North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Eve of Peace Talks, Hamas kills four settlers

Israeli police investigate the scene of the killings

On Tuesday, even as Palestinian and Israeli leaders were gathering in Washington DC for peace talks aimed at creating a two state solution, four Israeli settlers - two men and two women, one of whom was pregnant - were shot at from a passing vehicle and killed. The Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, declared "its full responsibility for the heroic operation in Hebron". The attack took place after dark on a busy route used by both Palestinians and Jewish settlers.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings as a "blatant attempt" to undermine the forthcoming negotiations. President Obama called them a "senseless slaughter;" Israeli leader Netanyahu said the killings were committed by people who "butcher everything they oppose" and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad vowed to prevent a repeat of such attacks.

Funeral of the settlers

Palestinian security forces have mounted a huge operation in the West Bank to catch the killers, dozens of Hamas members have been arrested. The killings came ahead of the first direct negotiations in almost two years between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. US, Palestinian and Israeli officials have said they will not allow the attack, near Hebron, to undermine the talks.

The talks thus begin in a cycle of violence and mistrust depressingly familiar. President Obama and his officials (such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Mid-East special envoy, George Mitchell) have set a one year deadline for these talks, so that they do not take on the appearance of being endless. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seriously weakened as a spokesperson for the Palestinians as Hamas, its political rival, controls Gaza after throwing out Abbas's Fatah party loyalists. Thus it was a special affront to the Palestinians on the West Bank controlled as it is by the Fatah party, that Hamas conducted the killings there.Hamas controls Gaza, the Palestinian Fatah controls the West Bank

As a reminder, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri said the attack had been "a natural response to the crimes of the occupation". Occupation defined by Hamas is all the land of Israel, right to the sea, which must be returned to its rightful owners - the Palestinian people. Hamas is funded and supported by a number of Arab and Muslim countries, most notably Iran, who also supports Hezbollah to the north of Israel in Lebanon.

The killings have however, provoked President Obama to declare more firmly the US' strong support for Israel, support from his administration which had been considered tepid by many observers right up through the recent attempts to run a Gaza blockade. "I want everybody to be very clear," Mr Obama said, "The United States is going to be unwavering in its support of Israel's security. And we are going to push back against these kinds of terrorist attacks."

Clinton and Mitchell discussing conference agenda

As to the substance of this round of negotiations? Here seem to be the dynamics as summarized by the BBC:
The Israelis say they will not renew a partial freeze on building homes for Jews in the occupied West Bank when it expires at the end of this month. The Palestinians say that without a freeze they will walk away.
If that hurdle is cleared, three big issues will top their agenda.
First, Jerusalem. Both sides want a capital there.
Second, they need to agree the borders of an independent Palestine.
Third, the future of Palestinian refugees - people whose families fled or were driven out of what became Israel in 1948.

Jerusalem is likely the most hotly contested place on the planet

The mid-east strife seems endless, and now we have our current President making another attempt to find a solution, just as has practically every past US President all the way back to Jimmy Carter.

No comments: