Saturday, November 26, 2011

Israel Egypt Relations

Since the fall of President Mubarak earlier this year, Israel Egypt relations have had their ups and downs. The relations have been impacted by other events and likewise these events have impacted on their relations too. This article reviews and analyses Israel Egypt relations under the new interim government in Egypt which continues to struggle to keep all parties satisfied.

A triangle has formed in recent months that includes the relations between 3 regional players, Egypt, Hamas and Israel. The triangle is focussed around the Sinai region which, with a loosened grip of control by the Egyptian government, has created a vacuum for which terrorists from various factions have been able to exploit. Four major inter-related events have taken place recently that illustrate the highly sensitive nature of this region:

- 18th August 2011 - A cross border raid from Gaza, through the Sinai and into Israel results in 8 Israelis being killed. The result of which was a renewed round of violence between Israel and armed oranisations in Gaza.

- Following the cross border raide, 5 Egyptian soldiers were killed in Israel's return of fire which resulted in the incitement of Egyptian youths and culminated in the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on 9th September.

- 18th October 2011 - Gilad Shalit is released after 5 years in captivity following mediation by Egypt and thus ending 5 years of negotiations.

- Late October 2011 - more rockets are fired from Gaza with return shelling by Israel's Air Force and ending with a ceasefire mediated by the Egyptians.

What is clear to see is the following: 1) The Arab Spring has created a highly unstable Sinai region that is a hotbed for terrorist activity and smuggling of weapons for groups ranging from Hamas to Al Quaida; 2) The voice of the Arab people is strong and has major influence that can easily be turned against Israel; 3) Despite this, the Egyptian government has proved itself a capable negotiator and holds strong influence in the region.

Let us now look at each of the above incidents to review how they impact on the situation as a whole and Israel Egypt relations in particular.

On October 18th fifteen men from the Popular Resistence Committees, the same group that kidnapped Gilad Shalit and three Americans in Gaza, wore clothes almost identical to Egyptian soldiers and carried out a raid that originated in Gaza but was launched from the Sinai, so as to confuse the Israeli military, with the aim of killing or kidnapping Israeli citizens. Israeli intelligence had forewarning of the attack and so was well prepared to retaliate before more damage could be done and resulted in the killing of 5 Egyptian soldiers in the ensuing gun fight that took place. That the attack was possible at all is due to a loss of control in the Sinai that elements from Gaza can now cross freely without the watchful guard of Egyptian soldiers. The attack also indicates how Hamas was unable to control other armed elements in Gaza and had to pay the price of Israeli air strikes before a ceasefire could finally take place but no thanks to Hamas but rather to the Egyptian interim government.

Egypt was caught in the middle of this incident and was infuriated to have 5 of its soldiers killed in a conflict that had little to do with them. With Israel being mindful of its delicate relations with Egypt and finding itself isolated in the new Middle East, felt the need to appease Egypt by delivering an apology for those killed that was given on the same day that Gilad Shalit was released on October 18th. Equally, Egypt's relations with Hamas were stretched upon finding that its military clothing had been used to stage an attack against Israel.

The Sinai as a Hotbed for Terrorism
The attack mentioned above highlights how the Sinai has become a vacuum for Islamist terrorist activity. Beduin tribes, once discriminated against by the Mubarak regime through lack of civil rights of owning land, attaining certain jobs and having had no investment put into the Sinai, now survive by acting as smuggling agents for anyone willing to hire their services to finance an underground economy.

The pipeline that sends gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan and provides Israel with 40% of its gas has been attacked no less than 7 times since Mubarak was deposed. Smuggling of weapons has increased considerably with greater ease and with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, weapons from Libya are now flowing through the Sinai. After an Egyptian police station was attacked in the Sinai town of El Arish, for the first time since 1979, Israel has allowed Egypt to send in reinforcements to regain stability in the Sinai though it is uncertain whether this will be enough.

Internal Politics in Egypt
Egypt is currently undergoing a period of deep transition and it is very unclear where it will end up. What is clear however is that the Egyptian people have found their voice and are insisting they be heard. It is also possible that with the fall of the secular regime of President Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood will strengthen considerably and may well gain popularity on the back of the heavy anti-Israel sentiment that exists in Egyptian society. An examples of this comes in the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in September that had Israeli personnel taking refuge in the secure room in the Embassy and being saved at the last minute by mediation from Barack Obama and an elite commando unit of the Egyptian army.

The background to the angry mob storming the embassy was the accidental killing of 5 Egyptian soldiers in the return fire of Israeli soldiers in the attack described above. The storming was sparked by this event though the basis for it was a swelling of anti-Israel feeling from the people themselves who have been demanding an end to the Israel-Egypt peace deal of 1979. The international community as well as Israel and Egypt themselves are well aware that it is this treaty that is remaining the last block of stability for Israel Egypt relations.

The Gilad Shalit Deal
It took Israel and Hamas over 5 years to negotiate a deal that would see the release of 1027 Palestinian prisoners in return for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The breakthrough came as a result of a change in relations between Hamas and Egypt.

One major factor behind this change is what is happening in Damascus, current home to Hamas's headquarters. With the imminent fall of Bashar Al Assad's regime there, Hamas is feeling insecure about where it will base its next home, and so is turning increasingly towards Egypt for help, especially as the Muslim Brotherhood gains strength there.In addition to this, Hamas has been suffering from reduced aid from its patron, Iran, increasing unpopularity in Gaza due to economic difficulties and bad governance and its rejection of Mahmud Abbas's attempt of unilateral state recognition at the UN last month. In addition, Hamas feels itself pressured by other terrorist factions in Gaza who seem to be challenging Hamas's control there as it finds it difficult to balance between acting as a government and continuing its struggle against Israel. All of this meant that it badly needed an achievement to show the residents of Gaza and win back popular support.

For its part, Israel found this was the window of opportunity to have Shalit released as the sands were shifting beyond its control, it was being isolated internationally and within the Middle East, it had lost its key alley of Turkey and was being threatened by Abbas's attempt for statehood at the UN that was gathering pace and international support.

In all of this Egypt saw its opportunity to replace the German mediators and act as the saving interlocutor that both Hamas and Israel needed to strengthen their ties with Egypt.

The Future
It would seem that although Egypt is an unstable state and poses serious potential risk to Israel and Israel Egypt relations, it is also a proven mediator and hold particular influence in the region. It is likely then that whoever comes to power following elections there, they will want to honour the 1979 peace agreement as it will enable it to continue their position in the new Middle East and its aid from the US.

As Hamas comes to depend on Egypt more too, Israel will need to maintain as close relations with Egypt as possible in case of future kidnappings and other attacks that may well require Egyptian mediation. Indeed, with the Muslim Bortherhood gaining strength in Egypt, Hamas has felt emboldened by this and claimed an aim to carry out more kidnappings of Israeli citizens.

Whether Egypt will be able to play a larger role in Israel-PA relations is yet to be seen but following the loud voice of the Egpytian people that is very much anti-Israel, the Egyptian government will have to take heed of this if it is to remain in power and so should Israel-PA relations deteriorate into legal and political confrontations, then so shall Israel Egypt relations follow suit. Furthermore, should this be the case then Israel will find itself in a sharp dilemma as to how much it allowed the Egyptian military to build up its presence in the Sinai to prevent smuggling when at the same time its own people are demanding an end to the 1979 peace pact and an end to Israel Egypt relations altogether.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Palestinian Prisoners to be Released

The Israeli Prisons Service has released the list of Palestinian Prisoners that are to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, expected to be on Tuesday this week. Here is the full list of each of those to be released, including their date of birth, when they were arrested and how long they were sentenced to prison for.

Here is the full list of the first 450 Palestinian prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

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List of Prisoners for Gilad Shalit

The list of prisoners that will be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit has been published on the Israeli Prisons Service website. It includes over 450 murderers and terrorists that have been serving anything from a few years to multiple life sentences for their part in various terrorist bombings against Israel over the years. 

It will be a tough day indeed for President Shimon Peres who is required to sign off on each pardon for the list of prisoners that are to be released by Tuesday this week. He will be reading through each case and despite having a heavy heart as he reviews the background behind each terrorist and the blood they have on their hands, he will be signing each one for their release.

Included in the list, is Tamimi Aref Ahmad Ahlam, a Palestinian woman serving 16 life sentences for her role in the Sbarro Pizza Restaurant bombing that killed 16 people. Here is a list of the others and information on their criminal records:

1. Randa Muhammad Yusuf Shahatit

2. Abir Isa Amru

3. Iman Muhammad Gazzawi

4. Amal Fayiz Jum’a Mahmud

5. Miryam Salim Tarabin

6. Abir Mahmud Hasan Awda

7. Fatin al-sa’di

8. Wafa Samir al-Bass

9. Abu Golmi Youssef Lanan

10. Sanabil Nabigh Yusuf Barik

11. Fatina Mustafa Khalil Abu Ayyash

12. A’isha Muhammad A’biyat

13. Hanan Ahmed Ali

14. Nasrin Abu Zina

15. Shalbi Hana

16. Kraja Samud

17. Pollshchuk Irina – Ukraine – 2002 – released

18. Issawi Abd Faiz Ibtisam

19. Sh’hadeh Muhammad Hussein Sana’a – Israel – 2002 – released

20. Al-Saadi Said Ali Qahara

21. Jiwasi Ziyad Dawa’a

22. Daragmeh Rawad Hussein Ruma

23. Latifa Muhammad Abu Dara’a – Nablus – 2003 – released

24. Tamimi Aref Ahmad Ahlam

25. Muna Jawad Ali Amna - lead a 16yr old Israeli boy to his death by pretending to be an online romance but instead lured Ofir Rahum to Ramallah where terrorists were waiting to murder him.

26. Aliaa Muhammad Yhya Jaadallah Ja’abri

27. Ramyah Ratab Hassan Abu Samra

Update: In addition, the following female terrorists were released a few years ago in exchange for the Shalit video that showed proof of life that Shalit was still alive.

1. Ayat Kisi – Sentenced to one year and eight months for attempted murder. Original release date: November 18, 2009.

2. Rojena Riyad Mohammed Jinajira – Sentenced to three years for conspiracy and attempted murder. Original release date: June 9, 2011.

3. Rimat abu Ayisha – Sentenced to nine months for membership in a banned organization. Original release date: November 13, 2009.

4. Haba Assad Halil Alantasha – Sentenced to three years and four months for attempted murder. Original release date: March 03, 2011.

5. Samud Abdullah Halil – Sentenced to one year and eight months for attacking a soldier and possession of a knife with the intent to cause bodily harm. Original release date: December 15, 2009.

6. Mimouna Javrin – Detained without bail pending trial for attempted murder and possession of a weapon with the intent to cause bodily harm.

7. Jihad Abu-Turki – Sentenced to one year and three months for attempted murder and possession of a weapon with the intent to cause bodily harm. Original release date: May 24, 2011.

8. Barah Malki – Sentenced to eleven months for attempted murder and assault of a police officer in the line of duty. Original release date: November 11, 2009.

9. Lila Mohammed Tzalah al-Buhari – Sentenced to eight years and four months for attempted murder. Original release date: October 31, 2010.

10. Fatima Yunus al-Zak – Held without bail pending trial for charges of undergoing paramilitary training, attempted murder, and possession of a weapon.

11. Nifin Halil Abdallah Dak – sentenced to three and a half years for attempted murder. Original release date: January 01, 2010.

12. Kafah Bahash – Sentenced to a year and a half for assaulting a soldier. Original release date: July 02, 2010.

13. Linan Yusuf Abu Ghulma – Sentenced to six years for attempted murder and carrying a concealed weapon. Original release date: September 08, 2010.

14. Shirin Mohammed Hasan – Sentenced to three years and nine months for attempted murder. Original release date: March 04, 2010.

15. Sana’a Tzalah Hagargah – Sentenced to two years in prison for attempted murder and possession of a weapon. Original release date: August 05, 2010.

16. Sabeena Ziad Mohammed Manal – Sentenced to seven years for membership in a banned organization, conspiracy and attempted murder. Original release date: November 19, 2010.

17. Zahoor Abed Hamdan – Sentenced to eight years for attempted murder. Original release date: May 15, 2011.

18. Hiam Ahmed Yusuf Ba’id – Sentenced to three years and four months for membership in a banned organization. Original release date: May 07, 2010.

19. Nahad Farhat Daghra – Held without bail pending trial for assaulting a soldier and possession of a weapon.

20. Najuah Abed Alghani – Held without bail pending trial for membership in an illegal organization and disturbing the peace.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Gilad Shalit Deal

After five years in captivity with no outside contact at all, finally a deal has been reached to release Gilad Shalit. The price is 1,027 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons for crimes of terrorism and murder.

The Gilad Shalit deal will be implemented in two stages. In the first stage, 450 prisoners will be handed over to various territories, not all will be returning to Gaza or the West Bank where their families live. Shalit will be transferred to Egypt and from there flown to Israel. In two months time, a further 550 Palestinians will be released according to the choosing that suits Israel.

The deal has been made possible due to various factors including new heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet in Israel, a new regime in Egypt that has wanted to show its relevance and strength amidst the perception that the Egpytian government is in turmoil and not in control and a Hamas which is losing popularity in the Gaza Strip and feeling its Headquaters on unstable ground in Damascus as the Syrian regime heads towards a civil war.

The price is high but it was never going to get lowered and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu decided the window of opportunity was there to be taken, especially as Hamas had loosened its tight grip on the negotiations since June. The Gilad Shalit deal closes a chapter, though Hamas has not renounced its policy of kidnapping more Israeli soldiers and so the potential is still high for more as well as an increased danger of those being released being free to resume their terrorist activities.
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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sanctions Against Syria

As the unrest continues the international community's demand for tougher sanctions against Syria increases. Thousands of civilians have now been killed in the Syrian uprisings and NATO and others have been pushing for sanctions against syria and the Assad regime to end the human rights abuses there. Recent statements from Bashar al-Assad have drawn Israel further into the matter.

This week Canada and Turkey announced further sanctions against Syria though stopped short of wanting to make a military intervention there. Turkey's sanctions have however included both commercial and military bans of exports and business between the two counties who were once allies in the region.

Although the violence in Syria has resulted in over 3000 deaths of Syrian civilians, the UN Security Council has continued, as usual when an Arab country is involved, to remain silent on the issue and refuses to debate the Syrian uprisings or sanctions against Syria. The US and Britain has imposed their own sanctions independently but there has been no action taken by the UN to impose sanctions from all countries. The US and UK have also stated that they will not be taking a Libyan style military intervention in Syria but instead will be relying on international pressure to bring about an end to the violence.

If its just sanctions against Syria that the international community is counting on to bring the violence to an end and Bashas al-assad to his senses and back in line with humanitarian norms, then we can very well expect to see many more deaths and abuses of human rights in Syria before any real change takes place.
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Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the day that Israel was attacked in 1973 by a surprise on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar by Egypt and Syria. The anniversary of the Yom Kippur War was commemorated across Israel in many ceremonies to remember the 2000+ soldiers who died in the war as well as a last minute military drill to ensure Israel is still prepared to defend itself from a potential threat.

The Yom Kippur War began as a coordinated attack by Syria and Egypt and supported by Jordan and Iraq as a way to regain the territories captured by Israel 6 years earlier in the 6 Day War of 1967. Egptian forces crossed the ceasefire lines of the Suez canal whilst Syria began advancements into the Golan Heights in the north. Although being caught totally off guard due to the Yom Kippur holiday, within three weeks Israeli forces had managed to push back the Egyptians to within 100km of Cairo and 40km of Damascus and held on to its territory that was the war aims of the aggressors to recapture.

Thirty-eight years later, the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War is still fresh in the minds of Israelis and this year, following the turmoil in the region recently, a last minute emergency military drill has been conducted to ensure the IDF is still prepared for a surprise attack, should one be on the cards from its neighbours. Despite the solid cold-peace between Israel and Egypt that resulted from the war, that peace is now looking quite fragile following recent developments on Israel's southern border with Egypt.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Israel Turkey Gas Discovery

As if recent tensions between Turkey and Israel over the Mavi Mamara flotilla incident was not enough, the Israeli discovery of massive gas fields on its northern coast is now adding increased fuel to the fire. The battle that has been taking place in the diplomatic arena however seems to have now turned to the spectre of military action.

In 2009, Israeli commissioned the Houston based Noble Energy, along with Israel's Delek Energy company to search for gas on Israel's northern border. The search resulted in the discovery of a huge 8.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf) gas field 50 miles off the coast of Haifa, a field now called Tamaer Gas Field. It was the largest gas find of that year. In 2010 the consortium discovered an even larger field, called Leviathan, that holds 16tcf and was the largest find of the decade. The discoveries would provide Israel with a significant boost to its economy with over $300bn of gas, satisfy Israel's gas demands for the forseeable future, save $3bn in current gas-importing costs and possibly turn it into a gas exporter to Europe and India.

The find has caused tensions however due to its location in the Levant Basin Province, an area which spans across ill defined maritime borders of Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

According to the UN Convention on the Law and the Sea, countries are allowed to extend an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 200miles from their coastline where there is at least 400 miles that separate one country's coastline from another, so that the border is halfway between the two countries. Israel signed an agreement saying as such with Cyprus back in December 2010. The agreement however has been challenged by Lebanon and Turkey.

Turkey, becoming more and more radicalised due to the policies of Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, has become further angered by the cooperation being shown between Greece and Cyprus, with Israel by planning to export the new gas throughout Europe and thus becoming competitors to Turkey who already exports there. the anger follows Turkey's increasingly anti-Israel rhetoric as Turkey aims to improve and assert its position within the rapidly changing Arab world following the Arab Spring this year.

Erdogan's rhetoric has alarmed Israel's policy makers as he shifts from diplomatic tension to more concrete threats of military action of sending naval ships to accompany future flotillas to Gaza. Turkish naval ships have already been spotted sailing uncomfortably close to Israel's shoreline in a manner that seems to indicate it is trying to ascertain Israel's alertness should the tensions come to military blows. The most recent flare up has come with Israeli fighter jets being scrambled to inspect the presence of Turkish naval ships that have been reported in the area of the 2 gas fields. This in turn resulted in Turkey scrambling its own jets.

Although Israel reached an agreement with Cyprus, a country with which it is at peace with, it does not have such an agreement with Lebanon, a country who is technically at war with Israel and who's government is now dominated by a terrorist group, Hezbollah. Following Lebanon's raising of concern to the UN, Israel responded with its own claim in August 2010. Israel asserts that Lebanon's claim over its boundary is too far south. This is irrelevant as far as Lebanon is concerned and as it collects evidence to provie its case to the UN, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has been issuing threats against Israel that it will act to protect Lebanon and take any action necessary to fight off threats to its resources. Lebanon's Energy Minister stated in July 2011 that it will not sit by while Israel enjoys the benefit of Lebanon's resources and will ensure that if Lebanon is in an unstable state then so it will create this same state for Israel:

For Israel to be able to exploit its oil resources, the companies must work in an atmosphere of stability and calm. Israel will not enjoy stability, calm, and tranquility unless Lebanon enjoys them too. Lebanon will not experience volatility and instability, while Israel enjoys stability. Absolutely not.

Israel, while it still has the upper hand on this issue, continues to develop its discovery and has stated that it will do whatever it takes to protect its new discovery. The tensions then are clear and with gas in the Tamar Field being expected to be collected by 2012, the northern coast of Israel is an area that has big potential for serious and dangerous outcomes.
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hezbollah's Political Rise in Lebanon

Despite indictments against Hezbollah member this week in Lebanon, it remains to be seen whether the murderers of Rafik Hariri will actually be brought to serve their time due to the increasing power and influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since the 'Cedar Revolution' in 2005 and the withdrawal of Syrian run government, Hezbollah has made significan political gains in Lebanon backed by pro-Iranian and Pro-Syrian elements in the Lebanese government. The result is that the March 14th pro-West movement is now the opposition leaving Hezbollah in the dominant position.

Despite the Syrian military withdrawl from Lebanon in 2005, it is known that Syria still hold significant political power in Lebanon and played a large part in trying to derail the trials to find the culprits of the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former PM and possibly the most dramatic assassination in the Middle East for many years. As a result, the new PM in Lebanon, is the Syrian backed, Najib Mikati, a multi-millionaire businessman who has Hezbollah's interest close to his heart too. It is after all important for Syria to have an ally on its border to which in can turn to should the troubles and riots on its own soil get even more out of control. Indeed, there are reports that much of Hezbollah's weapons have been moved from Syria into Lebanon in fear that its patron's regime should fall.

So where does this leave Lebanon's relations with Israel?
Israel, since the Second Lebanon War in 2006 in its fight against a powerful guerilla forces of Hezbollah, has claimed that any attack by Hezbollah will be considered an attack from Lebanon itself as Hezbollah is clearly developing its political wing alongside its terrorist division. For Israel Hezbollah's political division in government will be treated, as they should, as one and the same. During the Second Lebanon War this was not the case as the pro-Wester March 14 Movement was the main party in power and it was difficult for Israel to make clear that its war was not with Lebanon but with the terrorist fighters of Hezbollah. Now however, as Hezbollah has clearly settled in its new coalition government and has garnered more support, the Israeli's position of treating Lebanon's government as more closely aligned with Hzbollah will be reinforced too and tensions will rise further on Israel's northern border.

The rise of Hezbollah in the Lebanese government also raises questions about the need for continued military support of the Lebanese Armed Forces. Inititally this support was provided by America when Syria withdrew in 2005 in order to build a pro-Western government. As this has failed to happen and the weapons will be supervised and distributed, or not, by Anti-Western elements, is there a need for this support after all?

A new war with Israel? This seems unlikely for now as Hezbollah will not want to risk losing its support from the people in the south who already leave their villages to take refuge in Beirut as soon as there are signs of trouble on the border. Hezbollah, although recuperated from its losses from the 2006 war, will not want to risk major damage once again with a fresh round of fighting that it knows will mean a massive onslaught of bombing from Israel, bigger than what it saw in 2006.

According to Reuters, it is possible that Hezbollah may want to cause a small skirmish on Israel's border to detract attention away from the troubles in Syria. However Hezbollah is a client of Iran, not Syria and its not clear whether Hezbollah itself would want such a distraction at the potential cost of a full frontal confrontation with Israel. And besides, it has enough to deal with domestically to fight off internal competition within Lebanon.
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Killed

The world woke up this morning to be surprised by the news that America's most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida has been killed after a 40 minute raid on his compound in Abottobad, Pakistan. What does this mean for those who have been inspired by Bin Laden's leadership to carry out attacks of their own in the name of Al Qaida-ism remains unclear but one thing is clear, it is a massive achievement in what Bush termed 'the War on Terror'.

Following a tip-off by a Guantanamo Bay inmate that lead to the CIA and US Special Forces catching up with one of the Bin Laden's few and trusted couriers, after years of investigation the courier was finally tracked down and put under surveillance in August last year. Depsite speculation that Bin Laden was hiding out in caves in the Pakistani province of Waziristan, the investigation lead to a luxurious suburb just south of Islamabad where Bin Laden's compound was guarded with high walls and barbed wire, merely 100yards away from a Pakistani military training base. The raid by US forces took less than 40 minutes and resulted in both the courier, Bin Laden and a few others who were in the house at the time being killed and taken away for suspection and confirmation that it was really the target that they had killed.

The raid involved members of the US's elite NAVY SEAL TEAM 6, a top conuter-terrorism unit, and the intelligence the US had gathered was shared with no other country, including Pakistan, with only a handful of people in the White House being aware of it either. As the US hellipcopters hovered above the house at 1am on Sunday morning, guards within the compound ascended the roof and opened fire on them with rocket propelled grenades though were overcome by the elite unit who killed Bin Laden and evacuated his body.

Established by Osama Bin Ladin in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, Al-Qa'ida is multi-national, with members from numerous countries and with a worldwide presence whose senior leaders are also senior leaders in other terrorist organizations, including those designated by the US Department of State as foreign terrorist organizations, such as the Egyptian al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya and the Egyptian al-Jihad.

Al-Qa'ida's current goal is to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems non-Islamic and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries particularly Saudi Arabia.

As an ideology, Al Qaida professes that the Muslim world has been and continues to be victim to a prolongued Judeo-Christian attack against Islam embodied most notably in the form of America and Israel and is the root of all suffering and humiliation that the Islamic world has experienced since the time of the Crusades and continues today through the US, Israel and the corrupt and secular Islamic states that it seeks to overthrow. Al Qaida strongly opposes the values, influences and ideas of the West that it considers 'unislamic' especially democratic principles. In Al Qaida's view, the only acceptable form of government is a "Caliphate" based exclusively on Sharia law. However, AI Qaida is careful to define itself only by what it opposes and has yet to define what the Islamic Caliphate it advocates would actually stand for.

As a result, and with the funding for Al Qaida's activities having not required Osama Bin Laden's help for quite some time now, it is highly likely that the removal of its leader is nothing more than merely a symbolic gesture and practically not much will have changed on the ground as far as the determination of its adherents is concerned.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hamas-PA Re-Unification

Momentum is picking up as both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu take off on their tour of Europe to round up support for the declaration, or prevention of, a Palestinian state at the UN in September. The latest move, as Bibi begins talks in UK, France and Germany, is that the PA claims to have made a reconciliation with its Hamas rivals in the Gaza Strip following talks in Cairo.

It seems hardly likely that Hamas has come to a compromise over its core aims and mission, at least not in the long term. At best they are short term commitments in order to stave off potential uprisings in Gaza following those going on elsewhere in the region. While the PA edge closer to drumming up support, claiming 130 countires will vote in favour of a Palestinian state at the UN, the people in Gaza must surely be wondering what that could mean for them and they would be turning to its Hamas leaders for answers. Were Hamas to reply they are not a part of it would surely spark protests amongst what is already a highly pressurised situation of poor living conditions compared to the economic progress that has been made in Abbas's controlled areas in the West Bank.

The reaction from Israel to this reconciliation, as stated previously, is one of warning of choosing between peace with Israel or peace with the terrorist organisation that is Hamas, as it could not have both. The PA has responded with its own warning that Israel must choose between peace with the PA, Hamas and the unified Palestinian people or settlements. Bibi's response to this was:

Abbas has to choose whether he wants peace with Israel, or peace with Hamas,” the official said. “He can’t have both. If he chooses peace with Hamas it will bury the peace process.

How this new reconciliation will pan out in practice is yet to be seen. For all intent and purposes for the time being it could be no more than a simple ruse to drum up support to compliment Abbas's diplomatic tour.
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