Care for a little spin around the region? Here’s your sun hat, your shades, a canteen—and a flak jacket.
A huge car bomb rocked central Beirut on Friday, killing at least five people, including a Sunni politician who was a former ambassador to the United States and a prominent critic of Hezbollah. More than 70 people were reported injured.
Plumes of black smoke billowed into the air, and television footage showed scenes of blazing wreckage and scattered debris. Troops formed a security cordon around the area, close to downtown hotels as well as government buildings, including the parliament.
The death of Mohamad Chatah, an economist and diplomat, was confirmed by the Future Movement, a political faction with which Chatah had close ties. He was traveling by convoy at the time of the midmorning blast, and security officials believed he had been specifically targeted.
A bomb blast hit a public bus in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday, wounding five people, the Interior Ministry said, in an attack that raised concerns that a wave of violence blamed on Islamic militants that has targeted security forces and military for months is increasingly turning to hit civilians.
The blast came a day after the government declared its top political nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization, accusing it of being behind the violence. The group has denied the claim, saying the government is trying to scapegoat it. Egypt saw the deadliest bombing yet earlier this week, when a suicide bomber hit a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura on Tuesday, killing 16 people, mainly police.
In Iraq, a car bomb exploded outside a church in southern Baghdad just as worshipers were leaving a Christmas Day service, killing many. In another attack Wednesday, a car bomb went off at an outdoor market where many Christians shop, police said.
Altogether, at least 38 people were killed and some 70 others were wounded, the Interior Ministry said. The bomb outside the church killed 27 and wounded 56. The market attack left 11 dead and 14 wounded.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the attacks — in the Dora area of Baghdad — targeting “Christians celebrating Christmas.”
The United Nations announcement on Sunday that it would demand a record-shattering $6.5bn to fund humanitarian efforts in Syria – as much as it will spend in response everywhere else in the world, combined – underscored the scale of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria.
The same day, the International Rescue Committee released a statement detailing the humanitarian challenge inside Syria: the cost of bread has risen 500%, nearly four-in-five communities are struggling to access food, one in two communities is concerned about clean water, and a shortage of medical supplies is pervasive.
But no effort will receive more scrutiny than the UN’s push to prevent a polio epidemic. The UN has repeatedly exhorted Syria to allow humanitarian access across conflict lines for immunization campaigns, but is still legally obligated to coordinate with the government.
Things are pretty bad when we look to Gaza for good news (at least less bad):
Egyptian border guards on Tuesday afternoon discovered and destroyed six smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip, military sources said.
They told Ma’an that the operation was a joint activity between border guards and army engineering units. They added that the tunnels were discovered in Rafah on the Egyptian side.
A large quantity of goods was seized near the tunnels including more than 1,800 mobile phones and 300 boxes of cigarettes.
Separately, Egyptian border guards seized about 700 kilos of cannabis.
“Joint” activity, get it?
Pity about the ganja. Gaza could do with a little spark:
Gaza’s only power plant ground to a halt again on Friday, only 12 days after being brought back online following a 7 week shutdown due to fuel shortages. The shutdown was announced by Gaza’s electricity firm, reports AFP.
While officials from the territory’s Islamist rulers were quick to blame Israel, in reality Egypt is largely involved after having shut down the tunnels into the Sinai that were used to illegally smuggle fuel. Gaza’s power plant was initially shut down on November 1 under the Egyptian siege.
Egypt has accused the Hamas terrorist organization which rules Gaza of promoting terror in Egypt through the Muslim Brotherhood, which it is an offshoot of. Hamas denies the charges, although Egypt is continuing to act against the terror group.
As for the Kerem Shalom crossing, it reportedly was closed Tuesday after Gaza terrorists fatally shot an IDF civilian worker. The crossing had been used to deliver fuel purchased from Israel by the Palestinian Authority, using money donated by Qatar.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said of the incident “we thought there were ‘game rules,’ according to which you do not fire at civilians who work near the fence. Until now, they did not fire at civilians, and we will have to think what to do, if someone has changed the rules.”
Tensions have risen after terrorists from Gaza fired 2 Kassam rockets at Israel in as many days.
But what is the only thing that exercises the great and good of the international community?
The European Union (EU) is unhappy with reports that Israel plans to publish tenders for the sale of 1,400 housing units in Judea and Samaria, Channel 10 News reported on Thursday.
“There will be very little understanding on the part of European governments regarding any announcement of construction in the territories now under negotiations. Israel should expect a strong reaction on the part of European governments if it is going to go in that direction,” said the official.
Next week’s reported announcement will be timed to coincide with the release of 26 terrorist murderers, which is a “gesture” to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
While the rest of the region is obsessed with death, Israel prepares for life. No wonder it doesn’t fit in.
Still, at least some people welcomed the news: