lost control of pockets of the West Bank in 2021 and 2022 and overall violence surged, PA security forces have been involved in dozens of attacks against Israeli military personnel and civilians. In May 2022, Daoud Zubeidi, an officer in the PA security forces, killed Israeli police officer Noam Raz. In September 2022, Ahmed Abed, an intelligence officer in the PA security services, and another gunman opened fire on Israeli troops in the Palestinian village of al-Jalama, killing Bar Falah, the deputy commander of Israel’s elite Nahal reconnaissance unit. In March 2024, a member of the PA security forces killed two Israelis at a West Bank gas station. Fatah celebrates these officers, lauding the violence and terrorism within PA ranks.
10. The Biden administration proposes a revitalized PA to govern postwar Gaza
The Biden administration has suggested that a reformed PA should preside over postwar Gaza. On November 18, 2023, President Biden wrote in The Washington Post that “Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated “the benefits of revitalizing the Palestinian Authority” in a meeting with Abbas on February 7, 2024. Israel has repeatedly said that the PA cannot be allowed to govern Gaza after the war. “I will not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism and finance terrorism,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said on December 12.

Hamas says Cairo talks to resume next week, truce before Ramadan unlikely
Associated Press/March 7, 2024
Hamas said Thursday that its delegation has left Cairo and that talks on a Gaza cease-fire and hostage release will resume next week, making it extremely unlikely that mediators will broker a deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations reached an impasse over Hamas' demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war. But they did not rule out a deal before Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Sunday and has emerged as an informal deadline. Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Israel "refuses to commit to and give guarantees regarding the cease-fire, the return of the displaced, and withdrawal from the areas of its incursion." But he said the talks were still ongoing and would resume next week. There was no immediate comment from Israel. The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to broker an agreement on a six-week cease-fire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed on the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage, but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual, more permanent cease-fire. Hamas has said it will not release all of the remaining hostages without a full Israeli withdrawal from the territory. Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages, and the remains of 30 others, captured during Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war. Hamas is also demanding the release of a large number of prisoners, including top militants serving life sentences, in exchange for the remaining hostages. Israel has publicly ruled out those demands, saying it intends to resume the offensive after any cease-fire with the goal of destroying Hamas. The Egyptian officials say Israel wants to confine the negotiations to the more limited agreement. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations with media. Both officials said mediators are still pressing the two parties to soften their positions. Ramadan, the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, often sees Israeli-Palestinian tensions rise over access to a major holy site in Jerusalem. It is expected to begin on Sunday, but the start of the lunar month depends on the sighting of the moon.

Israeli tank in 'likely scenario' fired machine gun at reporters after deadly shelling, report finds
BEIRUT/THE HAGUE, March 7 (Reuters)/March 7, 2024
An Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters reporter in Lebanon in October by firing two shells at a clearly identified group of journalists and then "likely" opened fire on them with a heavy machine gun in an attack that lasted 1 minute and 45 seconds, according to a report into the incident published on Thursday. The report by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) - which was contracted by Reuters to analyse evidence from the Oct. 13 attack that killed visuals journalist Issam Abdallah - found that a tank 1.34 km away in Israel fired two 120 mm rounds at the reporters. The first shell killed Abdallah, 37, and severely wounded Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Christina Assi, 28. A Reuters investigation in December covered TNO's preliminary finding that a tank in Israel had fired at the journalists. In its final report on Thursday, the institute revealed that audio picked up by an Al Jazeera video camera at the scene showed the reporters also came under fire from 0.50 calibre rounds of the type used by the Browning machine guns that can be mounted on Israel's Merkava tanks. "It is considered a likely scenario that a Merkava tank, after firing two tank rounds, also used its machine gun against the location of the journalists," TNO's report said. "The latter cannot be concluded with certainty as the direction and exact distance of (the machine gun) fire could not be established."Reuters could not independently determine if the Israeli tank crew knew it was firing on journalists, nor whether it also shot at them with a machine gun and, if so, why. Neither of the two surviving Reuters reporters or another AFP journalist at the scene remembered the machine gun fire. All said they were in shock at the time. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was working on a response to questions from Reuters about the incident. Asked to comment on TNO's preliminary findings in December, the IDF said: "We don't target journalists." A day after the Reuters investigation was published, it said the incident took place in an active combat zone. International humanitarian law bars attacks on journalists as those in the news media have the full scope of protection granted to civilians and cannot be considered military targets. "We condemn, in the strongest terms, the attack on a clearly identifiable group of journalists, working in the open. The attack killed our colleague Issam Abdallah and injured several others. We reiterate our calls on Israel to explain how this could have happened and to hold those responsible to account," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said.
AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd reiterated his call for a thorough and transparent investigation by the Israeli military. "If reports of sustained machine gun fire are confirmed, this would add more weight to the theory this was a targeted and deliberate attack," he said. Ihtisham Hibatullah, Al Jazeera's manager of international communications, urged the Israeli government to disclose the findings of its own investigation. "This incident strongly indicates intentional targeting, as confirmed by investigations, including by TNO," he said. Lebanon's Minister of Information did not respond to a request for comment. To read the 70-page TNO report, which explains how the independent research institute in The Hague triangulated the firing point of the tank rounds and analysed the audio of the machine gun fire, click here. TNO noted that the seven journalists were wearing blue flak jackets and helmets, most with "PRESS" written on them in white letters. They had been filming cross-border shelling from a distance in an open area on a hill near the Lebanese village of Alma al-Chaab for nearly an hour before the attack. Video footage of the aftermath of the attack also showed a black car belonging to Reuters marked "TV" in large yellow letters made out of tape on both the hood and the roof. TNO said there was a clear line of sight from where the tank rounds were fired to the scene of the attack. In the live TV feeds ahead of the attack, one or more drones can be heard and an Israeli helicopter was also visible overhead in some footage. The institute was able to determine exactly where the two tank rounds came from because it had video of the second round's muzzle blast and flight, in addition to audio files recorded at the scene of the incident. TNO's analysis of the machine gun fire showed that the "only reasonable match" was for a 0.50 calibre weapon fired from 1.34 km away - the same distance as the tank rounds - but the audio recordings were not sufficient to determine the firing point. However, the fact the bursts of bullets came so quickly after the tank rounds, coupled with the analysis, led TNO to conclude it was "likely" they came from the same place. The independent institute did not offer any other scenario for the origin of the machine gun fire. About 30 seconds after the second tank round, there was a burst of some 25 shots from a machine gun, followed by bursts of nine and 12 shots. Just over 30 seconds later, there were three shots, then a single shot and a metallic ping, which may have been the bullet hitting a low wall near the camera, TNO said.
Reuters photographer Thaier Al-Sudani, 47 cameraman Maher Nazeh, 53, as well as two journalists from Al Jazeera and another from AFP were also wounded in the attack.
Several of the experts who reviewed the TNO report at the request of Reuters expressed divergent views about whether the tank crew had deliberately targeted journalists. "The TNO report does conclude that it was likely, in addition to the two tank rounds, that machine gun fire came from the same location, and that adds to, or compounds the, deliberateness with which they seem to have been targeted, directly," said Jessica Dorsey, an expert in international humanitarian law at Utrecht University."And I think that that, from a legal perspective, if this ever got to a courtroom, makes even more of a compelling argument that this was indeed a war crime," she said. However, Nick Kaufman, a British-Israeli lawyer who served in the IDF Military Advocate General's Corps and has defended high-profile clients against war crime charges at international criminal tribunals, said it was still unclear why the tank had fired on the reporters. "On the basis of the TNO report alone, it's not possible to conclude that this was intentional targeting of journalists as opposed to the pursuit of a legitimate military objective which went awry," he said. "One would need to have a full inquiry and understand the military intelligence which underlay the deployment of the two rounds."The day after the attack, Israel's military said it had visuals of the incident and it was being investigated. No results have been made public.

Talks for Gaza ceasefire at a standstill, no deal likely by Ramadan
Alex Marquardt and MJ Lee, CNN/March 7, 2024
A ceasefire deal in Gaza that would see Israeli hostages freed and the first break in the fighting in more than three months is unlikely to happen by the start of Ramadan which the Biden administration had been aiming for, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Negotiators had hoped to have a draft agreement this week after days of meetings in Cairo, “but it won’t happen,” said one diplomat familiar with the discussions who described the last few days of talks as “very hectic.”Two American officials agreed that the prospects are not promising of Israel and Hamas agreeing to the temporary truce by the start of the Muslim holy month early next week. “Hope is fading,” one US official said. A failure to achieve a deal in the next few days would come after weeks of US President Joe Biden and administration officials saying an agreement needs to be in place by Ramadan to avoid escalation of the five-month war. He warned Tuesday that without a ceasefire by then the region could become “very, very dangerous.”Israel has also warned that if the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza aren’t home by Ramadan they will launch a military offensive into Rafah in southern Gaza where around 1.5 million Palestinians are trying to seek safety from the fighting. Representatives from Hamas, Egypt, Qatar and the United States had gathered this week in the Egyptian capital for more talks while Israel refused to send a delegation because Hamas has not yet provided a list of hostages who are alive and dead, a recent demand by Israel.
The Biden administration insists Israel has already accepted the broad terms of a six-week pause while Hamas is holding out. A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Thursday after days of talks with no obvious breakthrough in negotiations aimed at reaching a ceasefire in exchange for hostage releases. Egypt state-run Al Qahera news, citing a senior source, said that the delegation has left to consult on the proposals, and that negotiations will resume next week. “It’s in the hands of Hamas right now,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday as he boarded Air Force One. He had raised hopes last week saying that a ceasefire could be in place by this past Monday, a prediction he later admitted was unlikely. One thing the administration and Hamas agree on is the desire for a temporary, six-week truce to turn into a permanent ceasefire without a resumption in the fighting. Biden officials have said they believe the pause could evolve into a more enduring peace, while Israel has maintained they plan to continue efforts to dismantle Hamas, particularly in Rafah.
Hope is not lost that a first phase could be launched soon, the diplomat cautioned, saying they believe an agreement could be possible in the first week or two of Ramadan. But the deadly incident last week in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza City when an aid convoy was mobbed and Israeli forces opened fire “took us back 10 steps,” the diplomat said. Hamas then presented a response to a negotiated framework to mediators that “no one is happy about.”A deal, if successful, is expected to include multiple phases. In the first stage, when the fighting would stop for at least six weeks, around 40 Israeli elderly, female, sick and wounded hostages are expected to be released. In parallel, Israel would also free Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisoners, a number that could be in the hundreds. Hamas had backed off some of its more stringent demands, sources had told CNN, but following last week’s “Flour Massacre,” as it has become known, the group pushed for more assurances. Namely that in the first phase the Israeli military would pull back from Gazan cities and in a second withdraw from the enclave altogether, according to the diplomat who said the IDF is refusing to agree to those points. Not only do Palestinians from northern Gaza need to be able to return to what is left of their homes, Hamas has argued in the talks, but do so without going through IDF checkpoints. There are demands by Hamas, the diplomat said, that specific machinery be provided to move rubble as well as field hospitals and clinics.
Hamas “will continue negotiations,” the group said in a statement Wednesday, arguing that it has “shown flexibility” but Israel continues to “evade the obligations of the agreement” being discussed. “We have affirmed our conditions for a ceasefire: complete [IDF] withdrawal from the sector, the return of displaced persons to the areas they left, especially in the north, and the provision of sufficient aid, relief, and reconstruction,” Hamas senior leader Osama Hamdan told a news conference in Beirut on Tuesday. Ramadan, a month of fasting and piety for Muslims, is a “period in which you have calm and you’re able to do the essential humanitarian work,” a senior administration official told reporters in a weekend briefing. About a quarter of Gaza’s population is on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations. The Biden administration has escalated its criticism of Israel’s refusal to open more border crossings to allow aid into Gaza, particularly to address needs in the north. “There are no excuses,” Biden posted on X. Even without a ceasefire, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, it is urgent “to dramatically increase the humanitarian assistance that’s getting to people inside of Gaza. The situation with children, women and men who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’ making inside of Gaza is unacceptable and not sustainable.”Blinken made the comments before a meeting with Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, a central player in the ceasefire mediation. In their meeting, Blinken acknowledged that the pause and hostage deal is unlikely before the start of Ramadan, said a person familiar with the meeting. The same person said the CIA Director Bill Burns, who has been leading the administration’s efforts in the negotiations, had a long meeting with Thani during the latter’s visit to Washington. “We continue to believe that the obstacles are not insurmountable and that a deal can be reached,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said Wednesday when asked about the lack of a breakthrough. “The deal is in the interest of Israel. It’s in the interest of the Palestinian people. And it’s in the interest of the broader region, so we’re going to continue to push for one.”

Hamas delegation leaves Cairo with ceasefire talks ongoing until agreement - statement
CAIRO (Reuters)/March 7, 2024
A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Thursday, but will continue with Gaza ceasefire talks until an agreement is reached with Israel, the Palestinian group said in a statement, with a Hamas official blaming Israel for the lack of progress. "Hamas's delegation left Cairo this morning for consultation with the leadership of the movement, with negotiations and efforts continuing to stop the aggression, return the displaced and bring in relief aid to our people," the Hamas statement said. But senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Israel had been "thwarting" efforts to conclude a ceasefire deal mediated by Qatar and Egypt during four days of talks hosted by Cairo. Abu Zuhri told Reuters that Israel was rejecting Hamas's demands to end its offensive in the enclave, withdraw its forces, and ensure freedom of entry for aid and the return of displaced people.There was no immediate comment from Israel. Negotiators from Hamas, Qatar and Egypt - but not Israel - have tried this week to secure a 40-day ceasefire in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins early next week. The deal presented to Hamas for Gaza would free some of the hostages it still holds following the Oct. 7 attack, in which Israel said 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted. Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would also be released. Hamas pledged to continue the Cairo talks, but officials in the Palestinian militant group said a ceasefire must be in place before hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled. A source had earlier said Israel was staying away from the Cairo talks because Hamas refused to provide a list of hostages who are still alive. Hamas says this is impossible without a ceasefire as hostages are scattered across the war zone. Despite earlier comments negotiations were at an impasse, the U.S. said on Wednesday that a truce accord was still possible. "We continue to believe that obstacles are not insurmountable and a deal can be reached ... so we're going to continue to push for one," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in Washington. Health officials in Gaza said the number of people confirmed killed in Israel's offensive had now passed 30,800. It reported 83 deaths in the past 24 hours and witnesses said the Israeli bombardments continued in Khan Younis, the southern city of Rafah, and areas in central Gaza. They said Israel had on Thursday returned 47 bodies of Palestinians it had killed earlier during the military offensive, through its crossing with the enclave in the southern Gaza Strip, before they were buried.

Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert
REUTERS/March 07, 2024
GENEVA: A UN expert said on Thursday that Israel was destroying Gaza’s food system as part of a broader “starvation campaign” in its war against Hamas. Aid officials have warned of looming famine five months into the campaign against the Islamist Palestinian group, while hospitals in the isolated northern part of the enclave say children have started dying from malnutrition. “Israel is not only denying and restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel is destroying the food system in Gaza,” Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council. “Israel has mounted a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he added, saying that included targeting small-scale fishermen. Israel denies restricting relief into Gaza and has since last week begun working with private contractors to deliver aid. It also denies waging war on civilians, saying its fight is with Hamas.  Israel participates in Human Rights Council debates as an observer and may address the forum. Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor, is one of dozens of independent human rights experts mandated by the UN to report and advise on specific themes and crises. He was due to speak about fishing and climate change but used much of the first part of his speech to the 47-member Geneva council to address the Gaza situation. He alleged that Israel is targeting small-scale fishers by denying them access to the sea and destroying boats and shacks. Around 80 percent of Gaza’s fishing sector has been destroyed since Oct. 7, he said, adding that every boat had been demolished by Israeli forces in the main port of Gaza City. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will push on with its offensive against Hamas, including into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite growing international pressure to stop. “There is international pressure, and it’s growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks. We need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war,” he said. About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the border with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught. Addressing a graduation ceremony at a training school for Israeli army officers, Netanyahu also said Israel must push back against a “calculated attempt” to blame it for Hamas’ crimes. He added that Israel would operate throughout Gaza, “including Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold.”“Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen,” Netanyahu said.

Biden will announce a plan for a temporary port for aid on Gaza’s coast as ceasefire talks stall
AP/March 07, 2024
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will announce a plan Thursday for the US military to help establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast to increase the flow of aid into the territory during the Israel-Hamas war, according to senior administration officials. The announcement comes amid a widening humanitarian crisis across Gaza that has forced many people to scramble for food to survive and begun leading to deaths from malnutrition. Hopes for reaching a ceasefire before the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in the coming days, stalled Thursday when Hamas said its delegation had left Cairo, where talks on a deal were being held. The outline for the ceasefire would have including a wide infusion of aid into Gaza. Aid groups have said their efforts to deliver desperately needed supplies to Gaza have been badly hampered because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, the ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order. It is even more difficult to get aid to the isolated north. The US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s announcement before his State of the Union speech, said the planned operation will not require American troops on the ground to build the pier that is intended to allow more shipments of food, medicine and other essential items. The officials did not provide details about how the pier would be built. One noted that the US military has “unique capabilities” and can do things from “just offshore.” They said it would likely take weeks before the pier was operational.
The port will allow shipments to flow into Gaza via Cyprus from the US military and allies, the administration officials said. The move provides one more layer to the extraordinary dynamic that’s emerged as the United States has had to go around Israel, its main Mideast ally, and find ways to get aid into Gaza, including through airdrops that started last week. Pressure on Israel to establish a sea route for aid has been growing in recent days. European Union Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen planned to visit Cyprus on Friday to inspect installations at the port of Larnaca, from where aid is expected to leave for Gaza if a sea route is established. Israeli officials said Wednesday the country would cooperate with the creation of a sea route from Cyprus, an idea that’s been under discussion for months. American Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that he had briefed officials on such a maritime option. Kurilla said Central Command has provided options for increasing the number of trucks taking aid to areas in northern Gaza. International mediators had hoped to alleviate some of the immediate crisis with a six-week ceasefire, which would have seen Hamas release some of the Israeli hostages it is holding, Israel release some Palestinian prisoners and aid groups be given access to to get a major influx of assistance into Gaza. Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others captured during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war. Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed to the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual more permanent ceasefire. They say Israel wants to confine the negotiations to the more limited agreement.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations with media. Both officials said mediators are still pressing the two parties to soften their positions. Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Israel “refuses to commit to and give guarantees regarding the ceasefire, the return of the displaced, and withdrawal from the areas of its incursion.” But he said the talks were still ongoing and would resume next week. There was no immediate comment from Israel. Mediators had looked to Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Sunday, as an informal deadline for a deal because the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting often sees Israeli-Palestinian violence linked to access to a major Jerusalem holy site. The war already has the wider region on edge, with Iran-backed groups trading fire with Israel and the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly ruled out Hamas’ demands for an end to the war, saying Israel intends to resume the offensive after any ceasefire, expand it to the crowded southern city of Rafah and battle on until “total victory.” He has said military pressure will help bring about the release of the hostages.“The (Israeli military) will continue to operate against all Hamas battalions all over the strip — and this includes Rafah, the last stronghold of Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a combat officers’ graduation ceremony Friday. “Whoever tells us not to operate in Rafah tell us to lose the war. And that will not happen.”
Hamas-led militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured another 250 when they stormed across the border on Oct. 7. Over 100 hostages were released in a ceasefire deal last year. Israel launched a massive air, land and sea campaign in Gaza that has driven some 80 percent of the population from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine. Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 30,717 Palestinians have been killed. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tallies but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed. The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, maintains detailed records and its casualty figures from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN and independent experts. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence. It blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because its fighters operate in dense, residential neighborhoods. Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is particularly dire in the north, where many of the estimated 300,000 people still living there have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive. The UN says one in six children younger than 2 in the north suffers from acute malnutrition.

Turkish Red Crescent sends its biggest Gaza aid shipment yet

ANKARA (Reuters)/March 7, 2024
Turkey's Kizilay (Red Crescent) is sending its biggest aid shipment yet to Gaza via Egypt, with a ship carrying some 3,000 tons of food, medicine and equipment leaving for the Egyptian port of Al-Arish on Thursday. Turkey, which has harshly criticised Israel for its military offensive in Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and warned of consequences if calm cannot be achieved by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, starting on Sunday. "This aid, which will be delivered to Gaza with the support and cooperation of the Egyptian Red Crescent, will keep the hopes of Palestinians alive on the eve of Ramadan," Turkey's ambassador to Cairo, Salih Mutlu Sen, said on social media platform X. Kizilay head Fatma Meric Yilmaz told broadcaster CNN Turk that the ship would make two trips to Egypt to deliver the aid, largely collected through donations. It will then be transported in around 200 trucks to the border town of Rafah in Gaza, where more than one million people have taken refuge, she added. The aid includes flour, hygiene products, ready-to-eat meals, ambulances, and portable kitchens. "We have almost enough aid collected to fill the second ship too," she said. "Once the ship returns here, we will fill it up again and the ship will then go again around the 26th (of March) near the middle of Ramadan."Turkey has already sent thousands of tons of aid to Egypt for delivery to Gaza.Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkey does not view the Palestinian group Hamas, which runs Gaza, as a terrorist organisation. It was an attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel on Oct. 7 that prompted the current Israeli military offensive, now in its fifth month. In Gaza, the humanitarian situation is worst in the north of the enclave, which is beyond the reach of aid agencies or news cameras. Whole swathes of the territory are cut off from food, with the already curtailed aid supplies to the rest of Gaza dwindling to barely a trickle over the past month. Last week, the United States started dropping aid on Gaza by air, with the Netherlands, France, and others contributing. Turkey has not voiced eagerness to join the air drops so far. A Turkish defence ministry official told reporters on Thursday that Ankara's aid efforts for Gaza by air would continue via Egypt and Jordan in line with needs and demands.

At least 200 people, mostly women and children, abducted by extremists in northeastern Nigeria
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP)/March 7, 2024
At least 200 people, mostly women and children displaced by violence in northeastern Nigeria, were abducted by Islamic extremists while they were searching for firewood near the border with Chad, the United Nations office in Nigeria said late Wednesday. The victims had left several displacement camps to look for firewood in Borno state’s Gamboru Ngala council area when they were ambushed and taken hostage, the U.N. said, in the latest attack in the conflict-hit region where frequent abductions and killings limit movement. “The exact number of people abducted remains unknown but is estimated at over 200 people,” the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria Mohamed Fall said in a statement about the attacks, which occurred several days ago but whose details are only emerging now because of limited access to information in the area. “While an unspecified number of older women and children under 10 have reportedly been released, scores of IDs remain unaccounted for, according to protection partners," Fall added. Locals blamed the attack on Islamic extremist rebels who launched an insurgency in Borno in 2009 seeking to establish their radical interpretation of Islamic law in the region. At least 35,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced due to the violence by the militant Boko Haram group and a breakaway faction backed by the Islamic State group. Many of those fleeing the violence are in displacement camps like the ones in Gamboru Ngala where security is limited to areas near the camp, leaving them either to starve in the camps — amid dwindling aid — or risk their safety in search of food. The latest attack is a “stark reminder” that women and girls are worst hit by the conflict, Fall said as he called for the immediate release of the victims. “This act of violence against already traumatized citizens offends our common humanity,” he said. Nigerian security forces fighting the insurgents are overstretched as they also battle dozens of armed groups attacking remote communities in other parts of the northern region. The crises have added to pressures on Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu, who was elected last year after promising to end the violence

287 students abducted by gunmen in the latest school attack in Nigeria, headteacher says
AFP/March 07, 2024
ABUJA, Nigeria: Gunmen attacked a school in Nigeria’s northwest region Thursday morning and abducted at least 287 students, the headteacher told authorities, marking the second mass abduction in the West African nation in less than a week. Locals told The Associated Press the assailants surrounded the government-owned school in Kaduna State’s Kuriga town just as the pupils were about to start the school day. Authorities had said earlier that more than 100 students were taken hostage in the attack. Sani Abdullahi, the headteacher, however, told Kaduna Gov. Uba Sani when he visited the town that the total number of those missing after a headcount was 287. “We will ensure that every child will come back. We are working with the security agencies,” the governor told the villagers. Abductions of students from schools in northern Nigeria are common and have become a source of concern since 2014 when Islamic extremists kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in Borno state’s Chibok village. In recent years, the abductions have been concentrated in northwestern and central regions, where dozens of armed groups often target villagers and travelers for huge ransoms. The assailants stormed a government primary school in Chikun’s Kuriga town shortly after morning assembly at 8 a.m., taking pupils hostage before any help could come, said Joshua Madami, a local youth leader. Security forces and a government delegation arrived in the town several hours later as a search operation widened, while community members and parents gathered to wait for news. “The government is trying everything possible with the security agencies to see how we can rescue them,” said Musa, the council chairman. The attack occurred days after more than 200 people, mostly women and children, were abducted by extremists in northeastern Nigeria. Anti-militant militia leaders have blamed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) for last week’s attack in Borno state, the heart of a militant insurgency which has left more than 40,000 people dead and two million displaced since 2009. Several details about the attack in rural Ngala are still unclear and officials have given conflicting accounts. The number of people reported missing does not necessarily reflect the number held in captivity.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the attack took place on Thursday last week and estimated over 200 people from camps for displaced people had been abducted. It said armed attackers took the women while they were out collecting firewood. “The United Nations strongly condemns the reported abduction of internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of them women, boys and girls,” it said. OCHA said the figure came from initial estimates from community leaders, and said headcounts were being carried out in four displacement camps to verify the number.
It said the camps house almost 104,000 people, mostly women and children. Anti-militant militia leader Shehu Mada had said that women from displacement camps were “rounded up by ISWAP insurgents” on Friday. “Some of the women were able to escape and returned,” said Mada, who helped conduct a headcount which found “47 women from the wood-collecting mission could not be accounted for.”Usman Hamza, another anti-militant militia leader, confirmed the account. Kidnapping is a major problem across Nigeria, which is also grappling with criminal militias in the northwest and a flareup of intercommunal violence in central states. Women, children and students are often targeted in the mass abductions in the conflict-hit northern region and many victims are released only after paying huge ransoms. Last month kidnappers seized at least 35 women returning from a wedding in northwestern Katsina state. Observers say both attacks are a reminder of Nigeria’s worsening security crisis which resulted in the deaths of several hundred people in 2023, according to an AP analysis. Bola Tinubu was elected president of Nigeria last year after promising to end the violence. But there has been “no tangible improvement in security situation yet” under Tinubu, said Oluwole Ojewale, West and Central Africa researcher with the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies.

UN calls for increased aid delivery to Gaza, emphasizes broad distribution
LBCI/March 07/2024
In a recent statement, a spokesperson for the United Nations highlighted the urgent need for expanded aid delivery to Gaza, underscoring the importance of diverse transportation methods. The UN spokesperson stressed that any means of delivering additional aid to Gaza, whether by sea or air, is considered "very positive." Furthermore, the spokesperson emphasized that the international community should prioritize efforts to enhance wide-scale distribution and facilitate ground entry of aid.

Spain announces a €20 million aid to UNRWA
AFP/March 07/2024
On Thursday, the Spanish government announced additional aid worth 20 million euros to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to address the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced this aid during a joint press conference with the agency's Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, who reiterated the call for opening land crossings to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid.

Trudeau won't say if Canada will restore funding to UN relief agency in Gaza Strip
The Canadian Press/March 07/2024
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won't say if Canada intends to restore funding to a UN relief agency operating in the Gaza Strip. "We're not making any announcements today. But we will continue to make sure Canada does the right thing in this situation and puts the protection of civilian life at the forefront of everything we do," he told reporters at a news conference Thursday. Trudeau added that ministers are in the Middle East right now working with partners in the region and discussing how Canada can help. The prime minister said Canada needs to get more aid into Gaza and has been discussing the possibility of airlifting aid in. Sixteen countries paused payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency after Israel alleged that a dozen of the aid organization's workers participated in the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7. That day, militants killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took another 250 hostage, triggering a devastating war. Authorities in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, say more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli military response. UNRWA is the primary provider of social and humanitarian assistance in the territory, including health care and education. It relies almost exclusively on donations from UN member countries. A senior government source told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that a final decision has not yet been made on restoring funding to the agency. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks. Canada has not missed a payment since announcing the pause in funding. Its payment of $25 million for this year isn't due until April. Canada's discussions come after the European Union opted late last week to proceed with a partial delivery of its funding after reaching an agreement with the agency that includes allowing the EU to audit it. International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen was due to deliver an update on aid at a Wednesday morning press conference, but it was abruptly cancelled about 90 minutes before it was set to begin. A spokeswoman for Hussen would only say it was cancelled for "logistical reasons." She would not confirm or deny a report from CBC News on Tuesday evening that Hussen was set to announce UNRWA funding would flow as scheduled. A pair of Liberal MPs who have been vocal about the Israel-Hamas war issued a joint statement on Thursday that recommended Canada maintain its pause on funding for the agency. "Given its history, we believe that UNRWA lacks sufficient governance and internal controls to ensure that humanitarian aid delivered by Canada will be reliably delivered to those who actually need it and that there is a serious risk funds will be misappropriated by Hamas," read the statement from Anthony Housefather and Marco Mendicino, the former public safety minister. Israel ramped up its criticism of the embattled UN agency on Monday, saying 450 of its employees were members of militant groups in the Gaza Strip, though it provided no evidence to back up its accusation. The Israel-Hamas war has driven 80 per cent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes, and UN officials say a quarter of the population is starving as access to the enclave is restricted. UNRWA is the main supplier of food, water and shelter there, but it is on the brink of financial collapse.

Houthi leader boasts of targeting Red Sea ships with over 400 missiles, drones
SAEED AL-BATATI/Arab News/ 07 March 2024
AL-MUKALLA: The leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia said on Thursday his forces had launched 403 drones and missiles against 61 ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since the beginning of their offensive, boasting that retaliatory strikes by US and UK military forces had strengthened his group. In a televised speech, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi said 19 missiles and drones against seven ships had been launched since Friday and that modern weaponry was employed that went undetected by the US and UK navies. “In yesterday’s strike there was amazement at the precision of the attack and the power of damage,” he said, referring to an assault on Wednesday. A missile fired by the Houthis struck the M/V True Confidence, a Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier, in the Gulf of Aden. Three sailors were killed and four injured, three of whom remain in a critical condition according to a statement by the US Central Command on Thursday. Significant damage was also caused to the ship. This comes as Houthi media reports that the US and UK conducted two airstrikes on Ras Isa in the western Hodeidah province on Thursday, less than a day after another round of US and UK airstrikes hit the city’s airport. The US military is said to have carried out preemptive attacks on ballistic missiles, drones, and remotely operated and explosive-laden boats which the Houthis planned to fire at international and commercial ships in the Red Sea from areas under their control in Yemen. At the same time, the Houthis said they had attacked the M/V True Confidence and other ships after its warnings against entering the Red Sea were disregarded. The group also accused the US of pressuring ships to challenge its blockade against vessels bound for Israel. In a post on X, Mohammed Abdulsalam, a chief negotiator for the Houthis, said: “The Yemeni military does not strike any ship until it is instructed not to cross, and some comply and depart, while others that refuse are attacked. We hold America responsible for the repercussions of any events in the Red Sea.” The head of the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, said the group did not intend to kill civilian sailors on the M/V True Confidence. He added that if the US shared the cost, the Houthis would compensate the families of those killed and injured. “We feel that America should compensate these victims for a purposeful act. We are also willing to compensate them for an unintended act,” Mohammed Al-Houthi wrote on X. Since November, the Houthis have seized one commercial ship and launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and drone boats against commercial and navy vessels in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab and the Gulf of Aden. The Houthis say their actions are in support of the Palestinian people and to push Israel to allow food, water and medicine into the besieged Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of eight East African countries based in Djibouti, expressed concern on Thursday about an impending environmental disaster on the M/V Rubymar, which sank after being struck by a Houthi missile in February. The group said if the cargo of 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate fertilizer and 200 tonnes of oil leaked into the sea, it would take more than 30 years to clean up. A statement by the group said: “IGAD calls upon all the stakeholders to invest in peaceful options to address the looming environmental disaster in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The attacks on the ship must cease forthwith.”

First fatal attack on shipping by Houthi rebels escalates risk for reeling Mideast
Associated Press/March 07/2024
The first fatal attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on shipping threatens to further sever a crucial maritime artery for global trade and carries with it risks beyond those just at sea. Already, the White House is warning that there will be a response to Wednesday's attack on the Barbados-flagged, Liberian-owned bulk carrier True Confidence in the Gulf of Aden. What that will look like remains unclear, but the U.S. has already launched round after round of airstrikes targeting the Houthis, a rebel group that has held Yemen's capital since 2014, and more are likely on the way. However, a wider economic, humanitarian and political impact is looming from the attack. It also further highlights Yemen's yearslong war, now overshadowed by Israel's grinding war on Hamas on the Gaza Strip that may reach into the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, raising the danger of worsening regional anger.
Since the onset of the Houthi attacks, the rebels have framed them as a way to pressure Israel to stop the war, which has killed over 30,700 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. The war began Oct. 7 with a Hamas attack in Israel that killed about 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage.
But as shippers began avoiding the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the rebels began attacking ships with tenuous — or no — ties to Israel or the war. Meanwhile, U.S. and coalition warships have shot down any Houthi fire that's come near them. That's left the rebels targeting commercial ships whose only protection has been armed guards, barbed-wire fencing and water cannons — good enough to deter pirates, but not an anti-ship ballistic missile. Wednesday's attack underlines the danger to those not even involved in the war. The Houthi missile that hit the True Confidence killed two Filipinos and one Vietnamese national. "We demand the relevant sides stop immediately armed activities for the safety and freedom of navigation on international maritime routes according to international law," Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said Thursday. The Iranian-backed Houthis have not acknowledged those deaths and sought to distance themselves from any consequence of their actions. "We hold America responsible for the repercussions of everything that happens," Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote online Thursday. Another ship sank this past weekend after being abandoned following a Houthi attack.
Already, the Houthis have attacked at least one ship carrying aid bound for territory they hold. The Greek-flagged, U.S.-owned bulk carrier Sea Champion, full of grain from Argentina, was bound for Aden and then rebel-held Hodeida when it was hit in February. As hunger stalks the Gaza Strip during the Israel war, so too does it still grip Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country. "The escalation of the crisis in the Red Sea is likely to worsen the food insecurity situation in Yemen in 2024, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis," the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has warned. Then there are the conflicts gripping East Africa. The World Food Program issued a warning Tuesday regarding its operations in Somalia, saying the shipping crisis is hindering its ability to "maintain its regular flow of humanitarian aid." In war-torn Sudan, the International Rescue Committee says it has suspended its operations to Port Sudan over hiked costs and other concerns rising from the Houthi attacks.
Then there's the economic pressure. While Israel has described its economy as so far unaffected, the same can't be said for neighboring Egypt. Traffic in its Suez Canal linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea onward to Europe has dropped by nearly half, according to U.N. figures. Those shipping fees provide crucial revenue for Egypt's government, which has allowed the Egyptian pound to rapidly devalue as it reached a deal with the International Monetary Fund to increase its bailout loan from $3 billion to $8 billion. Further economic turmoil could spark unrest in Egypt, less than 15 years on from the 2011 Arab Spring.
Since beginning its campaign of airstrikes in January, the U.S. military has claimed it destroyed over 100 Houthi missiles, according to an Associated Press analysis of its statements. However, that hasn't halted the rebels' ability to launch attacks. That's something a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis learned after launching its own campaign against the rebels beginning in 2015 in support of the country's exiled government. The American strikes so far have been more precise, with only one reported civilian death over dozens of attacks. But the American involvement has rubbed Saudi Arabia and its main partner, the United Arab Emirates, the wrong way — particularly after President Joe Biden in 2021 came into office and promptly declared that Yemen's war "has to end." Both countries have avoided actively taking part in the U.S.-led campaign now targeting the rebels. And Saudi Arabia reached a détente a year ago with Iran it hoped would lead to a peace deal, something that still hasn't happened. For the Houthis, the fight against Israel and the U.S. may be everything they've wanted. Their Zaydi Shiite group ran a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962. Their slogan has long been: "God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse the Jews; victory to Islam." Fighting against two of their archenemies allows the rebels to shore up their own support with Yemen, as well as gain international recognition in an Arab world otherwise enraged by the killing of Palestinians in Israel's campaign in the Gaza Strip. If fighting there goes into Ramadan, a time in Islam for peace and reflection, it may inspire a further spread of militant violence.

Saudi crown prince transfers another 8% of Aramco shares to sovereign wealth fund
Associated Press/March 07/2024
Saudi Arabia's crown prince transferred another 8% of shares in the kingdom's oil giant Saudi Aramco to the country's prominent sovereign wealth fund on Thursday. The shares are worth some $160 billion. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's decision comes as the kingdom is trying to build a series of megaprojects and invest in sports and other fields aggressively abroad to wean the country off of relying solely on oil. The country's sovereign wealth fund known as the Public Investment Fund, or PIF, has been a key element of Mohammed's plans, known as Saudi Vision 2030. "The transfer of part of the state's shares in Saudi Aramco is a continuation of Saudi Arabia's long-term initiatives to boost and diversify the national economy and expand investment opportunities in line with Saudi Vision 2030," a statement announcing the deal said. "The transfer will also solidify PIF's strong financial position and credit rating." The statement said the kingdom's ownership in Aramco would now be 82.186% of the company. Saudi Aramco, formally known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., acknowledged the transfer in a corporate disclosure. "This is a private transfer and the company is not a party to the transfer and did not enter into any agreements or pay or receive any proceeds from the transfer," it said. Aramco has a market value of $2 trillion, making it the world's fourth most-valuable firm, behind just Apple, Microsoft and NVIDIA respectively. Aramco stock traded slightly up on Riyadh's Tadawul stock exchange to $8.45 a share Thursday. Benchmark Brent crude traded Thursday above $82 a barrel. In February 2022, Crown Prince Mohammed transferred 4% of Aramco to the PIF. Last year, the prince transferred another 4% stake to the Saudi Arabian Investment Co., known as Sanabil Investments. Sanabil is under the PIF.
Just 1.73% of the company, a narrow sliver, is traded on the Tadawul since the company's 2019 initial public offering. For 2022, Aramco has reported earning a $161 billion profit, the highest-ever recorded by a publicly listed company. That came off the back of energy prices rising after Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022, with sanctions limiting the sale of Moscow's oil and natural gas in Western markets. Meanwhile, activists criticized the profits amid global concerns about the burning of fossil fuels accelerating climate change. Aramco announces its 2023 earnings on March 11. Saudi Arabia's vast oil resources, located close to the surface of its desert expanse, make it one of the world's least expensive places to produce crude. The crown prince hopes to use the oil wealth to pivot the kingdom off oil sales, like with his planned $500 billion futuristic desert city called Neom and other projects.
"The crown prince concluded that PIF continues with its mandate to launch new sectors, build new strategic partnerships, localize technologies and knowledge and create more direct and indirect job opportunities in the local market," the statement on Thursday's transfer said.

Zelensky to visit Istanbul on Friday: official

AFP/March 07, 2024
ISTANBUL: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Istanbul on Friday for talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the war against Russia and Black Sea navigation, the Turkish presidency said. “The situation between Ukraine and Russia and the latest contacts regarding the restarting of a secure corridor in the Black Sea” will be at the center of their meeting, the presidency said on Thursday in a message on X, formerly Twitter. The two leaders will meet at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, with a news conference scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT), the ministry added. Zelensky last visited Turkiye in July 2023 when he held lengthy talks with Erdogan, who also has close ties with Moscow.When he returned to Kyiv, Zelensky brought back five top commanders from the Azov regiment who were supposed to have remained in Turkiye until the end of the conflict under a prisoner exchange deal with Moscow. Members of the regiment played a key role in defending the city of Mariupol until it fell to the Russians in May 2022.

Britain says it will provide 10,000 drones to Ukraine in its fight with Russia
AP/March 07, 2024
LONDON: Britain said Thursday that it would provide 10,000 drones to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The announcement by Defense Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit in Kyiv with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky includes an investment of 125 million pounds ($160 million) on top of 200 million pounds ($256 million) previously committed for drones. The weaponry will include 1,000 one-way attack – or kamikaze – drones and models that target ships. “Ukraine’s Armed Forces are using UK donated weapons to unprecedented effect, to help lay waste to nearly 30 percent of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet,” Shapps said. On Tuesday, Ukrainian sea drones reportedly sank another Russian warship in the Black Sea, the latest in a series of strikes that has crippled Moscow’s naval capability.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on March 07-08/2024
Biden's Disastrous Qatar Policy
Robert Williams/Gatestone Institute/March 07/2024
"Qatar has been playing a deadly double game with the U.S. for many years. It supports all Islamist terrorist organizations (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah)." — Yigal Carmon, president of the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI), November 6, 2023.
"Many Americans believe that they owe Qatar for its hosting of the U.S. CENTCOM base. The truth is precisely the opposite: It is Qatar that owes the U.S., for locating this base there. Without this base's presence in the country, Qatar would disappear within less than a week – its neighbors would eat it up." — Yigal Carmon, November 6, 2023.
"A single statement by a U.S. Department of Defense official, about relocating – or even considering relocating – this base from Qatar to another country that is not a state sponsor of terrorism is all it would take to get the American hostages released. Even indicating that the U.S. has other options besides Qatar would do it... Qatar is extremely and incredibly sensitive to being exposed in any way as a terror-sponsoring state." — Yigal Carmon, November 6, 2023.
"Qatar knows what it would mean for it to be defined as what it is: It means being wiped off the map. Qatar supports Hamas, but it will not commit suicide for it. Show Qatar where this support is taking it, and it will bring about the release of the hostages – because Qatar is Hamas's lifeline and Hamas will do Qatar's will." — Yigal Carmon, November 6, 2023.
"Just one demonstration in front of the Qatari Embassy, with posters stating that Qatar is a state sponsor of terrorism, will prompt Qatar to get the American hostages released." — Yigal Carmon, November 6, 2023
Instead... in January 2024, Biden "quietly" entered into an agreement with Qatar that extends the US military presence in the terror supporting Gulf state for another 10 years. This agreement needs to be immediately rescinded.
Meanwhile, Qatar has shown its true face.... At the 2024 Munich Security Conference, Qatar called for an immediate ceasefire, "without preconditions" thereby showing that the hostage negotiations that it was supposed to broker were mainly about saving its client, the terrorist group Hamas.
Why does the Biden administration continue to grovel to Qatar? Qatar is the home of Hamas' leadership and, with the blessing of the US, is literally funding the murder of Jews. Qatar is supportive of both al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Pictured: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in Doha on February 6, 2024. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Despite the presumed murder of more than 31 of the roughly 134 hostages remaining in Hamas captivity and the continued refusal of Hamas to free any more, the Biden administration nevertheless continues, embarrassingly, to thank the Islamist, terror-sponsoring Gulf state of Qatar for its "efforts" since October 7.
In December, US Vice President Kamala Harris thanked Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, "for his efforts in securing a deal between Israel and Hamas that provided an extended pause in the fighting which resulted in the release of more than 100 hostages, including Americans."
At the end of January, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also "expressed gratitude for Qatar's indispensable mediation efforts, especially since October 7... The leaders reaffirmed the strength and importance of the U.S.-Qatar bilateral relationship in promoting regional security and stability, founded on a history of over 50 years of close cooperation."
Why does the Biden administration continue to grovel to Qatar? For decades, Qatar has cultivated a close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist movement whose motto is: "Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Qatar is the main financier of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to the tune of up to $360 million a year. Qatar is the home of Hamas' leadership and, with the blessing of the US, is literally funding the murder of Jews. Qatar is supportive of both al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In the United States, Qatar has become a pernicious influence. It funds several dozen schools from New York to California and has spent more than $30 million on them. The funds are distributed through Qatar Foundation International -- founded in 2012 in Delaware. The Foundation is a US-based subsidiary of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a not-for-profit organization established in 1995 by the Emir of Qatar and led by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, mother of the current emir of Qatar. Its purpose is "advancing the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and the vision of Qatar Foundation of connecting cultures and advancing global citizenship through education."
"The Qatar Foundation gave $30.6 million over the past eight years to several dozen schools from New York to Oregon and supporting initiatives to create or encourage the growth of Arabic programs, including paying for teacher training, materials and salaries. The funding came through Qatar Foundation International, the foundation's U.S. arm," the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2017.
On its website, the Foundation claims that its goal is to fund the teaching of Arabic at K-12 levels and to have students become "more informed, productive, and compassionate citizens of a globalized world."
Qatar, however, which funds terrorism and forms of modern slavery, is anything but "compassionate."
Qatar's royal family "runs a sharia state, where homosexuality is punishable by death, women are severely restricted in their liberties and foreign workers are treated like indentured labourers, stripped of their rights and forced to work in highly dangerous conditions," the Guardian wrote in 2014.
According to Oren Litwin, writing in National Review in 2018, the school curriculum that Qatar sponsors in American schools, is rife with anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda:
"Al Masdar, for instance, is QFI's flagship curriculum project. It offers lesson plans and resources about countries all over the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, the most flattering collection is about Qatar. One resource offered is even titled: 'Express Your Loyalty to Qatar...'
"Other lesson plans contain anti-Semitic and anti-American material, particularly several lessons produced by the Zinn Education Project, which claims to promote a revisionist 'people's history.' These include 'Greed as a Weapon: Teaching the Other Iraq War,' which examines the 'greed' of the corporations ostensibly responsible for the Iraq war in order to 'feast on Iraq's economy and "Whose 'Terrorism'?" which questions the definition of terrorism, creating scenarios for students to discuss — for example, if 'Israeli soldiers taunting and shooting children in Palestinian refugee camps, with the assistance of U.S. military aid" should be considered an example of terrorism."
Qatar also funds the education of American K-12 teachers. According to the Lawfare Project:
"In June 2019, Duke University held an immersion program for teachers of grades 6-12 titled 'Dimensions of the Middle East.' This teacher training program aimed to train 40 teachers hand-selected by QFI, which provided more than $111,000 in funding...Candidates for this program – teachers from school districts ranging in location from North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia – first had to commit to QFI that they will create and submit a Middle East curriculum based on the content provided. Apparently, '[a]n internal copy of the training agenda suggests an extreme bias in favor of Islam and Sharia law, and against Israel.' In fact, the curriculum appears to minimize and downplay, if not outright ignore, the history and contributions of non-Muslim people (including Jews and Christians) in the Middle East."
The bias mentioned above is unsurprising: Until his death, the Qatari royal family housed the late Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was banned from entering the US. He called for the destruction of America and for the annihilation of the Jews. In its Education City in Qatar, the Qatar Foundation opened the Al-Qaradawi Centre for Islamic Moderation and Renewal, the aim of which, according to Al-Qaradawi, was to "serve as a bridge between the Islamic world and the West and East, by means of cultural and ideological activity... the Centre will help teach non-Muslims the truth about Islam, in addition to disseminating a proper understanding of Islam and its values."
The Al-Qaradawi Centre, according to MEMRI, is "part of the long-established relationship between Al-Qaradawi and the Qatari royal family".
Qatar's influence, however, is most profound in US university education. According to a recent report, "Networks of Hate: Qatari Paymasters, Soft Power and the Manipulation of Democracy":
"[T]he State of Qatar contributes more funds to universities in the United States than any other country in the world, and raw donation totals omit critical, concerning details about the nature of Qatar s academic funding. For instance, Qatar concentrates its donations within a contained number of elite U.S. universities to maximize its influence. This targeted approach suggests that strategic motivations for instance, to advance Qatari state interests influence the Qatari strategy, rather than pure philanthropy."
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who is the chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation and therefore instrumental in spreading Qatari soft power, appears to deny the Hamas October 7 massacre. In November, she appeared to be saying that Israel had fabricated the footage of October 7, saying:
"We have seen, during the Gaza war, how artificial intelligence is used to make up stories and fabricate incidents, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to block, images, and video excerpts that show the atrocities perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces, against the people of Gaza and the West Bank."
Earlier in November, she implied that Israel has been making up its own history:
"For decades, we have witnessed Israel spreading fabricated historical narratives, which were refuted by many historians, including Israeli ones. These narratives have taken over the world's collective mind, and if someone dares to debate any Israeli narrative, he is cast aside, having been accused of antisemitism, which in itself, is another problematic narrative. By 'Semitism,' they mean Jews, having taken a monopoly on the Semitic race, which they attribute to themselves, while denying [its application] to other nations, which speak semitic languages, like the Arabs, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans."
Qatar actively exports its ideology to the rest of the world through Al Jazeera, Qatar's television network founded in 1996 by Qatar's Emir, Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al Thani. The Lawfare Project characterized the network in a memo in 2020 as "one of the most influential Islamist extremist propaganda outlets in the world... essentially an arm of the Qatari government." Sheikh Al-Qaradawi would broadcast his sermons and his weekly show, 'The Guidance of Islam," on the channel, which he used, among other things, to advocate suicide bombings. Al-Qaradawi praised Qatar for its role in spreading his teachings.
Most recently, in October, the Biden administration had to ask Al Jazeera to moderate its coverage of the Hamas-Israel's war because of the way that the channel is inflaming public opinion against Israel.
"Turn down the volume on Al Jazeera's coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told the Qataris. According to Axios, "Blinken didn't give any examples of the heightened rhetoric he asked to be dialed back," but his appeal appears to have had little effect as Al Jazeera continues to air inflaming anti-Israeli rhetoric. On January 9, for instance, Al Jazeera aired an interview with Palestinian Ambassador to Nigeria Abdullah Abu Shawesh in which he denied the events of October 7:
"All the lies spread by Israel, like the rape of women... the killing of civilians, the beheading of 40 babies... All these lies were spread, first and foremost, by Benjamin Netanyahu, during his conversation with the U.S. president... We have a feeling that this criminal country might behead the [corpses] of children that it stole from the graves, and then present them as evidence, or that it will burn children and Palestinian corpses to present them as evidence in the coming days."
Al Jazeera also does not bother to tone down its anti-American rhetoric. On January 24, for instance, Al Jazeera aired an interview with, ironically, a professor at Columbia University, Joseph Massad, who told the network in Arabic:
"[T]he U.S. was -- and still is – a settler colony, that sanctifies white supremacy over the rest of the people. Therefore, there is a kind of fusion between the U.S. and Israel. Israel reminds it of how things were in the United States in the past."
Qatar reportedly also targets American lawmakers who disagree with its agenda. Fox News recently reported that Qatar hired an American company, Global Risk Advisors, founded by Kevin Chalker, an ex-CIA employee, to "discredit Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and other lawmakers who oppose Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood" because of their efforts to ban the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to a secret document, produced in 2017 by Global Risk Advisors, titled "Project ENDGAME":
"An attack on Hamas is an attack on Qatar. An attack on the Muslim Brotherhood is an attack on Qatar... Qatar's Enemies Must Be Identified."
According to Fox News:
"The 'Project ENDGAME' proposal also laid out a media strategy for Qatar to advance its agenda. 'Many news organizations won't publish ENDGAME content, so Qatar's media's assets play a critical role.' Some of the alleged Qatari media assets listed in the document are The New York Times, Middle East Eye and The Intercept."
Senator Ted Cruz told Fox News in January:
"The Qatari government spends uncountable billions of dollars promoting and even funding the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other terrorist groups. They have either bought or intimidated huge parts of Washington, D.C., into silence. It's not at all surprising they would consider the few remaining outspoken opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood in Congress to be Qatar's enemies. It is long past time for the U.S. to reevaluate the U.S.-Qatari relationship,"
While the US continues to encourage Qatar to boost its international profile through its double-dealing hostage mediation, Hamas continues to hold the hostages captive in Gaza, where they are subjected to deprivation, hunger, torture and sexual abuse. The US could end this hostage crisis tomorrow by putting actual pressure on Qatar, especially by threatening to cease using Al Udeid Air Base and by designating Qatar a state sponsor of terrorism. Y
Yigal Carmon, the founder president and co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), wrote on November 6, 2023:
"In the so-called negotiations to free the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, Qatar is serving Hamas. In fact, Qatar is Hamas and is not an honest broker. The hostages guarantee Hamas members' lives; thus, they aren't interested in releasing Israeli hostages, just Americans ....
"How can these American hostages be freed? Certainly not by pleasing the Qataris, who are demanding, and receiving, constant praise from the Americans.
"The release of the American hostages will be achieved in precisely the opposite way: through pressuring Qatar....
"Qatar has been playing a deadly double game with the U.S. for many years. It supports all Islamist terrorist organizations (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah). Worst of all, in 1996, it hid future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in Doha, and when the FBI came to arrest him, informing only the Qatari Emir, KSM disappeared within hours. Richard Clarke, adviser to two U.S. Presidents, attested to this in his book and in the media.
"Many Americans believe that they owe Qatar for its hosting of the U.S. CENTCOM base. The truth is precisely the opposite: It is Qatar that owes the U.S., for locating this base there. Without this base's presence in the country, Qatar would disappear within less than a week – its neighbors would eat it up.
"A single statement by a U.S. Department of Defense official, about relocating – or even considering relocating – this base from Qatar to another country that is not a state sponsor of terrorism is all it would take to get the American hostages released. Even indicating that the U.S. has other options besides Qatar would do it....
"Qatar is extremely and incredibly sensitive to being exposed in any way as a terror-sponsoring state.
"Qatar knows what it would mean for it to be defined as what it is: It means being wiped off the map. Qatar supports Hamas, but it will not commit suicide for it. Show Qatar where this support is taking it, and it will bring about the release of the hostages – because Qatar is Hamas's lifeline and Hamas will do Qatar's will.
"Just one demonstration in front of the Qatari Embassy, with posters stating that Qatar is a state sponsor of terrorism, will prompt Qatar to get the American hostages released."
Instead, in 2022, Biden officially designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, and in January 2024, "quietly" entered into an agreement with Qatar that extends the US military presence in the terror-supporting Gulf state for another 10 years. This agreement needs to be immediately rescinded.
Meanwhile, Qatar has shown its true face -- the one that is visible to all that bother to look: At the 2024 Munich Security Conference, Qatar called for an immediate ceasefire, "without preconditions," thereby showing that the hostage negotiations that it was supposed to broker were mainly about saving its client, the terrorist group Hamas.
It might just succeed: The US has reportedly proposed a UN Security Council resolution that calls for a temporary ceasefire to stop Israel from going into Rafah. Qatar, doubtless, could not be happier.
*Robert Williams is a researcher based in the United States.
© 2024 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
**Enclosed Picture: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in Doha on February 6, 2024.

Ending the war in Gaza is essential for regional security

Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/March 07, 2024
The Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers this week held several meetings in Riyadh with their counterparts from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco that were focused on the war in Gaza and its regional repercussions.
The Riyadh meetings were part of a flurry of gatherings aimed at de-escalation in the war and reaching a ceasefire before the holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week. The foreign ministers also discussed the long road ahead for a resolution of the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How to put out the fires ignited throughout the region under the fog of this devastating war was also high on the agenda. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, chaired the meetings and then flew directly to Washington to continue efforts to break the deadlock in the Israel-Hamas talks. The GCC statement following Sunday’s meetings called for an immediate ceasefire and strongly condemned Israel’s continued onslaught on Gaza, which has killed or injured more than 100,000 people, while displacing and starving almost the entire population. It rejected Israel’s pretexts for continuing the annihilation of Gaza and expressed disappointment at the UN Security Council’s failure to stop the war, in large part because of the US’ repeated vetoes. The statement also lamented the apparent double standard whereby the collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza is tolerated and their lives undervalued.
The lone UNSC resolution on the war, adopted in December, has not been implemented, as Israel has continued to block aid, attack aid convoys and murder Palestinians trying to reach them.
The GCC reiterated its call on the international community to protect the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. It expressed strong support for the UN Relief and Works Agency and called on donors to continue their funding of the vital organization.
The GCC foreign ministers stressed the need to convene an urgent international conference on the peace process
The GCC lauded South Africa’s efforts to pursue the genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice and called for full accountability for Israel’s action. It also applauded the filings with the court by many countries on the separate issue of the illegality of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories. On the larger conflict, the ministers called on all nations to recognize the state of Palestine. The number now is about 140 countries, but since the current war started last October, several more have indicated they are ready to make the move. They called on the UNSC to speedily act to enable Palestine to become a full-fledged UN member state. They supported Saudi Arabia’s initiative to revive the peace process, in coordination with the Arab League and EU, stressing the need to convene an urgent international conference to expedite the matter.
Since the Gaza war started, Israel has escalated tensions in the West Bank by authorizing the building of more housing units on appropriated Palestinian lands. As Ramadan is near, the ministers expressed alarm at the possibility of a repetition of the annual escalation at Jerusalem’s holy sites, as Israel is planning to severely restrict the number of Palestinians who can pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month, while also allowing growing numbers of fanatical settlers to trespass and harass Muslim worshippers.
While focused on Israel’s war in Gaza and its escalations in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the ministers also addressed escalations in other parts of the Middle East. Predictably, using Israel’s aggression as a pretext, Iran’s regional proxies and affiliated actors have escalated their destabilizing activities.
In the UAE islands long occupied by Iran, plans for the additional settlement of Iranians were recently announced. Mohammed Mokhber, Iran’s first vice president who is under US sanctions, announced on Jan. 11 the completion of a plan to “develop” the islands, including housing projects and other installations. This announcement was followed by an escalatory statement by President Ebrahim Raisi on Feb. 4. These developments, in addition to military exercises held on the occupied islands, have raised questions about Iran’s declared commitments to diplomacy and regional reconciliation.
Using Israel’s aggression as a pretext, Iran’s regional proxies and affiliated actors have escalated their destabilizing activities
In Iraq, there have been belligerent calls by Iran-affiliated parties questioning Kuwait’s independence, calling for the annulment of long-standing arrangements between the two countries regarding navigation in the Khor Abdullah channel and, absurdly, claiming a stake in the Durra gas field, located hundreds of kilometers away from Iraq and Iran and owned exclusively by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The GCC condemned the increasingly brazen attacks across the Jordan-Syria border by drug traffickers believed to be affiliated with pro-Iran militias operating in Syria. These attacks are undermining an accord reached with the Syrian government last May to combat drug trafficking. In Yemen, the Houthis have escalated their attacks on shipping, disrupting trade flows in the Red Sea and causing economic havoc around the world. Attacks by the US and its partners have not been able to deter the Houthis, in part because they are conducted in isolation from the ongoing peace process in Yemen. The GCC called for “prompt” de-escalation, restraint and ensuring freedom of navigation.
It is clear that the longer the war continues in Gaza, the more likely it is that the regional security landscape will also unravel. While ending the Gaza conflict is an extremely important priority in itself, to end the suffering of the Palestinians who are on the receiving end of Israel’s massive war machine, de-escalation is also necessary to contain the conflict and prevent its contagion to other parts of the region. Re-energizing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians should be a key goal in the short term to prevent a repetition of the Gaza war, but the UN-mediated peace process in Yemen should also be a priority. Reconciliation efforts between Iran and its neighbors should pick up pace to find a modus vivendi for all regional players.
• Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the Gulf Cooperation Council assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily represent the GCC. X: @abuhamad1

UK election speculation mounts in wake of budget
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/March 07, 2024
The annual spring budget statement in the UK is always a major national political and economic event. However, Wednesday’s fiscal announcements assumed even higher importance than usual, coming ahead of what may be an imminent general election.
There is growing speculation that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will throw his normal caution to the wind and this month call the big ballot for May 2. This is the same day as local elections are held across much of the country.
In last year’s local elections, the Conservatives lost — for the first time in more than two decades — the mantle as the biggest party in English councils and a further rout looks likely on May 2. If the Conservatives lose big, then it will only intensify the political pressure on the prime minister’s position and he may even face a leadership challenge from within his own party. By calling a May general election, it is also plausible that Sunak could avoid a new by-election in the Northern English constituency of Blackpool South following the recent suspension of Scott Benton from the House of Commons. The Conservatives would defend a small majority of 3,690 votes over Labour in such a ballot.
A by-election there would be the fourth such special ballot held this year. And a Conservative defeat would be the 11th time the party has lost a seat in a by-election since the start of this Parliament in 2019, further undermining Sunak’s standing in his party and the country.
Despite the media headlines, Hunt’s announcements are unlikely to fundamentally change the UK’s political weather
In this context, UK Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt announced new personal tax cuts in Wednesday’s budget — a fiscal event that was brought forward by the government unusually early. Yet, despite the media headlines, Hunt’s announcements are unlikely to fundamentally change the UK’s political weather.
In part, this is because voters are increasingly recognizing the poor state of public services and that further investment is needed in them. Many think tanks, including the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies, have particularly highlighted the challenges facing the health service.
Moreover, the consensus among economists is that the economy is likely to be weak for the foreseeable future. For instance, Andy Haldane, the former Bank of England chief economist, has said that Wednesday’s budget will be insufficient to inspire growth, as too many people are still feeling poorer due to the overall tax take going up and interest rates remaining above 5 percent. These economic headwinds make for what he called another year of “sogginess.”
Other economists, including Sanjay Raja at Deutsche Bank and Kallum Pickering at Berenberg Bank, have similar views. Raja stated that the macro backdrop for the UK economy will prove challenging in 2024, while Pickering pointed to the fact that the nation is struggling to meet demand due to weak supply, as indicated by stalling real gross domestic product.
So, if Sunak does call an election for May 2, he will be taking an unusually big gamble. This is not least given that the Conservatives are so far behind in the polls.
According to the most recent Electoral Calculus forecasts, the probability of a Labour majority in the House of Commons is 95 percent. Meanwhile, the likelihood of Labour being the largest party is 99 percent. While the polls may tighten in the coming weeks, the direction of travel appears clear.
If Sunak does call an election for May 2, he will be taking an unusually big gamble, as the Conservatives are so far behind in the polls
Almost a decade and a half since the Conservatives first took power in 2010 and five prime ministers later, via David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and now Sunak, the party looks increasingly tired and divided. In recent years, there has been a massive amount of churn within senior ministerial positions. Since 2015, for example, the four so-called great offices of state (prime minister, finance minister, home secretary and foreign secretary) have changed hands a total of 23 times. The independent Institute for Government think tank said such ministerial turnover is “very damaging” and means that ministers focus on “quick wins” rather than long-term policymaking.
In part, this is why Sunak has shown some signs of wanting to defer the general election until after the summer, with the last date he can legally hold it being January 2025. In the meantime, he will hope that the nation’s economic fortunes will improve. In particular, he hopes that inflation might fall back to the 2 percent target. History shows that Sunak and other recent “tail-end” prime ministers (beleaguered politicians who come into office at the end of a long period of rule by their parties) tend to put off big ballots as long as possible. This was true of previous Conservative PMs Alec Douglas-Home and John Major, who called the ballots in 1964 and 1997, respectively, very close to the last possible legal date. Despite the huge diversity of past tail-end premiers in terms of backgrounds, beliefs and styles, a common pattern is that — despite their various talents — they have ultimately proved unable to stop the turning of the political tide against them. After multiple years in office, there is growing momentum for the opposition party, which eventually proves insurmountable.
The fact that Sunak’s attempt to win a fifth straight term for the Conservatives would defy political history is also shown in the growing numbers of the party’s MPs (59 at the time of writing) to announce their retirement from politics. So, it appears unlikely that the government will be able to regain sustained, significant political momentum. Taken together, this is why Sunak’s time as prime minister is so perilously positioned. No matter if he goes long or short on the election date, the political winds are blowing against the ruling Conservatives and their chances of winning another electoral majority in the House of Commons look slim.
**Andrew Hammond is an Associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Why Southeast Asia prefers neutrality amid superpower rivalry
Ehtesham Shahid/Arab News/March 07, 2024
In the dynamic geopolitical theater of Southeast Asia, nations like Malaysia exemplify a deliberate stance of neutrality amid the escalating superpower rivalry between the US and China. The country’s strategic position along the pivotal Strait of Malacca underscores its significant role in global commerce and military navigation. The preference for neutrality is not merely a matter of geographical necessity; it reflects the complex interplay of geopolitical, economic and historical factors that shape the region.
As an integral member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Malaysia adheres to noninterference and consensus decision-making principles, a stance crucial in a nation marked by its multiethnic composition. The neutral posture is a safeguard, ensuring that Malaysia’s territory remains free from the machinations of superpower conflicts. The country’s membership of the Non-Aligned Movement further emphasizes a belief in diplomacy as a path to coexistence rather than competition.
Despite the similarities, the ecosystem in which Indonesia operates is slightly different from that of Malaysia. As the largest country in Southeast Asia in terms of population and economy and as an archipelagic state with strategic maritime routes, Indonesia seeks to maximize its autonomy and regional influence. Neutrality allows it to act as a regional leader and mediator, promoting ASEAN centrality and unity while avoiding entanglement in conflicts that could compromise its sovereignty.
Indonesia is cautious of foreign influence that could undermine its sovereignty or involve it in territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea, which it has an interest in protecting. Indonesia seeks to play a constructive role in global and regional diplomacy, promoting dialogue and cooperation on climate change, terrorism and regional security. Collectively, Southeast Asian countries want to avoid getting trapped in a rivalry that risks disastrous consequences.
Collectively, Southeast Asian countries want to avoid getting trapped in a rivalry that risks disastrous consequences
There is no denying China’s advantage because of its proximity to Southeast Asia, which facilitates trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, reinforcing economic ties. Many Southeast Asian countries have deep historical and cultural ties with China, influencing their foreign policy decisions. China is also a significant trading partner, investor and source of tourists for many countries in the region.
The US may have established regional security alliances and partnerships, countering China’s growing military assertiveness. However, countries in the region seek to maximize their economic benefits while minimizing the risk of becoming overly dependent on any single power.
These countries have shown varied levels of alignment toward China and the US, influenced by their unique historical, economic and strategic circumstances. For example, Laos and Cambodia have been perceived as more closely aligned with China, partly due to significant Chinese investment and aid. Conversely, while economically engaged with China, Vietnam often seeks closer security ties with the US to balance against Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
It would be myopic to see the region’s alignment through the lens of economic versus security priorities. Economically, there is a strong inclination toward China due to the sheer volume of trade and investment in the immediate neighborhood. Security-wise, concerns over sovereignty, particularly in maritime disputes, drive some countries to seek closer relations with the US. There is often a desire to maintain good relations with a culturally and geographically proximate neighbor. However, the presence and influence of the US have shaped the region’s security and development landscape.
It would be myopic to see the region’s alignment through the lens of economic versus security priorities
ASEAN plays a critical role in its member states’ foreign policies. The bloc’s principle of noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs encourages neutrality. This principle helps maintain regional stability and allows member states to navigate superpower rivalry without taking sides. This is particularly important in a region with diverse political systems, levels of economic development and security concerns. There are also security concerns, particularly in the South China Sea, where several ASEAN members have territorial disputes with China.
With Beijing’s growing influence and the strategic rebalance of the US toward Asia, Southeast Asian countries often adopt balancing and hedging strategies. This involves engaging with both superpowers to ensure their interests are protected, regardless of changes in the international system. This strategy helps mitigate the risks associated with the shifting dynamics of superpower rivalry.
Southeast Asia’s preference for neutrality amid superpower rivalry is a pragmatic approach that reflects the region’s complex and multifaceted interests. It allows these countries to navigate the challenges of globalization and geopolitical shifts while striving to maintain sovereignty, peace and economic prosperity. Countries in the region navigate a complex landscape, seeking to leverage their relationships with superpowers to support their national interests without compromising sovereignty or regional stability.
A Chinese Journal of International Politics paper examined the debates about how Sino-US competition affects Southeast Asia by identifying four interrelated issues: power shift, regional countries’ strategic behavior, ASEAN centrality, and regional order. It also identified profound disagreement on whether or not China, despite its economic ascent, can rival the US on all fronts. “Sino-US power competition would shape the strategic environment of regional states and ASEAN, whose choice would, in turn, affect the evolution of regional order,” it stated.
**Ehtesham Shahid is an Indian editor and researcher based in the UAE. X: @e2sham

Investing in women to unlock Africa's potential
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/March 07, 2024
As the global community celebrates the achievements and contributions of women worldwide on Friday’s International Women’s Day, this year’s theme of “Inspire Inclusion” resonates deeply. It calls for concentrated efforts to ensure that women from all walks of life, regardless of background or circumstance, can thrive, fulfill their potential and have equal opportunities to contribute to society. Nowhere is this call to action more urgent than in Africa, where investing in women holds the key to unlocking the continent’s full potential and driving sustainable development.
In Africa, where women play pivotal roles in families, communities and economies, investing in their empowerment is not only a matter of justice but also a strategic imperative. Across the continent’s diverse landscape, the demographic composition reveals the significant presence of women, as they constitute an average of 50.16 percent of the population across 53 nations. This statistical snapshot encapsulates the multifaceted realities of gender distribution across Africa. Within this spectrum, Zimbabwe emerges with the highest proportion of women at 52.79 percent, underscoring the unique dynamics within its societal fabric. These figures serve not only as numerical indicators but also as windows into the intricate tapestry of gender dynamics, reflecting the varying degrees of social, economic and cultural influences shaping the lives of women across Africa’s diverse landscapes. This is the reason it is so important that we examine why investing in women in Africa is critical and explore the transformative impact it can have on the continent’s socioeconomic development.
Investing in African women is a necessity for driving sustainable development and fostering inclusive growth. Women play multifaceted roles as caregivers, farmers, entrepreneurs and community leaders. However, they continue to face systemic barriers that limit their opportunities and hinder their full participation in society.African women continue to face systemic barriers that limit their opportunities and hinder their full participation in society
Empowering women in Africa yields multiple benefits. First of all, studies have shown that, when women are economically empowered, they invest more in their families’ education, health and well-being, leading to intergenerational benefits and poverty reduction. Moreover, closing the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship could unlock billions of dollars in economic growth and create new opportunities for prosperity across the continent. In addition, investment in women’s education, healthcare, economic empowerment and political participation are essential components for unlocking Africa’s potential. By providing women with access to quality education, healthcare services, financial resources and leadership opportunities, we can break down barriers, expand opportunities and create a more equitable and inclusive society.
Access to healthcare is one critical aspect of women’s empowerment in Africa. Many African women face barriers to accessing essential healthcare services, including maternal and reproductive healthcare. By investing in healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare workers and expanding access to affordable and quality healthcare services, we can improve women’s health outcomes, reduce maternal mortality rates and enhance overall well-being. Investing in girls’ education is another of the most effective ways to empower women and girls in Africa. Education not only equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, but also helps challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender equality. By ensuring girls have access to quality education and opportunities for lifelong learning, we can empower them to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to their communities and economies.
Thirdly, economic empowerment is essential for African women’s autonomy, dignity and well-being. Women in Africa often face significant barriers to economic participation, including limited access to financial resources, markets and business opportunities. By providing them with access to financial services, training and support for entrepreneurship, we can unlock their entrepreneurial potential, stimulate economic growth and create jobs and opportunities for all. Investing in girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to empower women and girls in Africa. The international community can play a crucial role in investing in women in Africa by providing support in various forms. First of all, financial assistance and investment in women-led initiatives, businesses and organizations can help provide women with access to capital, resources and opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.
Additionally, capacity-building programs, technical assistance and mentorship initiatives can help women acquire the skills, knowledge and networks they need to succeed in their endeavors. Advocating for policy reforms that promote inclusive development can create an enabling environment for women’s empowerment and participation in all spheres of society.
Lastly, fostering partnerships and collaboration between governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and international institutions can leverage collective efforts and resources to address systemic barriers and advance women’s empowerment agendas.
By working together, countries and organizations worldwide can catalyze transformative change for African women and help them contribute to sustainable development, prosperity and equality for all. Increasing women’s representation in Africa’s political leadership is also crucial for ensuring their voices are heard and their rights are protected. By advocating for gender-sensitive policies and supporting women leaders, this can create more inclusive and responsive governance systems that reflect the diversity and needs of all citizens.
In a nutshell, as we celebrate International Women’s Day and reflect on its theme for 2024, let us reaffirm our commitment to investing in women in Africa and beyond. Empowering women in Africa is not just the right thing to do, it is a strategic imperative. By breaking down barriers, expanding opportunities and fostering a culture of inclusivity and equality, we can create a brighter, more prosperous future for all Africans, driving progress, prosperity and sustainable development for all. Together, let us inspire inclusion and build a brighter, more equitable future.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian American political scientist. X: @Dr_Rafizadeh