Israel appeared to expect Wednesday's attack and was satisfied with a limited response
Skirmishes between forces in Lebanon and Israel are a regular occurrence that only occasionally result in death. But when there are fatalities, the need to retaliate can spiral into war quickly, as it did in 2006.
The exchange of fire on Wednesday between the Lebanese Shiite militia Hizballah and the Israeli army left two Israeli soldiers and a United Nations peacekeeper in Lebanon dead. The attack, which was initiated by Hizballah, appears to have been a response to an Israeli operation in Syria earlier in the month.
On Jan. 18, Israeli missiles hit a convoy of cars driving near Quneitra in Syria, just below Israeli positions in the Golan Heights. Israel remained silent about the attack but the news emerged that six members of Hizballah and an Iranian general were killed.
“A group of fighters and Islamic Resistance [Hizballah] forces were with General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi as they visited the region of Quneitra. They were attacked by a military helicopter of the Zionist regime. This brave general was martyred in this attack alongside some members of Hizballah,” according to a statement issued by Iran’s Fars news agency.
The rhetoric of revenge in the Middle East is fairly predictable. Soon after the Jan. 18 attack a Hizballah official said: “Hizballah’s leadership cannot accept the blow it received from the Israeli strike and the killing of officials. Hizballah’s leadership will choose how and when to respond to this criminal Israeli attack.”
Israel knew, however, that this time the rhetoric would probably result in an attack and had been waiting ever since.
Ron Ben-Yishai, a military analyst with the Israeli news site Ynet, gave his forecast of Hizballah and Iran’s likely response on Jan. 19:
So what is likely to happen? Hizballah will not remain silent. In a few weeks, we may encounter an explosive device on the border fence with Syria, or on Mount Dov, or perhaps even on the northern border with Lebanon. Another possibility is rocket fire towards population centers in the Golan, in the hopes that Israel will not escalate the situation. There could also be an anti-tank missile against an IDF [Israeli military] patrol in the Golan fired by a pro-Assad Palestinian group. The organization may also respond with a symbolic act, such as flying a drone into Israeli territory – an action that would harm the IDF’s prestige but not cause a disastrous response that would push the region into war.
And so it came to pass on Wednesday that Hizballah ambushed an Israeli border convoy and fired anti-tank missiles at it killing two and injuring seven and reducing two armoured vehicles to blazing wrecks. Israel launched an artillery attack in response, killing the Spanish soldier at his U.N. base in southern Lebanon.
As the artillery died down on Wednesday, Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner issued this tweet: “We have responded to Hizballah’s escalation, IDF will continue to operate in order to safeguard Israel.” His use of the past tense in the first sentence implied that as long as there are no further attacks on Israel the Israeli military would hold fire.
Ben-Yishai explained Israel’s thinking on Wednesday: “Does Israel now enter into a broader conflict with Hizballah or should it let it go on the grounds that this is Hizballah settling their account with us? It’s cruel to say, but this is frequently this way: When they have shed enough Israeli blood, they will have apparently responded sufficiently enough to stop.”
For now it appears that honor has been satisfied. In 2006 a similar Hizballah attack led to the 34-day Second Lebanon War that left 165 Israelis and thousands of Lebanese dead and both sides at a stalemate. This time, a similar escalation appears to have been averted.
Correction appended Jan. 29
There is nothing quite as contentious as the headscarf issue when it comes to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, at least where western observers are concerned. So when U.S. first lady Michelle Obama went to pay her respects after the death of Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh with her hair uncovered, social media lit up with both praise and opprobrium. “Michelle Obama shouldve stayed in Airforce One as a sign of boycott rather than flouting rules of another country #Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled” tweeted @Random_Arora. “She was a guest in another country &culture. She should make no judgements, but show proper respect at a funeral.2 #Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled,” wrote @MonaBadah.
The thing is, Obama wasn’t really flouting any rules when she chose not to wear a headscarf. While foreign female visitors to the Kingdom are expected to wear long, loose fitting garments as a sign of respect — Obama obliged with a long coat over dark trousers — the headscarf is optional. The muttawa, or religious police, might growl menacingly, but there is nothing legally wrong with going uncovered for non-Muslims. Doing so may draw unwanted attention, and the ire of conservatives, but most Saudis treat the headscarf as a sign of piety, or at least feigned piety for public consumption.
When it comes to women’s rights in the kingdom, the headscarf is the least of any Saudi activist’s worries. She is more likely to be concerned about the right to drive, the right to vote, the right to keep her children after asking for divorce and the right to travel, marry and work without express permission from a male guardian. So maybe if Obama had driven to the funeral herself, it would have been worth a stir. Instead, she did as several other notable female visitors to the Kingdom, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice among them, have done before: dressing respectfully without compromising their own personal sense of style. It’s not like Mr. Obama decided to don a thobe and shemagh for the occasion.
Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterised Obama’s visit to Riyadh. It was to offer condolences for the Saudi King.
An Israeli military convoy was hit by missile fire Wednesday
Hizballah, the militant organization operating in Southern Lebanon, fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli military convoy along the Lebanese border on Wednesday, killing two Israeli soldiers. Israel retaliated by firing 25 artillery shells into Lebanon, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond “forcefully” to attacks across the country’s increasingly tense and volatile northern border.
'I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,' she writes in the New York Times+ READ ARTICLE
Angelina Jolie has written a searing account of her visit to an Iraqi refugee camp earlier this week, urging world leaders in a Tuesday op-ed to scale up relief efforts and do more to broker a ceasefire agreement in Syria.
“I have seen nothing like the suffering I’m witnessing now,” Jolie wrote in the New York Times. The accounts by displaced people from Iraq and Syria of rape, abductions and kidnappings left her “speechless,” Jolie wrote.
She goes on to recount individual stories of abuse that she said exceeded the brutality of accounts she had heard heard on four previous visits to Iraq as the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“Only an end to the war in Syria will begin to turn the tide on these problems,” she wrote. “Without that, we are just tinkering at the edges.”
Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether the reclusive leader himself might attend
North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un, will reportedly make his first official visit abroad this May to attend a World War II commemorative ceremony in Moscow, Russian officials said on Wednesday.
Russia’s presidential spokesperson confirmed that North Korea’s leader was among 20 “state leaders” who plan to attend the ceremony, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.
However, the Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether Kim would attend in person or would be represented by his nominal head of state for foreign relations, Kim Yong-nam.
Alexis Tsipras had halted an agreed privatization and raised minimum wages
Greece’s new government came to power on a promise of a clean break with capitalist orthodoxy. Two days into the experiment, capital is making a pretty clean break with Greece instead.
The Athens stock market has fallen 11% since Alexis Tsipras‘ left-wing Syriza party won Sunday’s elections, and the yield on Greece’s three-year bonds has rocketed to 16.9% from an already-elevated level of 14% as investors take fright at the openly confrontational stance Tsipras has taken.
Bank stocks, in particular, have been routed, falling between 32%-40% since Sunday amid fears of widespread deposit runs even before Greece gets to a situation where it has to choose between staying in the Eurozone and leaving it.
Since Monday, Tsipras has stopped a landmark privatization and indicated he will raise the minimum wage to €751 a month ($853), reversing two key parts of the country’s bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund and Eurozone.
And to make sure people get the point that Plan A is for confrontation rather than cooperation, Tsipras’ spokesman also raised the prospect of blocking further European Union sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict, saying that it hadn’t been consulted before the E.U. put out a statement in the name of its 28 heads of government promising to “consider further restrictive measures.”
At his first cabinet meeting Wednesday, Tsipras reportedly told colleagues he won’t default on the country’s €240 billion ($272 billion) in bailout loans but rather try to renegotiate the debts.
But it’s hard to see what other levers Tsipras can pull, other than by refusing to pay and exiting the Eurozone. It won’t get the remaining €7 billion ($7.95 billion) in bailout funds from the creditors while it’s busy reversing key parts of the bailout program, and it will lose access to those loans at the end of February. No bailout assurances would also force the European Central Bank to withdraw its support for the banking system, with dire consequences.
“Europe has time and money, a Greece mired in uncertainty has little of either,” says Holger Schmieding, chief economist for Berenberg Bank in London.
Analysts say Tsipras will find it much harder than he thinks to find allies among other Eurozone governments. Schmieding points out that even likely allies such as Italy and Spain will be reluctant to encourage their own left-wing populist parties by siding with Greece against a large bloc of northern and eastern European members led by Germany. Even France, which is openly sympathetic, has said that it expects the existing bailout agreements to be respected.
Italy and Spain, like almost all the rest of the Eurozone, are currently funding themselves at record low interest rates thanks to the European Central Bank’s decision to launch ‘quantitative easing’. The advantages of choosing Greece’s company over than France’s and Germany’s aren’t obvious, in such circumstances.
“Funding lunacies such as re-regulating the Greek labour market, creating a bad precedent and rewarding a populist who reneges on his country’s obligations and makes it less, rather than more, competitive is not part of the plan,” Berenberg’s Schmieding said in a note to clients.
But the outlook isn’t hopelesss. There is more to the bailout than budget cuts, and there is more to Syriza’s policy platform than unabashed Socialist redistribution. The creditors won’t quibble with anything Syriza does to abolish tax evasion by its super-rich, one of the top three priorities named by Yannis Varoufakis, the new finance minister. And the creditors still have room to cut the cost of the bailout loans, and to stretch out the repayment schedule still further, offering a face-saving compromise.
“Offering such deep reforms up front in areas where previous governments have failed is the best hope to secure a meaningful quid-pro-quo on the pace of fiscal consolidation and debt re-profiling,” says Christian Odendahl, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform.
By contrast, Odendahl says, the worst thing Tsipras could do is to try to blackmail Chancellor Angela Merkel, especially over the Russia issue. Merkel has already faced down her own powerful export lobby at home to counter what she sees as an existential threat to Europe’s democratic order, and is likely to react badly to any attempt to undermine the bloc’s efforts to make Russia pay for its destabilization of Ukraine.
These adrenaline seekers are not afraid of heights
Armed with cameras, they climb, often illegally, some of the world’s tallest structures. They’re in search of new sensations — or just new vantage points from which to admire the world.
Their names are Vitaliy Raskalov, Vadim Makhorov, Daniel Lau, Tom Ryaboi, Alexander Remnev and Kirill Oreshkin, and they’re not afraid to appear in the stunning and vertigo-inducing images they snap hundreds of feet above ground, as part of a trend known as rooftopping.
“We were curious to get to where you can’t shoot,” says the Russian duo Raskalov and Makhorov, known as On the Roofs. “With our photos, we try to show people the cities they know, but from unusual angles. From the ground, you can’t see such [things].”
The pair always searches for particularly high buildings — or ones that are highly symbolic — from Shanghai to Cairo, New York to Chicago. “They should offer stunning views,” Raskalov and Makhorov tell TIME. “The quality of our images is also [an important factor]. We use the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D. It may seem inconvenient to carry big cameras to such heights, but we’re used to it.”
Despite their newfound fame — many such climbers regularly receive sponsorship deals — Raskalov and Makhorov are still on the hunt for new structures to climb. “It doesn’t affect what we do.”
Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is an associate photo editor at TIME.
It was not immediately clear when or where he died
An ISIS commander who claims to have lived in the U.S. has been killed, according to jihadis in the Middle East.
Abu Muhammad Al-Amriki, who gained notoriety last February when he appeared in a video blasting al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, was a high-ranking figure within ISIS. The name “Al-Amriki” means “American.”
While reports of his death have circulated before, the latest claim is considered “far more reliable” because it originated from jihadis “familiar with ISIS activities in Syria and Iraq” themselves, global security firm and NBC News counterterrorism consultant Flashpoint Intelligence said. NBC News could not independently verify the reports.
Israel fires dozen of shells into Lebanon after its vehicles were attacked
At least two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday when anti-tank missiles were fired at an Israeli convoy on the Golan Heights from Lebanon.
Israel retaliated by firing dozens of artillery shells into southern Lebanon and convened a emergency security meeting in Tel Aviv.
Israeli military said an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli military vehicle near Lebanese border, the Associated Press reports, leaving two soldiers dead. Lebanese security officials then said Israel fired 25 artillery shells into Lebanon.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister tweeted: “At this moment the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] responds to events in the North. We will not allow terrorists to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security. We will respond forcefully those who try to challenge us.”
Hizballah claimed on al-Manar TV in Lebanon that they had attacked an Israeli military convoy. In a statement, Hizballah said its fighters destroyed a number of Israeli vehicles that were carrying Israeli officers and soldiers and caused casualties among “enemy ranks.”
It said the attack was carried out by a group calling itself the “heroic martyrs of Quneitra,” — referring to an area in Syria where Israel killed six members of Hizballah and an Iranian general on Jan. 18.
Wednesday’s attack took place near Mount Dov and Shebaa Farms, a disputed tract of land where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.