English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 07/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
The Miracle Of Reviving Lazarus From the Grave/I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

John 11/17-27: “When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 06-07/2024
Hezbollah says its drone hits northern Israeli town, casualties reported
Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets at Golan after Israeli strike on Baalbek town
Israeli Raids Near Baalbeck, Cautious Calm in the South
Hezbollah says its drone hits northern Israeli town, casualties reported
South Lebanon Water Establishment: Tasseh Spring project facilities were subjected to airstrikes, limit water use for 'service' purposes
Geagea: We will continue our efforts until the last illegal migrant is expelled from Lebanon
Suspicion amid anticipation: Lebanon left waiting as TotalEnergies fails to deliver Block 9 drilling report
President al-Assad discusses with al-Fayyad enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism and border control
The Martyrs of the Press: Lessons and Reflections/Michel Touma/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
Crimes Involving Syrians Increasing amid State’s Weak Capacities/Joanne Naoum/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
Dar Sader Celebrates Its One Hundred and Sixty-Year Anniversary/Carol Ziadé Ajami/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 06-07/2024
US says it is studying Hamas response on Gaza ceasefire, will discuss with allies
Hamas accepts Gaza cease-fire; Israel says it will continue talks but launches strikes in Rafah
Hamas announces it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal
Israel says Hamas deal is ‘far’ from meeting its demands as Rafah offensive looms
Gaza cease-fire talks at 'critical stage,' US says, after Hamas claims it accepted proposal
Biden speaks with Netanyahu as Israelis appear closer to Rafah offensive
Saudi Arabia warns Israel against targeting Gaza’s Rafah
Ground invasion of Rafah would be ‘intolerable,’ UN chief warns
Al Jazeera, citing senior Hamas source: The movement informs Egyptian and Qatari mediators of accepting the ceasefire proposal
White House: Netanyahu agrees to reopen Gaza crossing for humanitarian aid
Saudi Arabia warns Israel against targeting Gaza’s Rafah
The UN says there's 'full-blown famine' in northern Gaza. What does that mean?
Gaza protestors picket outside of Met Gala 2024
Rebuilding Gaza: The roadmap to recovery after war
UN and US Defend Free Press After Israel Bans Al Jazeera
Nuclear talks: IAEA chief engages Iranian officials on nuclear concerns
The UN nuclear watchdog chief travels to Iran as its monitoring remains hampered
What are tactical nuclear weapons and why did Russia order drills?
The US crackdown on Russian trade is working as Putin struggles to fund his war
Turkey says it has carried out new airstrikes against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq
Turkey formally opens another former Byzantine-era church as a mosque
Erdogan opens former church to Muslim worshippers

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on May 06-07/2024
World is not prepared for what will happen in Rafah/Chris Doyle/Arab News/May 06, 2024
Saudi Arabia’s realistic peace proposal gaining traction globally/Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/May 06, 2024
Electoral comeuppance for moral leadership failures/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/May 06, 2024
The specter of returning from the war/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper./May 06, 2024
Cautionary Tale: Egypt’s Islamic Present Could Be the West’s Sharia Future/Raymond Ibrahim/The Stream/May 06/2024
Will China Soon Control Both Elon Musk and SpaceX?/Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute./May 6, 2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 06-07/2024
Hezbollah says its drone hits northern Israeli town, casualties reported

BEIRUT-JERUSALEM (Reuters) /Mon, May 6, 2024
Hezbollah said on Monday it carried out a drone attack on an Israeli military position near the northern Israeli town of Metula that left several dead and injured. Israel's military said it could not yet confirm the injuries or casualties, but said a drone had crossed from Lebanon into the Metula area. Israeli media reported two people were seriously wounded in the attack. Iran-backed Hezbollah also said it had sent dozens of rockets towards military targets across the border with Israel. Israel and Hezbollah, which has amassed a formidable arsenal since 2006, have been engaged in daily cross-border strikes over the past six months, in parallel with Israel's war in Gaza. Hezbollah has so far restricted its attacks to a strip of northern Israel, seeking to draw Israeli forces away from Gaza.(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Maytaal Angel; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets at Golan after Israeli strike on Baalbek town
Agence France Presse/May 06/2024
Hezbollah said it fired "dozens of Katyusha rockets" at an Israeli base in the occupied Golan Heights on Monday in retaliation for a strike in Lebanon's east. Earlier, Lebanese official media said three people had been wounded in an Israeli strike early Monday on a factory in the country's east, with the Israeli army saying it had struck a Hezbollah "military compound." Hezbollah fighters launched "dozens of Katyusha rockets" targeting "the headquarters of the Golan Division... at Nafah base," the group said in a statement, saying it was "in response to the enemy's attack targeting the Bekaa region."Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah have exchanged regular cross-border fire since Palestinian militant group Hamas' unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel sparked war in the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks Hamas-ally Hezbollah has stepped up its attacks on northern Israel, and the Israeli military has struck deeper into Lebanese territory. "Enemy warplanes launched a strike at around 1:30 am this morning on a factory in Sifri, wounding three civilians and destroying the building," Lebanon's official National News Agency said. Sifri is located in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near the city of Baalbek, around 80 kilometers from the Israel-Lebanon frontier. The Israeli army said its warplanes "struck a Hezbollah military structure... deep inside Lebanon," referring to the location as "Safri".Last month, a building in Sifri was targeted in an Israeli raid, according to a source close to Hezbollah, while the Israeli army said it had targeted Hezbollah sites in Lebanon's east.East Lebanon's Baalbek area is a Hezbollah stronghold and has been repeatedly struck by Israel in recent weeks. On Sunday official media in Lebanon said an Israeli strike on a southern village killed four family members, with Hezbollah announcing retaliatory fire by dozens of rockets towards Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel. The intensifying exchanges have stoked fears of all-out conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which went to war in 2006. In Lebanon, at least 390 people have been killed in nearly seven months of cross-border violence, mostly militants but also more than 70 civilians, according to an AFP tally. Israel says 11 soldiers and nine civilians have been killed on its side of the border. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides.

Israeli Raids Near Baalbeck, Cautious Calm in the South
This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
Israeli warplanes launched an airstrike at around 1:30 a.m. on Monday on a factory in the town of Sefri, near Baalbeck, which led to the injury of three civilians. The raid also targeted an uninhabited building, the stones of which littered the neighboring Rayak-Baalbek International Road. The border area in the eastern sector of south Lebanon is cautiously quiet this morning following Israeli raids that targeted the area yesterday. The latest raids targeted Halta farm, Kfarchouba, and Kfarhamam. Additionally, Israeli gunfire targeted the northern outskirts of the town of Shabaa, causing damage to several houses in the area.
Israeli artillery and missile shelling also targeted the heights of Jabal al-Sheikh overlooking the Rashaya al-Wadi area in the eastern and western Bekaa and Iqlim al-Tuffah. In response, Hezbollah launched concentrated artillery and missile attacks targeting Israeli positions in Sammaka, Ruwaysat, and Zebdine within the occupied Shebaa Farms. Throughout the night, the skies of the Hasbaya region and the occupied Shebaa Farms witnessed MK spy planes, carrying out reconnaissance flights at medium altitude extending to the airspace of the Bekaa.

Hezbollah says its drone hits northern Israeli town, casualties reported

Reuters/May 06/2024
Hezbollah said on Monday it carried out a drone attack on an Israeli military position near the northern Israeli town of Metula that left several dead and injured. Israel's military said it could not yet confirm the injuries or casualties, but said a drone had crossed from Lebanon into the Metula area. Israeli media reported two people were seriously wounded in the attack.Iran-backed Hezbollah also said it had sent dozens of rockets towards military targets across the border with Israel.

South Lebanon Water Establishment: Tasseh Spring project facilities were subjected to airstrikes, limit water use for 'service' purposes
LBCI/May 06/2024
The South Lebanon Water Establishment addressed subscribers and beneficiaries of the Tasseh Spring water, announcing that "the vicinity of the Tasseh Spring project facilities has been subjected to airstrikes, resulting in damage to transformer rooms, electricity, pump rooms, the tank, and some pumping lines, which also led to the spread of a strong unpleasant odor in the vicinity."In a measure to safeguard citizens' health and as a precautionary measure, the establishment advised everyone "to limit the use of water for 'service' purposes and avoid using it for drinking, cooking, or anything related to 'food and beverages' until the establishment completes the necessary laboratory tests and confirms the safety of the water. A detailed statement will be issued regarding the results as soon as they are available."

Geagea: We will continue our efforts until the last illegal migrant is expelled from Lebanon

LBCI/May 06/2024
Samir Geagea, the head of the Lebanese Forces party, emphasized in a statement the party's unwavering and principled stance on the issue of illegal Syrian presence in Lebanon. Geagea stressed that this stance is sovereign and immutable, unaffected by financial offers or international requests. He reiterated that anything deemed illegal cannot persist on Lebanese soil, stating that the matter is non-negotiable. Geagea added, "After finding that those who ruled and governed for years have failed to assume their responsibilities and have not taken any practical steps beyond political posturing, we have initiated a series of actions on the ground with municipalities, administrations, and relevant ministries. We will continue all our efforts until the last illegal migrant is expelled from Lebanon." He noted that these efforts will not cease, regardless of international wishes or financial incentives, asserting that nothing supersedes Lebanese identity, sovereignty, and security.

Suspicion amid anticipation: Lebanon left waiting as TotalEnergies fails to deliver Block 9 drilling report

LBCI/May 06/2024
On April 12, TotalEnergies was supposed to submit a report to the Petroleum Administration regarding drilling results in Block 9. However, the deadline passed without TotalEnergies submitting the report, prompting concerns and potential legal actions. Despite repeated requests from the Energy Ministry, Total's mission in Beirut remained unresponsive, raising suspicions about the intentions behind the delay. Sources revealed that Total's Beirut mission urged Lebanon's Petroleum Administration to engage directly with Total's Chairman and CEO, Patrick Pouyanné, to obtain the report. Despite the Petroleum Administration informing Energy Minister Walid Fayyad and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the report has not been delivered. Amidst mounting frustration, discussions are ongoing about taking legal measures to pressure TotalEnergies into delivering the report promptly. There are talks about issuing a warning to TotalEnergies, with the possibility of revoking its exploration and drilling license if it fails to comply. However, the effectiveness of such a warning is in question, as TotalEnergies could exploit the 90-day deadline and submit the report on the last day, leaving Lebanon without ample time to utilize the findings to attract other companies for the upcoming third licensing round, open until July 2. The delay in submitting the report coincides with growing concerns that TotalEnergies may not have reached the intended layers in Block 9. The Petroleum Administration can not verify these claims without the report. Despite its technical and legal aspects, the issue appears primarily political to sources within the Energy Ministry. It is becoming increasingly evident that Lebanon is not expected to make any progress in oil and gas exploration until security arrangements with Israel are in place, ensuring a long-term solution along the southern borders.

President al-Assad discusses with al-Fayyad enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism and border control

NNA/May 06/2024 
Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad received Monday Chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq Faleh al-Fayyad. Talks during the meeting dealt with means of enhanciong cooperation between Syria and Iraq in the domain of combating terrorism, effective coordination to control borders and hunting extremist organizations and their remnants that seek to threaten the security of the two countries. President al-Assad considered that terrorism that kills and sheds blood is the same everywhere in the world, and that the supporters of terrorism in Syria and Iraq are the same in other places, regardless of the names of those terrorist organizations. The President added that the steadfastness and force of the Syrian and Iraqi armies were the basis for achieving successive victories against terrorists and their supporters. ----

The Martyrs of the Press: Lessons and Reflections

Michel Touma/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
The annual commemoration of the Lebanese Press Martyrs’ Day, on May 6th, serves as a solemn tribute to our fallen colleagues who courageously defended the principles of freedom of expression and the duty to inform. Beyond its symbolic significance, this occasion presents a chance to engage the public and media circles in a meaningful dialogue about the multifaceted functions and roles of journalists.People often forget that journalism is a profession that cannot be approached with a bureaucratic mindset, viewing the professional who embraces this calling – because it truly is one – as a mere employee confined to strict office hours. Some might argue that such a principle is crucial only for those in the field, but it does not concern the general public. However, if this reflection deserves to be highlighted to the average citizen, it is because of its undeniable impact on various aspects of daily life, politics, good governance, and democratic practices as a whole.
In simpler terms, our situation isn’t just about reporting events as they happen, often in a distorted and superficial manner. The journalists who became martyrs did so because they refused to limit themselves to this reductive aspect of their profession. For them – and many others – their mission held a deeper significance. It consisted (and still consists) in providing in-depth explanations of current events, of course, but above all in defending just and noble causes, in reporting on the excesses of an occupier or aggressor (as has been the case in recent months in South Lebanon), in stigmatizing any repressive behavior on the part of a militia or a ruling power, and in speaking out against anything that undermines the dignity of the individual or public and individual freedoms. The purpose of this May 6th commemoration is to annually honor the journalists who sacrificed their lives in unwavering dedication to this specific aspect of their profession. It’s crucial to note that their sacrifice directly impacts every citizen enduring the very injustices and challenges that have been vehemently highlighted over the years by these martyrs of the press.There would also be, in a certain sense and by extension, a lesson in civic duty to be drawn from this particular day of May 6th… A life lesson, if you will. Put simply, it would be highly beneficial for journalists, like any citizen, to cultivate a profound sense of critical thinking. This enables them, on a national scale, to oppose any form of occupation, guardianship, or autocratic behavior, and on a personal level, to challenge deceit, blind opportunism, arrogance, disrespectful attitudes, and any behavior that intentionally undermines the proven skills, experience, and knowledge of others for selfish gain. On this May 6th, we will honor the martyrdom of those who paid with their lives for their determination to denounce everything and everyone that undermines the dignity, well-being, and fulfillment of the individual. We do so by reaffirming our commitment to this fundamental critical spirit and multifaceted engagement – alongside necessary intellectual honesty.

Crimes Involving Syrians Increasing amid State’s Weak Capacities

Joanne Naoum/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
Amid a national outcry about the protracted presence of displaced Syrians, compounded by calls to tighten control on their illegal residence, the rise in criminality in recent weeks involving Syrians is increasing tensions with their Lebanese hosts. The latest of these crimes occurred on Saturday (May 4) at New Versailles Hotel in Beirut, where a 30-year-old Lebanese woman died of a cerebral hemorrhage after receiving a violent blow to the head. The assailant is suspected to be a Syrian colleague who has since disappeared. A day later, Syrian teenagers stabbed a Lebanese boy, Yorgo Abi Aad, who suffered injuries in the elbow, hand and neck.Preliminary reports suggest that the assailants, aged 13 and 15, attempted to rob Abi Aad in a basketball court in Furn el Chebbak. Local residents captured two of the attackers and handed them to security forces, while the third managed to escape. A month earlier, an official in the Lebanese Forces, Pascal Sleiman, was killed by Syrian assailants after stealing his car. Sleiman’s body was taken to Syrian territory where it was dumped. The incident touched off a wave of condemnations and calls for repatriating displaced Syrians, believed to be more than 2 million, most of them residing illegally in Lebanon. Another crime that further increased hostility against Syrians was committed in Beirut’s neighborhood of Ashrafieh against an elderly man and his wife. The couple was robbed by their Syrian maid and her Syrian accomplices, who killed the man and seriously injured his wife.A few days later, Yasser al-Koukash, a Lebanese resident of the town of Azzouniyeh in Mount Lebanon’s district of Aley, died following an attack by three Syrian nationals who tied him up and ransacked his apartment. In a country on the brink of chaos, where security is volatile and evading accountability and punishment is widespread, illegal Syrian presence and the surge in criminality are fueling anger among Lebanese. Sources at the Ministry of Interior told This is Beirut that the Ministry is closely monitoring the situation and will enforce Lebanese laws, especially regarding displaced Syrians. Lebanon estimates the number of Syrian migrants on its territory to exceed 2 million people, most of them having fled the war at home since 2011. However, illegal crossings by Syrian migrants persist through the porous borders for economic reasons. Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told a news conference on the first of May that 30 percent of crimes perpetrated in Lebanon are committed by Syrian nationals, significantly straining state resources.
For his part, journalist Youssef Diab attributed the rise in crimes committed by Syrians to “the absence of the state and its authority.” In an interview with This is Beirut, he emphasized the weakening of the Lebanese state as a primary issue, citing a decline in security capabilities to fight crime effectively. Additionally, he pointed to the lack of regulations to deal with the Syrian displacement problem and the presence of numerous illegal Syrians with unclear residency status, employment and housing arrangements. Diab asserted that the current situation surpasses the capacity of the state to manage it independently. “There should be a cooperation with international organizations and countries concerned with Lebanon,” he said. He warned that failure to implement a comprehensive solution swiftly could exacerbate existing problems. Diab also observed a decline in the judiciary’s efficiency, operating at only 20 to 30% of its capacity due to the ongoing crisis, thereby complicating legal proceedings. “This necessitates urgent action on the part of the state to restore its authority, regulate foreign presence in Lebanon, and adopt a more robust approach to combating crime,” he added.

Dar Sader Celebrates Its One Hundred and Sixty-Year Anniversary

Carol Ziadé Ajami/This Is Beirut/May 06/2024
This is the story of four generations of the Sader family, their hard work, and their honored commitment to preserving and developing this precious heritage, which they have enhanced with great success; the story of more than a century and a half of dedication to Belles-Lettres and legal publications.
In the 1970s, Dar Sader, the oldest Lebanese and Arab publishing house, received the King Faisal Prize for Literature for the work Nafah al-Tayyib in the Andalusia collection, written by Dr. Ihsan Abbas. In 1999, it was honored by Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al-Qassimi, the ruler of Sharjah, and in 2014 by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture on the occasion of its 150th anniversary; not to mention the dozens of awards received at countless Arab book fairs. Dar Sader’s books are distributed everywhere, even in South Africa and Japan. They are currently present at the Brussels Book Fair and the renowned Der Divan in Berlin. In the mid-19th century, the founder, Ibrahim Sader, arrived at Souk Abou Nasr in Beirut, as a guest in one of the vaults of the famous Saint Elias convent. He initially dedicated himself to selling rosaries, often made of precious stones, before buying a small printing press with his savings and starting his career by publishing small prayer books. During this period, the council that took place at the Notre-Dame de Louaizé convent demanded the modernization of Maronite institutions and prioritized the excellence of culture, ordering mastery of the Arabic language. Ibrahim Sader contributed to this effort by publishing one of the first grammar books, written by Bishop Germanos Farhat (1670–1732), Bahth al Matalib. The pioneer had two children: Salim born in 1868 and Youssef born in 1870. Ibrahim Sader’s legacy gave birth to two parallel institutions: on one hand, Salim’s bookstore, and on the other, Youssef’s printing press, which collaborated closely. The bookstore would become the Sader House or Dar Sader, under the direction of Salim and his own son Antoun, meanwhile the fourth generation of the family dedicated themselves to the realms of Belles-Lettres and Arab heritage. Youssef, for his part, developed the scientific printing press, which became, during his lifetime, a reference publishing house for legal publications that continued to develop with his grandsons. Antoun was friends with the great intellectuals and writers of the time who gathered in his bookstore. He published re-editions of works by Khalil Gibran and many masterpieces of immigrant literature, including those by Mikhail Naimy and Elia Abou Madi. He published Molière, translated by Elias Abou Chabké, and Shakespeare adapted by Amine Ghorayeb. After Antoun’s death in 1983, his sons Nabil, Ibrahim, and Salim decided to abolish the different names under which they had been known into the singular identity of Dar Sader. Today, they are assisted by their children who are beginning to take over, making up the fifth generation. Before dying, Youssef passed the torch to his son Adib, who would lead the house until his death. His son Joseph, who succeeded him, named the institution “Sader al-huqūqiyat” which is considered today as one of the most sought-after publishing houses in the world of Arab jurisdiction.
Interview with Nabil Sader and his daughter Sara
With the construction and rise of AUB in 1866 and USJ in 1875, Dar Sader provided university and school books in various fields of knowledge and science, primarily in Arabic but also in French. Dr. Hala Bizri, who defended a thesis on Books and Publishing in Lebanon during the first half of the 20th century, attests that The Hundred Little Tales published in 1902, authored by none other than Salim Ibrahim Sader, were published in French by Dar Sader, before the French mandate in Lebanon. Nabil Sader, a civil engineer graduated from AUB, emphasizes to Ici Beyrouth the contribution of his brothers, Ibrahim, a professor of electronic engineering, and Salim, a graduate in computer science: “We are all three passionate about publishing and very proud of this immense legacy that our pioneering ancestors have transmitted to us.” “Mikhail Naimy himself wrote a posthumous tribute to my father, Antoun Sader, after his death, in the daily An Nahar,” he adds. “We were the first to print Khalil Gibran, and to this day we pay copyright fees to the Gibran committee,” he continues. The journal of Elia Abou Madi, which he published daily in the weekly Al Samir in the USA, was published by Dar Sader, as well as Amine el Rihani, Amine Nakhlé, Elias Abou Chabké, Karam Melhem Karam, Kamal Joumblatt whose work Adab el Hayat (The Ethics of Life) and Thawra fi Alam al Insan (A Revolution in the World of Man) were published; Camille Chamoun whose work Marahel al-Istiklal (The Stages of Independence) was edited… “We also opened a branch in Iraq, during the time of Saddam Hussein, whose novels, signed anonymously, were sent to me through the Iraqi Ministry of Culture: Al Qalaa-al Hassina (The Fortress); Rijal wa Madina (Men and a City); Zabida wa al-Malek (Zabida and the King).”
Sara Sader specifies to This is Beirut that, unlike other publishing houses, Dar Sader has been printing an uncensored version of the Thousand and One Nights for over a hundred years, also including images by the French orientalist painter and illustrator Léon Carré. This book is one of our best-sellers, and our version of the Thousand and One Nights is classified as a work of reference in the Arab world. An unshakeable ethic governs the Sader institution, which is passed down from generation to generation and is upheld today by the fifth generation, equally dedicated to excellence.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 06-07/2024

US says it is studying Hamas response on Gaza ceasefire, will discuss with allies
Humeyra Pamuk/Reuters/May 6, 2024

The United States is studying Hamas's response to a ceasefire proposal and will discuss it with allies in the Middle East in the coming hours, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Monday.An Israeli official said no ceasefire agreement had been reached despite the Palestinian militant group Hamas saying on Monday it had accepted a proposal from Egyptian and Qatari mediators after weeks of stop-start talks on a deal for a temporary pause in fighting and the release of hostages to Israel. "I can confirm that Hamas has issued a response. We are reviewing that response now and discussing it with our partners in the region," Miller said on Monday afternoon, confirming that a response was received in the last hour or 90 minutes and that discussions would take place in the coming hours. CIA director Bill Burns is in the region "working on this in real time," Miller said.The Hamas announcement came hours after Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of Rafah, the city on Gaza's southern edge that has served as the last sanctuary for around half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents. That appeared to signal that an operation on Rafah will go ahead, despite Washington's repeated warnings, including by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a visit to Israel last week, where he also focused on increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza. Miller reiterated that the United States could not support an operation in Rafah "as it is currently envisioned" by Israel. "A Rafah operation would make it incredibly difficult to sustain the increases in humanitarian assistance that we have been able to deliver over the past few weeks," Miller said.

Hamas accepts Gaza cease-fire; Israel says it will continue talks but launches strikes in Rafah
AP/May 06, 2024
JERUSALEM: Hamas announced its acceptance Monday of an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal, but Israel said the deal did not meet its “core demands” and that it was pushing ahead with an assault on the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Still, Israel said it would continue negotiations.
The high-stakes diplomatic moves and military brinkmanship left a glimmer of hope alive — but only barely — for an accord that could bring at least a pause in the 7-month-old war that has devastated the Gaza Strip. Hanging over the wrangling was the threat of an all-out Israeli assault on Rafah, a move the United States strongly opposes and that aid groups warn will be disastrous for some 1.4 million Palestinians taking refuge there. Hamas’s abrupt acceptance of the ceasefire deal came hours after Israel ordered an evacuation of some 100,000 Palestinians from eastern neighborhoods of Rafah, signaling an invasion was imminent. Israel’s War Cabinet decided to continue the Rafah operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. At the same time, it said that while the proposal Hamas agreed to “is far from meeting Israel’s core demands,” it would send negotiators to Egypt to work on a deal.
The Israeli military said it was conducting “targeted strikes” against Hamas in eastern Rafah. The nature of the strikes was not immediately known, but the move appeared aimed at keeping the pressure on as talks continue. President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated US concerns about an invasion of Rafah. US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said American officials were reviewing the Hamas response “and discussing it with our partners in the region.” An American official said the US was examining whether what Hamas agreed to was the version signed off to by Israel and international negotiators or something else. It was not immediately known if the proposal Hamas agreed to was substantially different from one that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed the militant group to accept last week, which Blinken said included significant Israeli concessions.
Egyptian officials said that proposal called for a ceasefire of multiple stages starting with a limited hostage release and partial Israeli troop pullbacks within Gaza. The two sides would also negotiate a “permanent calm” that would lead to a full hostage release and greater Israeli withdrawal out of the territory, they said. Hamas sought clearer guarantees for its key demand of an end to the war and complete Israeli withdrawal in return for the release of all hostages, but it wasn’t clear if any changes were made. Israeli leaders have repeatedly rejected that trade-off, vowing to keep up their campaign until Hamas is destroyed after its Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.
Netanyahu is under pressure from hard-line partners in his coalition who demand an attack on Rafah and could collapse his government if he signs onto a deal. But he also faces pressure from the families of hostages to reach a deal for their release. Thousands of Israelis rallied around the country Monday night calling for an immediate agreement. About a thousand protesters swelled near the defense headquarters in Tel Aviv, where police tried to clear the road. In Jerusalem, about a hundred protesters marched toward Netanyahu’s residence with a banner reading, “The blood is on your hands.”
Israel says Rafah is the last significant Hamas stronghold in Gaza, and Netanyahu said Monday that the offensive against the town was vital to ensuring the militants can’t rebuild their military capabilities. But he faces strong American opposition. Miller said Monday the US has not seen a credible and implementable plan to protect Palestinian civilians. “We cannot support an operation in Rafah as it is currently envisioned,” he said. The looming operation has raised global alarm. Aid agencies have warned that an offensive will bring a surge of more civilian deaths in an Israeli campaign that has already killed 34,000 people and devastated the territory. It could also wreck the humanitarian aid operation based out of Rafah that is keeping Palestinians across the Gaza Strip alive, they say. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Monday called the evacuation order “inhumane.”
“Gazans continue to be hit with bombs, disease, and even famine. And today, they have been told that they must relocate yet again,” he said. “It will only expose them to more danger and misery.” Israeli leaflets, text messages and radio broadcasts ordered Palestinians to evacuate eastern neighborhoods of Rafah, warning that an attack was imminent and anyone who stays “puts themselves and their family members in danger.” The military told people to move to an Israel-declared humanitarian zone called Muwasi, a makeshift camp on the coast. It said Israel has expanded the size of the zone and that it included tents, food, water and field hospitals.
It wasn’t immediately clear, however, if that was already in place. Around 450,000 displaced Palestinians already are sheltering in Muwasi. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said it has been providing them with aid. But conditions are squalid, with few sanitation facilities in the largely rural area, forcing families to dig private latrines. Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, condemned the “forced, unlawful” evacuation order to Muwasi. “The area is already overstretched and devoid of vital services,” Egeland said. The evacuation order left Palestinians in Rafah wrestling with having to uproot their families once again for an unknown fate, exhausted after months living in sprawling tent camps or crammed into schools or other shelters in and around the city. Israeli airstrikes on Rafah early Monday killed 22 people, including children and two infants. Mohammed Jindiyah said that at the beginning of the war, he tried to hold out in his home in northern Gaza under heavy bombardment before fleeing to Rafah. He is complying with Israel’s evacuation order this time, but was unsure whether to move to Muwasi or elsewhere. “We are 12 families, and we don’t know where to go. There is no safe area in Gaza,” he said. Sahar Abu Nahel, who fled to Rafah with 20 family members, including her children and grandchildren, wiped tears from her cheeks, despairing at a new move. “I have no money or anything. I am seriously tired, as are the children,” she said. “Maybe it’s more honorable for us to die. We are being humiliated.” Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 34,700 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them children and women, according to Gaza health officials. The tally doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants. More than 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million have been driven from their homes, and hundreds of thousands in the north are on the brink of famine, according to the UN The war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 250 hostages. After exchanges during a November ceasefire, Hamas is believed to still hold about 100 Israelis as well the bodies of around 30 others.

Hamas announces it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal
PA Media/May 6, 2024
Hamas has announced it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a ceasefire to halt the seven-month war with Israel in Gaza. It came hours after Israel ordered about 100,000 Palestinians to begin evacuating the southern city of Rafah, signalling that a long-promised ground invasion could be imminent. A source said Israeli officials are examining the proposal, but warned that it “is not the framework Israel proposed”.

Israel says Hamas deal is ‘far’ from meeting its demands as Rafah offensive looms

Abeer Salman, Christian Edwards, Becky Anderson and Jeremy Diamond/CNN/May 6, 2024
Israel said the terms of a ceasefire deal Hamas accepted on Monday remained “far from” meeting its demands and warned its military operations in Rafah would continue, even as it sent negotiators to talk to mediators. In a statement Monday, Hamas said the head of its political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, told the Qatari prime minister and Egyptian intelligence minister that the militant group had accepted their proposals for a ceasefire and hostage deal. Shortly afterwards, Israel said the proposal Hamas had accepted was still far from the “necessary requirements,” but that it would send a delegation to the mediators. It also reiterated its commitment to an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying its war cabinet had “unanimously decided” to continue with the operation “to exert military pressure on Hamas.”Prior to Israel’s response, Palestinians had been celebrating in the streets over Hamas’ announcements. In Tel Aviv, hostage families and their supporters implored Israel’s leaders to accept the deal. But later on Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces said that it is “currently conducting targeted strikes against Hamas terror targets in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.”
CNN political and global affairs analyst Barak Ravid said Israeli forces were going to take over the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing in the next few hours, citing two sources with direct knowledge. The news comes just hours after Israel ordered Palestinians living in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, to “evacuate immediately.” The order raised fears that Israel’s long-threatened assault on the city could be imminent. More than 1 million Palestinians have fled to Rafah, where Hamas is believed to have regrouped after Israel’s destruction of much of the north of Gaza. A source familiar with Israeli plans told CNN that a limited incursion into Rafah was intended to keep pressure on Hamas to agree a deal that would bring about a ceasefire and a hostage release.
No agreement
The details of the proposals Hamas says it has agreed to remain unclear, and whether it is referring to the most recent ceasefire proposal, as outlined last week, or a revised version of it. A senior Israeli and a senior US official said that Hamas had agreed to a framework proposal, which diverges from the one Israel had helped craft with Egypt. The latest proposal calls for an end to the war, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously said he will not accept, the senior American official said. According to a press release, Hamas said it would not back down from its demands in the latest proposal, which include a “ceasefire, complete withdrawal, dignified exchange, reconstruction, and lifting of the blockade.” Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said Monday there were “significant gaps” between Israel and Hamas. “Despite this, we continue to turn over every stone and a delegation will go to Cairo.”A previous framework, which Israel helped craft but had not fully agreed to, called for the release of between 20 and 33 hostages over several weeks in exchange for a temporary ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.After the initial exchange, according to that framework, there would follow what sources describe as the “restoration of sustainable calm” during which the remaining hostages, captive Israeli soldiers and the bodies of hostages would be exchanged for more Palestinian prisoners. The White House on Monday confirmed that there had “been a response from Hamas” to a proposed hostage deal in Israel, and that US President Joe Biden had been briefed on that response, but otherwise declined to weigh in specifically on what a deal could entail. Biden is “aware of where the situation and where the process is,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told a press briefing. CIA Director Bill Burns remains in the region “working in real time on the ground,” Kirby added. “We still believe that reaching an agreement is the absolute best outcome not only for the hostages, but for the Palestinian people and we’re not going to stop working to that outcome,” he said.
IDF operations ongoing
Asked whether Hamas’ acceptance of a deal could change Israel’s plans for Rafah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the military would continue to operate in Gaza. He said operations are ongoing, but that the IDF is making every effort in the negotiations to bring the hostages home as “fast as possible.”Netanyahu has come under fierce pressure from the more extreme wing of his coalition not to accept the ceasefire proposal outlined last week, and to focus instead on destroying Hamas in Rafah. Orit Strook, Israel’s settlements minister and a member of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said last week that accepting the deal would “throw” Israel’s military progress “in the trash.”Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, said Netanyahu had “promised that Israel would enter Rafah, assured that the war would not end, and pledged that there would be no reckless deal.”But large parts of the Israeli public have demanded Netanyahu accept a deal. Families and supporters of the hostages blocked the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv last week, holding a banner reading: “Rafah or the hostages – choose life.” Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet but seen as a rival and possible successor to Netanyahu, said the return of hostages was more urgent that entering Rafah. Responding to Monday’s announcement by Hamas, the Hostages Families Forum said: “Now is the time for all that are involved, to fulfil their commitment and turn this opportunity into a deal for the return of all the hostages.”This is a developing story and will be updated.

Gaza cease-fire talks at 'critical stage,' US says, after Hamas claims it accepted proposal

Hamas says it accepted cease-fire agreement; Israel yet to confirmScroll back up to restore default view. An unexpected announcement from Hamas claiming it had accepted the terms of a cease-fire deal temporarily raised hopes for an extended truce in Gaza and the release of scores of hostages still held in the enclave, but U.S. and Israeli officials say an agreement has not yet been reached -- leaving negotiations in a precarious position. "We are at a critical stage right now," White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday. "I don't know that it gets any more sensitive than right now."A spokesperson for Hamas' political arm first sparked confusion and widespread speculation by asserting the group had informed Qatari and Egyptian officials mediating the negotiations that it had accepted a proposal from the two countries without providing any additional details. U.S. and Israeli officials were surprised by Hamas' public declaration, which came on the heels of what officials described as a frustrating weekend of negotiations that almost saw the talks fall apart entirely. The highest levels of both countries' governments immediately began to analyze Hamas' full response. Israel convened an urgent meeting of its war cabinet, and President Joe Biden was promptly briefed on the latest developments, according to the White House. Optimism for an agreement waned again when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office signaled that Hamas had not accepted anything that resembles the framework that has been on the table for weeks -- one that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called "extraordinarily generous" on Israel's part -- but instead terms it described in a statement as "far from Israel's necessary requirements."
However, the prime minister's office also said that Israel, which has so far stayed on the sidelines during the latest round of negotiations, would now send a delegation to the talks in order to "exhaust the possibility of reaching an agreement under conditions acceptable to Israel."U.S. officials have not yet given any assessment of Hamas' position, but one described CIA Director William Burns, who has played a prominent role in the negotiations, arrived in Cairo on Friday and is expected to remain in the region as he works to push a deal over the finish line."Director Burns is still talking to partners about this," Kirby said. "And the director traveled to see if we can't bring this thing home." The Biden administration has been under pressure to lock up an agreement for months to free the hostages, which include American citizens, as well as to stave off a looming Israeli incursion into Rafah that U.S. officials warn would have dire implications for Gaza's civilian population. But Israel's war cabinet said in a statement on Monday that it unanimously voted to continue operations in Gaza's southernmost city, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, to "exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war."The U.S. has consistently urged Israel against carrying out an invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, but two administration officials say the administration has softened its public condemnation of Israel's rhetoric surrounding a potential operation—seeing it as a potentially effective means of pushing Hamas to accept a deal. But the officials also said the U.S. doesn't assess that Israel is bluffing, and that Israel won't agree to any diplomatic resolution to the conflict that allows Hamas battalions to remain inside Rafah. Before news of Hamas' potential agreement to a cease-fire deal broke on Monday, Biden and Netanyahu spoke over the phone on other pressing matters tied to the conflict, including Israel's military objectives in Rafah and protections for civilians. "I think we just have to see what transpires," Kirby said. "The president was very direct and consistent that we don't want to see major ground operations in Rafah that put these people at greater risk." Gaza cease-fire talks at 'critical stage,' US says, after Hamas claims it accepted proposal originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Biden speaks with Netanyahu as Israelis appear closer to Rafah offensive
AFP/May 06, 2024
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Monday morning, a White House official and a National Security Council spokesperson said, as Israel appeared closer to launching an offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah — a move staunchly opposed by the US on humanitarian grounds. The NSC spokesperson said Biden reiterated US concerns about an invasion of Rafah — where more than 1 million civilians from other parts of Gaza are sheltering after 7 months of war sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel — and said he believes reaching a ceasefire with Hamas is the best way to protect the lives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the call before an official White House statement was released.The call comes hours before Biden is to host King Abdullah II of Jordan for a private lunch meeting at the White House on Monday. On Sunday, Netanyahu rejected international pressure to halt the war in Gaza in a fiery speech marking the country’s annual Holocaust memorial day, declaring: “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.” “I say to the leaders of the world: No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself,” he said, speaking in English. “Never again is now.”

Saudi Arabia warns Israel against targeting Gaza’s Rafah
ARAB NEWS/May 06, 2024
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia warned of the dangers of Israel targeting the city of Rafah as part of its “bloody” and “systematic campaign to storm all areas of the Gaza Strip and displace its residents” on Monday. The warning came after Israel’s military ordered tens of thousands of people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to begin evacuating earlier on Monday, signaling that a long-promised ground invasion could be imminent. The Foreign Ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of continuous violations of international law by Israeli forces which are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the territory and limiting international peace efforts. The ministry renewed the Kingdom’s call on the international community to intervene immediately to stop the Israeli genocide taking place in occupied Palestinian territories. The UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk said on Monday that Israeli orders to relocate Palestinians from Rafah are inhumane and risked exposing them to further danger and misery. He warned that such actions can sometimes amount to a war crime.

Ground invasion of Rafah would be ‘intolerable,’ UN chief warns

AFP/May 07, 2024
UNITED NATIONS, United States: A ground invasion of Rafah would be “intolerable,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday, calling on Israel and Hamas “to go an extra mile” to reach a ceasefire deal. “This is an opportunity that cannot be missed, and a ground invasion in Rafah would be intolerable because of its devastating humanitarian consequences, and because of its destabilizing impact in the region,” Guterres said as he received Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Al Jazeera, citing senior Hamas source: The movement informs Egyptian and Qatari mediators of accepting the ceasefire proposal
LBCI/May 06, 2024
The Hamas movement informed the Egyptian and Qatari mediators of accepting the ceasefire proposal, Al Jazeera reported on Monday, quoting a senior Hamas source. The head of the political bureau of the Hamas movement, Ismail Haniyeh made a call with the Qatari Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, and the Egyptian Intelligence Minister, Abbas Kamel, informing them of the movement’s approval of their ceasefire proposal, according to a press statement.

White House: Netanyahu agrees to reopen Gaza crossing for humanitarian aid

Reuters/May 06, 2024
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Joe Biden on Monday that he would ensure the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza is open for humanitarian aid, the White House said. Biden also reiterated his "clear position on Rafah" in a call with Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia warns Israel against targeting Gaza’s Rafah
ARAB NEWS/May 06, 2024
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia warned of the dangers of Israel targeting the city of Rafah as part of its “bloody” and “systematic campaign to storm all areas of the Gaza Strip and displace its residents” on Monday. The warning came after Israel’s military ordered tens of thousands of people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to begin evacuating earlier on Monday, signaling that a long-promised ground invasion could be imminent. The Foreign Ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of continuous violations of international law by Israeli forces which are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the territory and limiting international peace efforts. The ministry renewed the Kingdom’s call on the international community to intervene immediately to stop the Israeli genocide taking place in occupied Palestinian territories. The UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk said on Monday that Israeli orders to relocate Palestinians from Rafah are inhumane and risked exposing them to further danger and misery. He warned that such actions can sometimes amount to a war crime.

The UN says there's 'full-blown famine' in northern Gaza. What does that mean?
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP)/May 6, 2024
The head of the United Nations World Food Program says northern Gaza has entered “full-blown famine” after nearly seven months of war between Israel and Hamas. But a formal, and highly sensitive, famine declaration faces the complications of politics and of confirming how many people have died. Cindy McCain in an NBC interview broadcast Sunday said severe Israeli restrictions on humanitarian deliveries to the territory that has long relied on outside food assistance have pushed civilians in the most isolated, devastated part of Gaza over the brink. Famine was now moving south in Gaza, she said.
A WFP spokesman later told The Associated Press that one of the three benchmarks for a formal famine declaration has already been met in northern Gaza and another is nearly met — important details on how far the effort to document deadly hunger has progressed. Israel faces mounting pressure from top ally the United States and others to let more aid into Gaza, notably by opening more land crossings for the most efficient delivery by truck. Aid groups say deliveries by air and sea by the United States and other countries cannot meet the needs of Gaza's 2.3 million people, a growing number of them reaching the stage of malnutrition where a child's growth is stunted and deaths occur. Famine had been projected in parts of Gaza this month in a March report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a global initiative that includes WFP as a partner. It said nearly a third of Gaza's population was experiencing the highest level of catastrophic hunger, and that could rise to nearly half by July. The next IPC report is expected in July. Israel strongly rejects any claims of famine in Gaza, and its humanitarian agency called McCain’s assertion incorrect. A formal declaration could be used as evidence at the International Criminal Court as well as at the International Court of Justice, where Israel faces allegations of genocide in a case brought by South Africa. Here's what we know about famine and the hunger crisis in Gaza.
According to the IPC, an area is considered to be in famine when three things occur: 20% of households have an extreme lack of food, or essentially starving; at least 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition or wasting, meaning they're too thin for their height; and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying daily of hunger and its complications. In northern Gaza, the first condition of extreme lack of food has been met, senior WFP spokesman Steve Taravella told The Associated Press. The second condition of child acute malnutrition is nearly met, he said. But the death rate could not be verified. Doing so is difficult. Aid groups note that Israeli airstrikes and raids have devastated medical facilities in northern Gaza and displaced much of the population. Along with restrictions on access, they complicate the ability to formally collect data on deaths. A document explaining famine published in March by the IPC noted, however, that an area can be classified as “famine with reasonable evidence” if two of the three thresholds have been reached and analysts believe from available evidence that the third likely has been reached.
“The bottom line is that people are practically dying from a lack of food, water and medicines. If we are waiting for the moment when all the facts are in hand to verify the final conditions to scientifically declare a famine, it would be after thousands of people have perished,” Taravella said.
Shortly after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Israel sealed its borders with Gaza and for weeks prevented aid from entering. Aid groups have said assistance since then has been restricted to a trickle far below the 500 trucks of aid that entered before the war. Since March, as Israel has pointed to progress, an average of 171 trucks per day have entered Gaza, according to the U.S.-established Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Once inside Gaza, food and other aid doesn't always reach the most vulnerable. Aid groups say access is limited, particularly in the north, due to ongoing fighting and a chaotic security situation. Northern Gaza, including Gaza City, was the first target of Israel's invasion and became the epicenter of the hunger crisis, with many residents reduced to eating animal feed and foraging for weeds. The IPC report in March said around 210,000 people in the north were in catastrophic levels of hunger. The very young, the very old and those with health problems are the most affected. On Sunday, a 6-year-old from northern Gaza with cystic fibrosis was taken to the United States on a humanitarian flight after his mother made a video pleading for help. Fadi Al-Zant's jutting ribs and thin arms showed advanced malnutrition.
Humanitarian groups say it will be difficult to deliver life-saving aid without a cease-fire. Even with a pause in fighting, some experts say the situation in northern Gaza will have life-lasting consequences, especially for newborns and pregnant women. While Israel has allowed more aid in recent weeks under international pressure, a humanitarian official for the U.S. Agency for International Development told the AP that since March, northern Gaza has not received anything like the aid needed to stave off famine. USAID made the official available on condition of the official’s anonymity, citing security concerns over his work in conflict. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has welcomed Israel's recent steps to increase deliveries but stressed such moves must be sustained. That's not easy. Israel on Sunday closed its main crossing point for delivering aid after a Hamas attack killed soldiers.
Some Palestinians say the increase in aid has eased things slightly, especially by lowering the cost of food. Gaza City resident Said Siam said prices have dropped in recent weeks. Still, the 18-year-old said he and family members have each lost at least 10 kilograms (22 pounds) since the start of the war, mostly eating one meal of pumpkin soup each day. Fruits, vegetables and fresh meat are still scarce.

Gaza protestors picket outside of Met Gala 2024

Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY/May 6, 2024
While celebrities are putting on their best for the Met Gala, protestors are hitting the picket lines. Protesters in support of Palestinians amid Israel's war in Gaza made their voices heard outside of the Met Gala. Students from Hunter College, roughly a mile from the Met Gala, marched with signs calling for their university to "divest" funding. "We will not stop, we will not rest," the students chanted, per videos shared by reporter Katie Smith on X. In another video they chanted, "There is only one solution." The protests come a week after hundreds of students attending universities in New York City such as Columbia University, New York University and SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology have ramped up organization efforts to get their institutions to cut financial ties to Israel and Israeli companies, especially those benefiting from the ongoing war in Gaza. While the demonstrations have not led to any divestments, the week of protests have had broad impacts, including forcing classes to move online, limited access to campuses, arrests of students and disrupting graduation plans. The dayslong demonstrations have centered on the war in Gaza that was triggered by Hamas' incursion into southern Israel on Oct. 7, when about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 240 people were taken hostage. Israel then launched a massive military campaign against Hamas and the resulting bombardment and ground assault has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, leveled large swaths of Gaza and caused a humanitarian crisis that's left the population on the brink of starvation. Contributing: Christopher Cann, Clare Mulroy, Eduardo Cuevas, Minnah Arshad and Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY

Rebuilding Gaza: The roadmap to recovery after war
LBCI/May 6, 2024
A glance towards the horizon typically evokes hope and opportunity, but in Gaza, it signifies a view of destruction and the arduous journey towards recovery. According to the United Nations, the reconstruction of Gaza is estimated to require between 30 to 40 billion dollars due to the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. However, this monumental task cannot be achieved overnight. It will rather take a considerable amount of time. The UN reports that the total rubble in Gaza is approaching 40 million tons, with 72% of residential buildings either completely or partially destroyed. Additionally, human development in Gaza, including health, education, economy, and infrastructure, has regressed by 40 years. Despite the immense destruction, there is hope for restoration with the assistance of various Arab and international countries. The rehabilitation of infrastructure and reconstruction efforts in Gaza are integral parts of a proposed prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, currently being discussed through intermediaries. Nevertheless, there must be a permanent ceasefire and a clear post-war plan for Gaza for all this to materialize. The New York Times has published a plan involving Israeli businessmen and close associates of the Israeli Prime Minister. It proposes shared governance over Gaza between Israel, the United States, and an Arab coalition comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Under the agreement, the coalition would appoint leaders in Gaza to commence the repair of damaged lands and their educational system.
The proposal suggests that after seven to ten years, the coalition would allow Gaza residents to vote on whether they would be absorbed into a unified Palestinian administration governing both Gaza and the West Bank. While the plan outlined by the American newspaper has garnered attention, many analysts and Arab officials consider it unviable as it fails to provide a clear path toward establishing a Palestinian state, a fundamental requirement for Saudi Arabia and the UAE to engage in post-war planning. Egypt has yet to comment on the proposal.

UN and US Defend Free Press After Israel Bans Al Jazeera
AFP/his Is Beirut/May 06/2024
The United Nations defended freedom of the press on Monday as it commented on Israel’s decision to shut down the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, while the United States opposed Israel’s closure of the channel, saying it should be allowed to operate despite any concerns about its coverage. “We think Al Jazeera ought to be able to operate in Israel, operate in other countries in the region,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, adding that the United States was “quite concerned” about the Israeli move. Al Jazeera has been the focus of months of criticism by Netanyahu and his government in the latest round of a long-running feud that began well before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. “Regarding the closure of the Al Jazeera office in Israel,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office, “we’ve made it clear that we stand firmly against any decision to roll back freedom of the press.”“A free press provides an invaluable service to ensure that the public is informed and that the public is engaged,” he added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government had decided unanimously to close the channel, and hours later it went off-air in the country. Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said that he had issued the order to shutter the channel, confiscate equipment and restrict broadcasting to Al Jazeera’s websites in a separate joint statement with Netanyahu.

Nuclear talks: IAEA chief engages Iranian officials on nuclear concerns
LBCI/May 6, 2024
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, finds himself with the opportunity to pose questions to Iranian officials during his visit to Iran for the first International Conference on Nuclear Science in Isfahan, home to key nuclear facilities.
Questions may revolve around Iran's undisclosed nuclear sites, the reduction in inspection levels, and the increase in Iran's enriched uranium stockpile for nuclear bomb production. Conversely, Iranian responses are expected to be ready under the title "Tehran Has No Plans for Nuclear Weapons," echoing the fatwa issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banning such weapons. Iran considers the IAEA's statements regarding undisclosed sites lacking in evidence and documentation. Regarding the entry of IAEA inspectors into the country, Iran states that it has not prevented them. Grossi's presence in Tehran comes at a crucial time as he is expected to present his report on Iranian nuclear activities preceding the upcoming meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors next month. Additionally, the Iranian nuclear file is central to indirect talks in Vienna between the United States and Iran aimed at reaching a nuclear agreement in exchange for lifting sanctions on Iran. However, these stalled negotiations have been interrupted by exchanged messages between the two countries on several occasions. Will Grossi receive answers to his questions during his visit to Iran, thereby succeeding in resolving some of the lingering issues with Tehran, which may reignite hopes for a nuclear agreement between the US and Iran?

The UN nuclear watchdog chief travels to Iran as its monitoring remains hampered
The head of the United Nations' atomic watchdog traveled Monday to Iran, where his agency faces increasing difficulty in monitoring the Islamic Republic's rapidly advancing nuclear program as tensions remain high in the wider Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war.
Rafael Mariano Grossi already has warned Tehran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons-grade levels to make “several” nuclear bombs if it chose to do so. He has acknowledged the agency can't guarantee that none of Iran's centrifuges may have been peeled away for clandestine enrichment.
Those challenges now find themselves entangled in attacks between Israel and Iran, with the city of Isfahan apparently coming under Israeli fire in recent weeks despite it being surrounded by sensitive nuclear sites. Grossi is likely to attend an Iranian nuclear conference there while on his two-day trip to Iran.
In Tehran, Grossi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian shook hands in front of journalists before going into a meeting Monday. Grossi in a post on the social platform X after the meeting described proposing “a set of concrete practical measures for the revitalization” of a previous plan reached with Iran last year over inspections. That 2023 statement included a pledge by Iran to resolve questions around sites where inspectors have questions about possible undeclared nuclear activity and Iran allowing the IAEA to “implement further appropriate verification and monitoring activities.” Grossi did not elaborate on the measures he proposed. Grossi will travel to Isfahan on Tuesday before heading back to Vienna, where he plans to give an update to journalists. Tensions have grown between Iran and the IAEA since then-President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Since then, Iran has abandoned all limits the deal put on its program and enriches uranium to 60% purity — near weapons-grade levels of 90%. IAEA surveillance cameras have been disrupted, while Iran has barred some of the agency’s most experienced inspectors.
Meanwhile, Iranian officials have increasingly threatened they could pursue atomic weapons. “For us, making the atomic bomb is easier than not building atomic bomb," said Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, the chancellor of Tehran Shahid Beheshti University and a specialist in nuclear physics. Iranian media quoted Aghamiri acknowledging Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had previously said making an atomic bomb is forbidden. “But if his fatwa and viewpoint is changed, we have ability to build atomic bomb, too,” Aghamiri added.
Aghamiri's comments follow a drumroll of others by Iranian lawmakers, those in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and a former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran suggesting Tehran could build the bomb.
Iranian diplomats for years have pointed to Khamenei’s preachings as a binding fatwa, or religious edict, that Iran wouldn’t build an atomic bomb.
“We do not need nuclear bombs. We have no intention of using a nuclear bomb,” Khamenei said in a November 2006 speech, according to a transcript from his office. “We do not claim to dominate the world, like the Americans, we do not want to dominate the world by force and need a nuclear bomb. Our nuclear bomb and explosive power is our faith.”But such edicts aren’t written in stone. Khamenei’s predecessor, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued fatwas that revised his own earlier pronouncements after he took power following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And anyone who would follow the 85-year-old Khamenei as the country’s supreme leader could make his own fatwas revising those previously issued. U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA say Iran had an organized military nuclear program up until 2003. The latest American intelligence community assessment says Iran “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities necessary to produce a testable nuclear device.” At the Isfahan conference Monday, Mohammed Eslami of Iran's civilian nuclear arm insisted that cooperation with the IAEA and adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “tops the policies and strategy of the Islamic Republic” — despite the impeded inspections and threats to build an atomic weapon. “We have 22% of global inspections," Eslami said at one point. "This amount of inspection has never been done in a country throughout history.” Meanwhile, tensions between Iran and Israel have hit a new high. Tehran launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel after years of a shadow war between the two countries reached a climax with Israel's apparent attack on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed two Iranian generals and others.
Israel's own nuclear weapons program, widely known by experts though never acknowledged by the country, didn't deter Iran's assault. And now experts increasingly suggest Iran could pursue the bomb itself after a major attack on it.
“With a tiny open attack on Iranian soil by the U.S. and Israel, I believe Iran will conduct its first atomic test," analyst Saeed Leilaz said in April.

What are tactical nuclear weapons and why did Russia order drills?
The Associated Press/May 6, 2024
Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday that the military would hold drills involving tactical nuclear weapons — the first time such an exercise has been publicly announced by Moscow. A look at tactical nuclear weapons and the part they play in the Kremlin's political messaging.
Unlike nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles that can destroy entire cities, tactical nuclear weapons for use against troops on the battlefield are less powerful and can have a yield as small as about 1 kiloton. The U.S. bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was 15 kilotons.
Such battlefield nuclear weapons — aerial bombs, warheads for short-range missiles or artillery munitions — can be very compact. Their small size allows them to be discreetly carried on a truck or plane.
Unlike strategic weapons, which have been subject to arms control agreements between Moscow and Washington, tactical weapons never have been limited by any such pacts, and Russia hasn’t released their numbers or any other specifics related to them.
Since launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly reminded Western nations about Moscow’s nuclear might in a bid to discourage them from increasing military support to Kyiv. Early on in the war, Putin frequently referenced Moscow’s nuclear arsenal by vowing repeatedly to use “all means” necessary to protect Russia. But he later toned down his statements as Ukraine's offensive last summer failed to reach its goals and Russia scored more gains on the battlefield.
Moscow's defense doctrine envisages a nuclear response to an atomic strike or even an attack with conventional weapons that “threaten the very existence of the Russian state.” That vague wording has led some pro-Kremlin Russian experts to urge Putin to sharpen it to force the West to take the warnings more seriously. Putin said last fall that he sees no reason for such a change.
“There is no situation in which anything would threaten Russian statehood and the existence of the Russian state,” he said. “I think that no person of sober mind and clear memory could have an idea to use nuclear weapons against Russia.”
Last year, Russia moved some of its tactical nuclear weapons into the territory of Belarus, an ally that neighbors Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, had long urged Moscow to station nuclear weapons in his country, which has close military ties with Russia and served as a staging ground for the war in Ukraine. Both Putin and Lukashenko said that nuclear weapons deployment to Belarus was intended to counter perceived Western threats. Last year, Putin specifically linked the move to the U.K. government’s decision to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing shells containing depleted uranium. Neither leader said how many were moved — only that Soviet-era facilities in the country were readied to accommodate them, and that Belarusian pilots and missile crews were trained to use them. The weapons have remained under Russian military control.
The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which has a 1,084-kilometer (673-mile) border with Ukraine, would allow Russian aircraft and missiles to reach potential targets there more easily and quickly, if Moscow decides to use them. It has also extended Russia’s capability to target several NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe.

The US crackdown on Russian trade is working as Putin struggles to fund his war

Filip De Mott/Business Insider/May 6, 2024
Trade with Russia has slumped in the first quarter amid tightening US sanctions, the Financial Times said. Companies in countries such as China are turning to costly underground channels to keep trading. The ruble has also risen in popularity, as other currencies are pulled back. Moscow's key trade partners are getting cold feet, and it's causing export volumes to shrink as a US clampdown triggers reprisal fears among those who do business with the Kremlin. According to the Financial Times, shipments from Turkey and China have dropped meaningfully in the first quarter. For instance, exports from Ankara have plunged by a third year-to-year, while "high-priority" items sent to the region have fallen 40%. These are consumer goods that are critical to Moscow's war machine. Behind the shift is the US Treasury Department. After a December executive order bolstered its sanctioning power, the department has amplified warnings against foreign lenders that facilitate trade with Russia. That's included banks in other countries as well, such as the United Arab Emirates and Austria. To avoid Western repercussions, most have tightened their exposure to Russian counterparties, with the repercussions now felt by on-the-ground traders and investors. "It's getting harder and harder every month. One month it is dollars, the next month it is euros; within six months you basically won't be able to do anything. The logical endpoint of this is turning Russia into Iran," a senior Russian investor told the outlet, referencing the sanctions laid against Tehran.
Russia's difficulty in moving either money or goods is a rising threat, as the country has escalated its wartime spending to keep its economy running. In China, underground channels are cropping up, as domestic companies look for alternative ways to access the Russian consumer. With many banks no longer an option, currency brokers and cryptocurrency — an asset banned in China — are gaining popularity. On the Russian side, the rise of middlemen is cutting into profits. According to FT, metals group oligarch Vladimir Potanin recently blamed these mediator's for his company's falling revenue, citing their 5% to 7% commissions. But while such go-betweens are adding both complexity and costs to those still trying to trade with Russia, it may end up also adding difficulty to Western efforts to keep track of trade, sources told the outlet. At the same time, the US' crackdown has proliferated trade in the Russian ruble, as other currencies increasingly fall out of favor. For instance, rubles are now the mainstay currency for Indian traders buying Moscow crude, after dealers in the UAE cut off payments in dirhams, a Russian banking source said. That's as foreigners are still free to buy rubles on the Moscow Exchange when settling payments with Russian parties. In fact, the share of Russian exports paid in rubles jumped to 40% in February, having hovered under 15% in pre-war years. Imports also witnessed a rise.
Still, the ruble faces restricted convertibility, making it difficult to reach trade volumes once possible under the dollar.

Turkey says it has carried out new airstrikes against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq
ANKARA, Turkey (AP)/May 6, 2024
Turkey has carried out a new round of airstrikes targeting Kurdish militants in neighboring Iraq, the Turkish defense ministry said Monday. Warplanes struck suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the regions of Hakurk, Metina and Gara in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to the statement. The airstrikes reportedly killed 16 militants, including some commanders, the ministry said. There was no immediate comment from the PKK, a banned separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s. The ministry said it was determined to “rescue Turkey from this problem.”The latest airstrikes came weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid his first visit to Iraq in 12 years, seeking greater cooperation from Baghdad in the fight against the militants. Erdogan had previously announced a major operation against the PKK for this summer with the aim of “permanently” eradicating the threat it poses. The PKK, labelled a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, is fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeast Turkey. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives since it began in 1984. Baghdad has long alleged that Turkish actions in Iraq against the PKK violate its sovereignty, but it appears to be acquiescing to Ankara’s latest operations. In March, after a meeting between the Iraqi and Turkish foreign ministers, Baghdad announced that the Iraqi National Security Council had issued a ban on the PKK, although it stopped short of designating it as a terrorist organization.

Turkey formally opens another former Byzantine-era church as a mosque
Canadian Press Videos/Mon, May 6, 2024
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally opened a former Byzantine church in Istanbul as mosque, four years after his government had designated it a Muslim house of prayer, despite criticism from neighbouring Greece.

Erdogan opens former church to Muslim worshippers
AFP/May 07, 202400:43
ISTANBUL: Turkiye on Monday reopened a mosque converted from an ancient Orthodox church in Istanbul for Muslim worship, four years after the president ordered its transformation. The Kariye Mosque was formerly a Byzantine church, then a mosque and then a museum. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2020, ordered the building to be reconverted into a Muslim place of worship. His order came followed a similarly controversial ruling on the UNESCO-protected Hagia Sophia — a cathedral in Istanbul that was converted into a mosque and then a museum, before becoming a mosque again. The changes were seen as part of Erdogan’s efforts to galvanize his more conservative and nationalist supporters. But they have also added to tensions with prelates in both the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Erdogan on Monday declared Kariye Mosque reopened for worship, remotely during a ceremony at the presidential palace in the capital, Ankara.
An AFP picture from the mosque showed one worshipper wave a Turkish flag before the congregation who performed their prayers on a brick-red color carpet on Monday afternoon. Images also revealed that two mosaics carved into the walls of the ancient church on the right and left sides of the prayer room were covered with curtains. Most of the mosaics and frescos however remained visible to visitors. “I had the opportunity to visit the place before and I was initially a little afraid of the work that could have been carried out,” said Michel, a French tourist, who would not give his full name.
“But ultimately we must recognize that it’s well done, that the frescos are accessible to everybody,” the 31-year-old researcher said. Greece’s foreign affairs ministry on Monday night blasted a “provocation,” claiming that the move “alters the character” of the former church and “harms this UNESCO world heritage site that belongs to humanity.” Neighbouring Greece had already reacted angrily to the decision in 2020 to convert the building. The Holy Savior in Chora was a Byzantine church decorated with 14th-century frescoes of the Last Judgment that are still treasured by Christians. The church was converted into Kariye Mosque half a century after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks.
It became the Kariye Museum after World War II, when Turkiye sought to create a more secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. A group of art historians from the United States helped restore the original church’s mosaics and they were put on public display in 1958.
Hagia Sophia — once the seat of Eastern Christianity — was also converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkiye after World War I, turned the UNESCO World Heritage site into a museum in a bid to promote religious neutrality. Nearly 100 years later, Erdogan, whose ruling AKP party has Islamist roots, turned it back into a Muslim place of worship. “It’s timeless, it’s something that for me is superior to Hagia Sophia,” Michel said of Kariye Mosque. “It’s better preserved, less touristic and more intimate.”

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on May 06-07/2024
World is not prepared for what will happen in Rafah

Chris Doyle/Arab News/May 06, 2024
In Detroit, anti-Palestinian hate mobs chanted “Rafah, Rafah, here we come.” American and other Western media outlets have been obsessed in recent days with the burgeoning array of university campus sit-ins spreading not just across the US, but in Europe too. Debates about the protests, the intentions of the protesters, the counter-protesters and the actions of the police dominate the headlines. The casual observer could comfortably forget what this was all about.
The real story remains what is happening on the ground in Gaza. Everything else is a sideshow to the main event, but many in the pro-genocide camp would love the focus to be on these sideshows.
The story is not about societies that have universities (all the ones in Gaza, Israel has destroyed), those who have futures to risk and the basic comforts of life. It is about those in Gaza facing the next chapter of Israel’s genocidal campaign. Above all, it is about the fate of the 1.5 million displaced Palestinians crammed into ever-shrinking, overcrowded, stinking hellholes in Rafah in southern Gaza. Some of them have been displaced seven times. It is about the 600,000 children stuck there, many now orphaned, who are also being starved and dehydrated to death.
The town of Rafah has seen its fair share of horrors over the years. The first Israeli massacre there took place during its invasion and occupation of Gaza in 1956. Israeli forces rounded up men heading toward an UNRWA school in Rafah refugee camp and opened fire. The UN agency found that 111 were killed, of whom 103 were refugees. Rafah is the last built-up area of Gaza Israel has yet to reduce to rubble. It used to have a population of no more than 270,000, but that has now multiplied at least fivefold. When it is pancaked, what will be left of Gaza, given that 70 percent of the civilian infrastructure has already been destroyed?
The Palestinians in Gaza know the pain and the horror is almost certainly coming — they just do not know when. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification has warned that any invasion of Rafah would push even more Palestinians into famine. As it gets hotter, disease becomes an ever greater threat, not least given the unsanitary conditions being suffered by a malnourished, exhausted population with compromised immune systems. Mosquitoes, flies and vermin are also thriving, aiding the spread of disease. And garbage has accumulated to add to the threat.
Could there be a deal? The answer appears to be that both sides are playing games. Any reasonable assessment would be that both leaderships are lukewarm at best toward any deal and are just keen that their foe is blamed, not them. The reality is that, whatever the contents of any deal, Israeli forces will unleash further hell on Rafah at some stage. Palestinians corralled into Rafah are being mentally tortured. For three months, they have watched the international debate over whether Israel will or will not invade. They know the pain and the horror is almost certainly coming — they just do not know when. Many on the outside do not realize that, even though there has not been a ground invasion, Israel has still been busy bombing Rafah.
The lucky ones have been able to raise the funds to pay the exorbitant exit fees from Gaza into Egypt, which are currently about $5,000 per adult.
The US, from President Joe Biden downward, together with other Israeli allies, have all been warning against a Rafah invasion. At first this was a demand — Israel must not go in. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote: “The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have got his way with his usual brand of obstinate defiance. Recent statements from the US administration emphasize the need for Israel to protect civilians and run their invasion plans by the White House prior to the start.
Netanyahu has made it crystal clear: Israel will invade Rafah. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wants not just an invasion but Rafah’s annihilation — a fate he expects for all of Gaza. Will it work? Assassinating Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif will not make Israel any safer. As Israel’s furious bombing of Gaza enters its eighth month, it is clear that Hamas and its ilk do not have a recruitment challenge or a funding problem. Netanyahu’s actions have given Hamas added longevity. It may even become more radical.
Claims that an invasion will not be another humanitarian catastrophe are in defiance of the reality on the ground
As for the hostages, however many remain, the invasion of Rafah will be lucky to secure the release of any of them. It will almost certainly lead to their terrible demise.Claims that it will not be another humanitarian catastrophe are in defiance of the reality on the ground. Every humanitarian agency has stated clearly and repeatedly that there are no safe spaces left in Gaza. None. Palestinians are stuck. Egypt, for fear of facing a refugee crisis it can ill afford, will not let Palestinians flee into the Sinai en masse. Going north inside Gaza is perilous and raises the question of where to. The Strip is laced with dangerous buildings and unexploded ordnance. Many simply cannot move because they are too young, too old or because they are among the tens of thousands to have been injured already.
Israel has reportedly organized a whole series of checkpoints for people to go through if they want to get out of Rafah. If a Palestinian is of fighting age, whatever the Israeli army considers that to be, they will not be allowed out. So, all young Palestinian males are sentenced regardless of whether they are combatants or civilians.
A full-frontal assault on Rafah would also cut off the primary lifeline for all Gazans, as this is where the insufficient aid that does get in enters the Strip. Israeli officials moan at what they see as an American veto over their plans for Rafah. Even US officials do not appear convinced the Israeli authorities have a plan that truly mitigates against the worst impact of any ground invasion on Palestinian civilians.
What will happen to Rafah will be little different to what happened to Gaza City, Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis. Israel will render it uninhabitable. Expecting anything else is naive given the experience of the last seven months.
The stark reality is that the world is not prepared for what will happen in Rafah. Officials from donor states are fearful about being seen to prepare for an eventuality they have said must not happen. Proper preparation makes it easier for Israel to conduct an invasion. But the same officials are equally fearful they will be depicted as incompetent for not preparing for this undesired outcome. It is a choice between being seen as complicit or incompetent.
A failure to stop an Israeli slaughter in Rafah will also bury what is left of the international rules-based order and international law. It will highlight the US’ complicity in such crimes and Israel’s contempt for Palestinian life. It will make any International Criminal Court warrants issued against Israeli leaders even more deserved than they already are.
**Chris Doyle is director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding in London. X: @Doylech

Saudi Arabia’s realistic peace proposal gaining traction globally
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/May 06, 2024
Amid ongoing efforts to foster peace in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia recently played host to a significant diplomatic gathering. In late April, the third consultative ministerial meeting of the six-party Arab Committee, comprising Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, convened. The agenda centered on discussions regarding the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip and its repercussions on regional stability.
Against the backdrop of escalating regional tensions and direct military confrontations, the participating nations highlighted the pressing need to address the evolving security challenges. Of particular concern were the potential threats to regional and international interests, underscored by the recent upheavals stemming from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the ongoing economic strain exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This gathering served as a platform to deliberate on strategies aimed at mitigating risks and advancing diplomatic initiatives to safeguard peace in the region.
The meeting, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, underscored the Arab world’s commitment to three core principles in addressing the Israeli military campaign in Gaza. Against the backdrop of Tel Aviv’s attempts to eradicate the Palestinian issue through actions reminiscent of the Nakba, particularly mass displacement, these principles represent a unified stance aimed at fostering peace and stability.
Firstly, there was a collective call for an immediate cessation of the hostilities in Gaza. Secondly, there was a demand for the removal of all barriers obstructing the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian population, coupled with a commitment to ensuring their protection in accordance with international humanitarian law. Lastly, the meeting advocated for the resolution of the conflict through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, adhering to the principles of a two-state solution. Central to Saudi Arabia’s approach is its policy of positive neutrality and active diplomacy in the Middle East
This unified approach underscores the Arab and Saudi perspective, challenging Israel’s reliance on military force and punitive measures. Despite Tel Aviv’s prolonged campaign, characterized by what is described as a policy of collective punishment, the meeting asserted that such tactics have failed to yield the desired results. Instead, the conflict has had a significant humanitarian toll, with reports indicating extensive casualties, hunger and displacement, along with internal strife within Israel. Against the backdrop of an already volatile regional landscape, these developments further exacerbate tensions and underscore the urgent need for a diplomatic resolution. The mounting Arab, regional and international consensus on halting Israel’s military operations in Gaza and resolving the conflict through a two-state solution is bolstering the credibility of the Kingdom’s long-standing vision. From the onset of Israel’s latest war on Gaza more than six months ago, Saudi Arabia has advocated for a peaceful resolution — a stance that is gaining increasing traction and influence. Central to Saudi Arabia’s approach is its policy of positive neutrality and active diplomacy in the Middle East.
Amid growing international condemnation of the Israeli offensive in Gaza and widespread support for a two-state solution, the Kingdom’s vision is gaining prominence. This is particularly evident in the unanimous approval of a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by the members of the UN Security Council, excluding the US. Furthermore, there is a burgeoning global movement, including in influential American and European universities and public arenas, exerting pressure on governments to intervene and halt the violence in Gaza.As the momentum for peace and a negotiated settlement intensifies on multiple fronts, the Kingdom’s role as a peacemaker and advocate for regional stability is becoming increasingly significant. Through its diplomatic efforts and commitment to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Saudi Arabia continues to shape the discourse and drive toward a peaceful resolution in the Middle East.
In addition to the aforementioned developments, there is a notable trend within international courts that have jurisdiction over war crimes and genocide to pursue legal action against the leaders of the Israeli war council for their involvement in numerous massacres within the besieged Gaza Strip. This judicial scrutiny reflects a growing global concern over the gravity of the situation and a determination to hold accountable those responsible for egregious violations of international law.
The US’ inconsistent approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict poses a significant hurdle to ongoing peace efforts.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also voiced his unequivocal support for a two-state solution and exerted pressure on Israel to halt the ongoing warfare and grave violations against civilians and civilian infrastructure. Of particular concern are reports suggesting the presence of “mass graves” at hospitals and medical centers. Guterres has called for unfettered access for international investigators to ascertain the veracity of these claims and ensure accountability for any atrocities committed.
Moreover, there has been a resolute rejection of measures by Israel aimed at precipitating a human-made famine within Gaza, as well as strong opposition to the prospect of an Israeli military assault on the Palestinian city of Rafah. Such actions, it is argued, would only exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation, leading to an escalation in casualties and displacements, exacerbated by the advanced weaponry and technology at Israel’s disposal, much of it supplied by the US. Chinese diplomatic efforts are underway to mediate between the Fatah and Hamas factions within Palestinian politics, with the aim of bridging divides and fostering unity. This initiative aligns with Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of a two-state solution and underscores China’s growing involvement in regional and global affairs. By facilitating dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, China demonstrates its recognition of the pragmatic approach advocated by Saudi Arabia toward resolving the Palestinian issue. This mediation also serves China’s broader interests in the Middle East, where it seeks to promote stability and unity.
What is more, China’s engagement in Palestinian reconciliation efforts challenges the traditional justifications put forward by the US for not endorsing the establishment of a Palestinian state. In positioning itself as a peacemaker and supporter of regional stability, China emerges as a significant player in the pursuit of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, garnering support from Arab and regional powers alike.
The US’ inconsistent approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict poses a significant hurdle to ongoing peace efforts in the Middle East, as recognized by international, Arab and Saudi stakeholders. Despite publicly endorsing a two-state solution as a pathway to resolving the conflict, Washington has repeatedly employed its veto within the UNSC to block proposed resolutions aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. This contradiction undermines diplomatic endeavors and perpetuates the enduring cycle of violence and instability. Moreover, while advocating for an end to the conflict and the promotion of security and stability in the region, the US concurrently provides extensive military and armament support to Israel. This assistance empowers Israel to sustain its military operations, including the harsh and indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Gaza.
The inconsistency of the US toward the Palestinian issue, alongside various other Middle Eastern matters, is likely to fuel a growing inclination among regional powers to explore alternatives to the existing unipolar international system. This shift may prompt a reconfiguration of the global order toward one that aligns more closely with Arab aspirations for restoring security and stability to the region.
Yet, such US duplicity could catalyze increased competition among international powers vying for influence and dominance, leading to a reshaping of traditional spheres of influence previously dominated by Washington. This dynamic presents opportunities for these powers to expand their presence, enhance their influence and assert their roles within the international system, thereby bolstering their respective positions and serving their broader strategic interests.
In conclusion, more than two decades have elapsed since the inception of the Arab Peace Initiative and 200-plus days have transpired since the initiation of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, resulting in widespread devastation and egregious violations of human rights. Despite the prolonged conflict, Israel’s objectives, including the dismantling of resistance factions and the retrieval of hostages, remain unfulfilled.
These developments underscore the pragmatic nature of the Saudi proposal advocating for a two-state solution as a viable means to end the conflict, offering a balanced approach that acknowledges the grievances of all parties involved. Additionally, they shed light on the obstacles posed by US duplicity, which hinders efforts to achieve a resolution in the Middle East based on the principles of a two-state solution.
The prolonged delay in resolving the conflict through a two-state solution has exacted a heavy toll on all parties involved, including the US and Israel. The protracted nature of the conflict has incurred significant costs in terms of both financial resources and human lives, while also hindering the achievement of desired objectives. Additionally, the ongoing stalemate has eroded the credibility of the US on the international stage, as it grapples with competing powers seeking to assert leadership and influence in the Middle East.
Furthermore, regional powers have begun to reassess the role of the US in the Middle East, questioning its ability to effectively enforce security and stability arrangements. This shift in perspective has prompted a reevaluation of existing power dynamics and has contributed to the emergence of a new equation in the region. Central to this equation is the recognition that lasting security and stability for both Palestinian and Israeli citizens can only be realized through the implementation of a two-state solution.
*Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is the founder and president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). X: @mohalsulami

Electoral comeuppance for moral leadership failures
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/May 06, 2024
In Britain, America and much of the Western world, there has been much nervous talk about the “Muslim vote.”
In last week’s local council elections in England, the Labour Party significantly underperformed in some urban areas where voters, angered by the party’s position on Gaza, turned out in favor of independent candidates. In US states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party is nervous about turnout in November’s presidential election because of very similar demographics, including progressive and Black voters.
Commenting on one particularly close contest in England, a Labour Party source was widely condemned for telling the BBC: “It’s the Middle East, not West Midlands that will have won … Hamas are the real villains.” Labour suffered the surprise loss of control of Oldham Council in northwest England, where it lost several seats to pro-Palestinian independent candidates. Labour’s Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, comfortably secured a third term as mayor of London after unambiguously calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in notably more forceful language than the leadership of his party.
However, the reason that Gaza is such a threat to mainstream political parties is that it is not a “Muslim” or an “Arab” issue. It is a foreign policy and defining humanitarian issue in which the vast majority of ordinary voters are uncomfortable with official policy, even though certain demographics — young people and students, ethnic minorities, those with Middle East connections — feel particularly strongly. Even among right-leaning Conservative voters I speak to, there is horror at what Benjamin Netanyahu has been allowed to get away with.
Within Western politics, it has tended to be an article of faith that serious politicians who desire to rise to the top must be unstintingly pro-Israel, their views enforced by aggressive and well-funded lobbyists who can be brutal with those who fail to toe the line.
The Labour Party’s previous leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and others on the party’s left flank were perpetually under fire for their pro-Palestinian sentiments. Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, participated in a disastrous interview early in the Gaza crisis, when he appeared to justify collective punishment by agreeing that “Israel has the right” to withhold power and water from Palestinians. Although the Labour Party rowed back from those comments, the damage was done with many traditional Labour voters, who may never forgive Starmer.
Gaza is a defining humanitarian issue in which the vast majority of ordinary voters are uncomfortable with official policy.
In the case of both Starmer and US President Joe Biden, their right-wing political rivals are obviously even more staunchly supportive of Netanyahu. But many voters perceive both of these dominant options as fatally compromised on foreign policy ethics and consequently are inclined to vote for alternative candidates, or refrain from voting at all. Cosmetic token gestures do not go nearly far enough to start winning such voters back. There is a failure to recognize the massive irreversible shift in global public opinion around human rights, largely resulting from Netanyahu’s flagrantly genocidal campaign. These younger and increasingly diverse demographics are, by definition, the voters and decision-makers of the future. This is not a temporary “problem” with a few Muslim-heavy political constituencies, but a permanent tectonic transformation in geopolitical realities.
News broadcasts have been dominated by increasingly militarized and brutal crackdowns against US campus protests, with 2,300 people arrested over the past two weeks as the movement spread to more than 150 colleges in the US alone. In the UK, there has been notable activism in locations such as University College London and Goldsmiths University. The Conservative Party has urged an “extremely strict response” to campus protests. Meanwhile, every weekend, dozens of buses transport tens of thousands of people into London and other cities for mass protests. Efforts to stigmatize such demonstrations as a “Muslim” issue are just one step away from demonizing those involved as “antisemitic radicals” and extremists.
While Britain’s Conservative Party nevertheless appears destined for near annihilation at the general election this year, a collapse in support from key Labour demographics could produce a split result. In the US, the outcome looks far more precarious, with the Democrats’ loss of Michigan and Pennsylvania likely to herald a Donald Trump administration. Governments in Spain, Ireland and Greece have been in the vanguard of European leanings toward a more pro-Palestinian stance, advocating unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Colombia has joined a growing list of Latin American states to sever ties with Israel, following Bolivia and Belize, while Chile and Honduras have recalled their ambassadors. Turkiye has, meanwhile, suspended its $7 billion-a-year trading relationship with Tel Aviv.
Leading Western political parties share some of the blame due to their collective failure to follow through with efforts for a two-state solution in the face of disruptive tactics by Netanyahu and his ilk. Part of this is a failure of vision in anticipating crises and taking measures to prevent conflicts. The international community’s absolute failure to take any tangible action to address the Sudan catastrophe is a case in point. A UN Humanitarian Affairs spokesman has warned that an Israeli military incursion into Rafah in southern Gaza could be a “slaughter of civilians” and an “incredible blow to the humanitarian operations.” The World Food Programme described the situation in northern Gaza as a “full-blown famine,” which is “moving its way south … it’s horror.” Among these horrors is the increasingly prevalent technique of performing surgery, including Caesarean sections and amputations, without anesthetic, leaving patients “to scream for hours and hours,” as one doctor related. Netanyahu’s extreme-right cabal has continued its slide further from democratic principles with a law allowing the banning of foreign media organizations, with Al Jazeera already the first victim. Journalists have mostly been prevented from accessing Gaza. Meanwhile, UNESCO last week dedicated its press freedom award to all Palestinian journalists, more than 90 of whom have been killed covering the conflict.
One of the benefits of democracy is that politicians, if they desire to win elections, must align with the sentiments of voters. This major realignment in global public sentiment toward greater support for the humanitarian principles underpinning the Palestinian cause is already starting to enforce a change in international political rhetoric. Politicians who fail to get on board by adopting ethical and just policies will ultimately learn painful lessons at the ballot box.
Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

The specter of returning from the war
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper./May 06, 2024
Benjamin Netanyahu knows the story. The silence of the artillery will be more powerful than their sound. He will stand naked before the arrows fired from all directions. They will have no mercy. The snakes will be set loose to bite him. They are the snakes of the opposition, partners in his coalition and the military and security institutions. Accusations will be levelled against him and investigation committees will be formed, perhaps even trials. He may even feel unsafe at some airports. He will sense the end when the artillery goes silent. He promised them Rafah. He promised them the heads of Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the Qassam Brigades’ general. Yes, he may lay claim to many bodies, but not the heads that may tame the anger of those prowling around him. That is why he is insisting on separating any truce from ending the war.
Sinwar will find it difficult to recognize Gaza should the artillery go silent. Netanyahu has destroyed it beyond recognition, rendering it unlivable. Sinwar is aware that questions will be asked from within his camp and other organizations. They will be asked by Arab and international countries. Some will compare the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be released to the sea of corpses left behind by Israel. He will definitely hear harsh words.
It will be said that one of the outcomes of the war is the elimination of Gaza’s military potential. It will be said that the solution lies in launching the two-state solution, which Hamas opposes because it hinges on recognizing a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. This in turn will reap more international guarantees. Ending the war at this moment effectively means the warring parties would not have achieved any clear victory
I turned to a man who is closely monitoring the ceasefire negotiations. He said the last 10 days have been difficult, intense and complicated. I paused at his remark that “the mediators’ task was more difficult even though searching for a ceasefire is easier than ending the war.” Ending the war at this moment effectively means the warring parties would not have achieved any clear victory.
The man said the American administration had exerted serious and continuous pressure on Netanyahu when it sensed that he was trying to expand and prolong the war. He noticed that Washington was not leaving any room for Hamas in the discussions over the next phase and that it was incapable of withstanding the possibility of a horrific massacre taking place in Rafah. Pressure is also being exerted by America’s friends, allies and university students. Debate is raging within parties, the international public and the upcoming US presidential election. America clearly does not want Netanyahu and his allies or Hamas and Sinwar and his tunnels and rockets in the picture after the war is over.
Netanyahu will seek justifications when the artillery goes silent. He will say that he did not fire the first shot in this war, pinning the blame on Sinwar instead. He will stress that the Israeli strikes have largely — if not completely — destroyed Hamas’ military capabilities. He will claim that the war effectively eliminated Gaza as a threat to Israel. He will assert that Israel has reclaimed its deterrence power in Gaza and the region, especially in trading blows with Iran.
Should the artillery go silent, Sinwar can claim that Hamas waged the longest Arab-Israeli war and made endless sacrifices. He will say that the Al-Aqsa Flood operation reminded the world of the endless injustice endured by the Palestinians. It also reminded the West of the need to address this injustice and reach a fair solution. Sinwar will say that Hamas was a plant that was planted and grew in Gaza, meaning that dismissing its leadership will in no way mean the movement has been uprooted. That is why Hamas is hanging on for an end to the war, not a ceasefire, which only puts the conflict on hold.
The balances of power are little affected by rivers of blood. They impose themselves rudely and brutally.
There are many questions that Sinwar needs to confront. Does Hamas have an alternative to Gaza? Can it, for example, turn to the West Bank? Or southern Lebanon, which paid dearly in the past for taking in the Palestine Liberation Organization? Can he go back to Damascus? And what cloak will he wear there: Syrian Syria or Iranian Syria? It is difficult to imagine that he would go back to Jordan, simply because Jordan, given its past experiences and those of its neighbors, categorically refuses to be involved and has been frank in saying so.
Another truth has come to light in the wake of the contacts that have taken place in recent days: America is the main player that can end the war and Russia and China are very much out of the picture. America is devising plans for a major change in regional balances, encompassing a security agreement with Saudi Arabia that may be coupled with the normalization of relations between the Kingdom and Israel. This hinges on reaching an agreement on a credible path that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state within a few years.
What about Iran? What will it have to say if Gaza is taken out of the so-called resistance axis and America’s vision of a solution begins to gain ground? Will Iran coexist with the changes and make do with its current influence in four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa) or will it seek a fifth?
How difficult it is to return from war without claiming victory. The massive losses will make such a statement difficult to process. Gaza was the scene of a massive eradication operation of both people and buildings. However, the balances of power are little affected by rivers of blood. They impose themselves rudely and brutally. The absence of a knockout blow makes the end of the war difficult for those who have waged it. Netanyahu has spent years getting creative in assassinating everything that could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state — and here he is now being confronted by demands for the rise of this state. Sinwar spent years dreaming of the elimination of Israel and reclaiming every inch of Palestinian land. Now, he has to listen to the world say that the establishment of a Palestinian state hinges on living side by side with Israel.
The question remains, will a ceasefire mean the war is firmly over?

Cautionary Tale: Egypt’s Islamic Present Could Be the West’s Sharia Future
Raymond Ibrahim/The Stream/May 06/2024
An old drama highlighting the ongoing but wholly unacknowledged Muslim persecution of Christians is once again playing out in one of its primary theaters: Egypt.
On April 23, in al-Fawakhir village, more than 500 Muslims savagely attacked and torched the homes of Christians due to a rumor that a church was to be constructed in the village.
According to one report,
Extremists pelted Coptic homes with stones and chanted [Islamic] slogans [such as “Allahu Akbar”], setting fire to several houses amidst the screams of women and children. The attack continued for hours before security forces arrived. The magnitude of the fire was such that it could be seen from miles away.
Although in some cases Muslims tried to prevent Christians from escaping the infernos, no casualties were reported.
Home to several hundred Christian families, al-Fawakhir, like most villages in Egypt, has no church. As a result, a Coptic priest might occasionally visit it and sometimes hold a service in a Christian home. This caused Muslims to launch a rumor that the home was going to be converted into a permanent church — to the point that:
Authorities sent a committee to inspect the place and ensure that no such “conversion” was taking place, nor being planned. Yet, local fanatics started agitating the populace and initiated the violence.
Three days later, on April 26 — a Friday, when Muslims are wont to rile each other against “infidels” during mosque prayers and then rampage — fanatics of another village, al-Kom al-Ahmar, attacked its Christian minority for receiving a permit to construct an evangelical church.
Discussing these attacks, Adel Guindy, cofounder of Coptic Solidarity and author of A Sword Over the Nile, said
In an all too familiar development in Egypt’s countryside, Muslims, who may otherwise be content with a low grade life (e.g., no proper hospitals or public services), go into uncontrollable paroxysms at the mere hint that Christians might get a place to pray in—which in itself is no easy feat, as it requires governmental licensing that takes years or even decades to obtain. After fiery incitements, mobs attack Copts’ homes and businesses, all under the watchful eyes of the authorities who are usually, at least in part, complicit. Culprits are seldom, if ever, punished, thus inviting a sickening repeat of the ugly scenario.
Indeed, as one report notes:
The attacks in al-Fawakhir are not isolated incidents. In recent years, there has been a disturbing increase in sectarian violence targeting Copts in Egypt. These attacks have ranged from property damage to arson and even murder. The underlying causes of this violence are complex and multifaceted, but they often stem from a combination of religious extremism, social discrimination, and political manipulation.
Not only that, but the patterns of persecution are often identical. Attacking Christians in Egypt due to rumors that they are building a church — or because they actually received a license to build a church — are immensely common. (See here, here, and here for examples from recent months.)
In one instance, last December, Muslims terrorized Christians because they received a permit to build a church (many years after first applying and continuously petitioning authorities). Among other violence, Muslims torched the home and some of the cattle of one of the Christians. Security forces were sent to bring order, and church building was temporarily halted (an important point to be revisited). Two days later, on December 18, the Christians were, according to an eyewitness,
shocked by the emergence of dozens of extremists, despite the presence of security. They attacked Coptic homes to takbirat [cries of “Allahu akbar”] and chants rejecting the construction of the church — “’Long and wide, we will bring the church to the ground” [which rhymes in Arabic]. They hurled rocks at some Coptic homes and set fire to others…. [T]he Copts are now living in a state of panic. All of them are [hiding] inside their homes.
Concomitant with these Muslim mob uprisings has been an increase in supposed “accidental” fires in churches in Egypt (the most recent example being a month old). In one month alone (August 2022), 11 churches “accidentally caught fire” (or so the authorities immediately concluded) — one burning 41 Christians alive (see here and here for more on this phenomenon). Considering that “close to one thousand churches have been attacked or torched by mobs in the last five decades [since the 1970s] in Egypt,” suspicion seems warranted.
Muslim hostility for churches can be traced back to Article 2 of Egypt’s Constitution: “Islam is the religion of the State … The principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.”
As it happens, Islamic Sharia is decidedly hostile to non-Muslim places of worship. According to the Conditions of Omar, a foundational text for Muslims concerning the treatment of Christian “infidels,” in order to exist within an Islamic state (meaning a former Christian nation conquered by Islam), Christians are commanded
Not to build a church in our city — nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas — and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters; Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches; Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims… (as translated in Crucified Again, pp. 24-30).
Although that law is not strictly enforced, its “spirit” — which breeds hostility for churches among Egypt’s rank and file — clearly lives on, including among the authorities. As discussed here, in Egypt, there is one mosque or prayer hall for every 83 Muslims, but only one church for every 2,000 Christians. Millions of Egypt’s Christians are habitually begging their local authorities for permits to build churches.
Perhaps worst of all is the interplay between the “radicals” and the authorities, who almost always respond by appeasing the rioters and punishing the victims, that is, by rescinding permits to construct churches on the charge that they are “security risks.”
For example, on December 24, 2022 — Christmas Eve in the West — Muslims savagely attacked Christians after authorities had given them permission to fix their church’s collapsed roof, which had fallen on and hurt several worshippers. On the following day, the Muslim governor responded to the violence by rescinding the church’s permit to fix its crumbling roof, telling objecting Christians to “pray in the rain.”
In total, there are now more than 50 churches in Egypt that have been shut down on the dubious claim that they pose security threats — that is, because Muslims riot over their existence.
Consider the recollection of one Moheb, whose church was shut down in 2018:
A great deal of Muslim young men, aged 16-26, from our village and nearby gathered in front of our church building, shouting “Allahu Akbar” and chanting hostile slogans against Copts and the Church, such as, “We don’t want a church in our Islamic village”…. They tried to break the front door … but we locked [it] from the inside. We immediately called the police, who arrived and dispersed the demonstrators but they didn’t arrest anyone. They then closed the church building, sealed it, and placed security guards with it.
Responding to such closures, Gamil Ayed, a local Coptic lawyer, voiced a typical Christian sentiment:
We haven’t heard that a mosque was closed down, or that prayer was stopped in it because it was unlicensed. Is that justice? Where is the equality? Where is the religious freedom? Where is the law? Where are the state institutions?
After the closure of his church, another Christian, Rafaat Fawzy, expressed the undue hardships such unnecessary discrimination causes:
There are about 4,000 Christians in our village and we have no place to worship now. The nearest church is … 15km [nine miles] away. It is difficult to go [on foot] and pray in that church, especially for the old, the sick people, and kids.
He too continued by asking the same questions on the minds of millions of Christians in Egypt:
Where are our rights? There are seven mosques in our village and Muslims can pray in any place freely, but we are prevented from practicing our religious rites in a simple place that we have been dreaming of. Is that justice? We are oppressed in our country and there are no rights for us.
A final thought for Christians in the West: This anti-Christian, anti-church mentality is what the “elites” are importing into the West in the context of mass migration. It should make perfectly clear why, all throughout Western Europe, churches are routinely going up in flames.

Will China Soon Control Both Elon Musk and SpaceX?
Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute./May 6, 2024
A year ago, Tesla held the No. 1 ranking in China's new-energy vehicle retail segment. In the first quarter of this year, the company had fallen to third place..... It is not clear that Tesla can compete in China, where the regime does just about everything it can to favor Chinese competitors.
Musk has made Tesla reliant on China, and China's rulers know that.
"What is there to stop them [Chinese officials] from going to Musk directly and saying, 'We'll call your line of credit early, unless you give us X, Y, or Z?'" — Congressional Republican aide, Washington Examiner, August 26, 2020.
"Musk should expect China to make demands for technology and data transfers to include Starlink and SpaceX heavy-lift rockets." — Blaine Holt, retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier general and technology entrepreneur, to Gatestone Institute, May 3, 2024.
"Will Congress now look the other way while the often-used CCP playbook of corporate blackmail plays out, compromising our security?" — Blaine Holt to Gatestone Institute, May 3, 2024.
"You have me, and I have you." — Chinese Premier Li Qiang to Elon Musk, CNN, April 28, 2024.
The words, ostensibly meant to show U.S.-China friendship, are in reality a warning. It is now clear that one person so beholden to China should not be so central to America's effort to stay in space.
Elon Musk has made Tesla reliant on China, and China's rulers know that. "You have me, and I have you," Chinese Premier Li Qiang told Musk on April 28. It is now time for a national conversation in America over Musk's ownership of both Tesla and SpaceX. Pictured: Musk meets with China's then Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on January 9, 2019. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein/AFP via Getty Images)
At the end of April, Elon Musk at the last moment cancelled a trip to India, instead showed up in Beijing, and snagged a deal to rescue Tesla. The results were immediate: The shares of the electric-vehicle maker, which had been out-of-favor on Wall Street, soared on the news.
Now Washington has to be worried that China will control Musk's other company, SpaceX, which is critical to America's ambitions in space.
The billionaire during his two-day trip to China, the second in less than a year, announced he had struck a deal with China's Baidu on mapping and navigation software. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in an April 28 statement that Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y vehicles had passed China's data-security requirements.
In China, where car buyers are far more focused on tech features than Americans, Musk has wanted to roll out Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" software. Currently, his cars have only the basic "Autopilot" driver-assistance feature. Most observers assume he is on the glide path to Beijing's approval.
Musk certainly needs the upgrade. Not long ago, Tesla in China was viewed as a standout. Now, that is no longer the case. BYD Company and "an entire fleet of EV upstarts" are, in the words of Asia Times contributor Scott Foster, "increasingly making it look like an ordinary car company."
As a result, Tesla's market share is in a tailspin. A year ago, Tesla held the No. 1 ranking in China's new-energy vehicle retail segment. In the first quarter of this year, the company had fallen to third place. BYD in that period sold 586,000 cars, Geely 137,000, and Tesla 132,000. It is not clear that Tesla can compete in China, where the regime does just about everything it can to favor Chinese competitors.
Musk knows that China is "the golden goose EV market." Tesla's "gigafactory" in Shanghai, which opened in 2019, is the "heart and lungs" of Musk's car production. The facility is Tesla's largest outside America. China is now Tesla's second-largest market.
Musk has made Tesla reliant on China, and China's rulers know that. Unfortunately for him, Beijing has many beefs with his other iconic venture, SpaceX. For one thing, SpaceX stands in the way of China putting a human on the moon before America's return visit and Musk's Starship lifter can help the U.S. build moon bases faster. Moreover, SpaceX is a major U.S. defense contractor and, even more important, operates the Starlink satellite constellation in low-earth orbit.
Starlink as of last month had 5,800 operational satellites circling the earth. That is a stunning 60% of all active satellites. Musk contemplates expanding his constellation to 30,000 satellites and may now be thinking of 42,000 of them. China knows that, short of detonating multiple nuclear weapons in space, it will be hard-pressed to take all those satellites down, which means the U.S. military will almost certainly have continued access to space in wartime.
"Might making more Teslas in China put SpaceX's contracts with various U.S. government agencies at risk?" William Pesek asked in connection with the Musk visit to Beijing.
Pesek, the veteran Tokyo-based Forbes columnist, did not ask that question out of the blue. The Washington Examiner reported in 2020 that both Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican who then chaired the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senate staff were considering whether SpaceX's NASA contracts "represent a potential national security risk due to Chinese financial support for the billionaire owner's electric car company, Tesla."
"What is there to stop them from going to Musk directly and saying, 'We'll call your line of credit early, unless you give us X, Y, or Z?' " said "a congressional Republican aide involved in negotiations over the comprehensive legislation governing the space agency" to the Examiner. "And, there's no real clarity that there's any kind of mechanism that would stop that other than good behavior by an individual."
"How could America's top leader in technology innovation not understand the risks of a deeper, more entangling relationship with the Communist Party of China?" asked Blaine Holt, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier general and technology entrepreneur, in comments to Gatestone. "Musk's recent deal requires future steps that the CCP must approve for Tesla's goals to be realized. Musk should expect China to make demands for technology and data transfers to include Starlink and SpaceX heavy-lift rockets."
"China's April 28 decision to allow Tesla to use Baidu's precise navigation mapping to enable Full Self-Driving and thus remain competitive in the Chinese market is Beijing's way of building leverage over Musk," Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center told Gatestone. "In the meantime, Tesla's relationship with Baidu moves into the area of Big Data and potentially helps Baidu with its artificial intelligence ambitions, which could quickly yield military spinoffs for the People's Liberation Army."
Gardiner's concerns are even more pressing at the moment. "Will Congress now look the other way while the often-used CCP playbook of corporate blackmail plays out, compromising our security?" Holt asks.
It is now time for a national conversation in America over Musk's ownership of both Tesla and SpaceX.
"You have me, and I have you," Chinese Premier Li Qiang told Musk on April 28.
The words, ostensibly meant to show U.S.-China friendship, are in reality a warning. It is now clear that one person so beholden to China should not be so central to America's effort to stay in space.
*Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and China Is Going to War, a Gatestone Institute distinguished senior fellow, and a member of its Advisory Board.
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