TIME Israel-Gaza conflict

As Israel Fights Hamas in Gaza, Egypt Plays the Peacemaker Once Again

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City on July 24, 2014. Adel Hana—AP

Egypt craves Western and Arab approval but fears strengthening Hamas

John Kerry, the beleaguered U.S. Secretary of State, arrived in Cairo Monday to try and broker another cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group which controls the Gaza Strip. But it’s not the U.S. that’s most likely to get a deal done – it’s Egypt.

Egypt has often played the role of negotiator when conflicts between Israel and Hamas have bubbled up in the past. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak brokered a cease-fire between them in 2009. After Mubarak was given the boot in 2011, it was left to Mohamed Morsi to negotiate the next truce.

Cairo, though, has a rough road ahead. Israel and Hamas aren’t likely to seek a cease-fire just yet, as both are claiming successes in their latest bout of violence. Israel says it’s destroying Hamas’ tunnel network. Hamas, meanwhile managed to scare several international airlines away from flying to Israel for a few days for fear of rocket attacks. It also claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier.

Egypt’s position as peacemaker dates back to 1979, when then-president Anwar Sadat, exhausted by Egypt’s 30 years of war with Israel, signed a peace agreement between the two countries. It was a deeply controversial decision — Israel is not, and was not, considered a traditional ally by other Arab countries. Sadat was assassinated two years later.

“In the intervening 35 years [since 1979], Egypt has always played an important role, both because of its geography and the peace treaty,” says Robert Danin, Senior Fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations. “It is the largest Arab country and still has a leadership role.”

Yet for Egypt’s current president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who took control after playing a key role in ousting the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi, the peace treaty and its accompanying accord agreeing to Palestinian autonomy no longer carry much weight.

“The view in the west is Egypt has traditionally played [the role of peacemaker] and this is a role they should play now,” says Eric Trager, Wagner Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But Sisi is in an existential conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Hamas is the Palestinian equivalent. Egypt views Hamas as the same as the enemy they’re fighting at home … It’s not going to offer cease-fire terms that are at all favorable to Hamas.”

International diplomacy isn’t exactly at the top of Sisi’s agenda, either. Facing upheavals in Egypt’s Western Desert and the Sinai, plus the ever-present threat of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s president has his own domestic conflicts to sort out.

It’s easy to assume that a prolonged war between Israel and Hamas would benefit Egypt, who wants to see Hamas weakened. But Danin thinks otherwise, as Egypt’s Arab partners put pressure on it to act.

‘”At a certain point [conflict] isn’t [beneficial],” says Danin. “When things get out of hand, the perception in the Arab world is that Israel is slaughtering Palestinians … it puts Egypt in a difficult position.”

Egypt’s acting as a negotiator not only appeases the Arab world — its financial backers in the Gulf States particularly — but the U.S. as well.

“Sisi needs to establish his credibility in the West,” says Dr. Claire Spencer, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. Brokering a cease-fire presents “Egypt as a power to be reckoned with,” she adds.

If Egypt can help put an end to Israel’s current invasion in Gaza, it will be lauded as a peacemaker and a key player in international diplomacy. Yet Sisi may have darker motives for getting involved with negotiations. Cairo’s current record on rule of law, democracy and human rights is dubious, to say the least. The recent sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven years in jail is only one example of this. “When people are focusing on Israel this is good,” says Danin. “It means people aren’t focusing on Egypt.”

Sisi, then, is torn. Arranging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas will paint him as a hero to the West and the Arab world, both sick of the bloodshed in Gaza. Yet any cease-fire that benefits Hamas will cost him support amongst his party and strengthen an enemy. Caught in this deadlock, a truce looks unlikely. Whatever Sisi suggests, Hamas is almost sure to refuse.

TIME Venezuela

Armed Forces Push Residents Out of ‘World’s Tallest Slum’

As part of a governmental initiative, squatters are being removed from their residences by armed forces.

+ READ ARTICLE

On Tuesday, Venezuelan armed forces began the process of forcing out residents at the Tower of David, the nation’s tallest slum, the government’s “Great Housing Mission.”

The 45-story building, originally built to be a high-rise bank, was never completed and abandoned, then taken over by people in need of shelter.

Prior to the start of the evacuation, the slum acted as home to over 3,000 squatters, many of whom have resisted their removal. The building is also home to businesses including a beauty salon, multiple bodegas, and an unlicensed dentist.

TIME Disasters

No, Fidel Castro’s Niece Wasn’t on the Algerian Plane

Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014.
Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 2014. Franklin Reyes—AP

"I’m alive and kicking"

Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter—Fidel Castro’s niece—was on the Air Algérie flight that disappeared earlier in the day, citing information from the airport in Burkina Faso. Mariela Castro, a sexologist and gay rights activist, is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education.

But she wasn’t on the flight.

“I’m at a meeting, happy and healthy,” she told the television network TeleSUR. “I’m alive and kicking.”

The Facebook post which appeared to have first reported the news was later deleted.

 

 

TIME Middle East

Explosions at Gaza School Kill at Least 16, Health Ministry Says

A Palestinian man holds a girl injured during shelling at a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014.
A Palestinian man holds a girl injured during shelling at a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

An estimated 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its operation to counter rocket strikes from Hamas

Updated at 7:50 p.m. ET

At least 16 people were killed after a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in northern Gaza was destroyed, officials said on Thursday.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 200 people were wounded in the attack. This marks the fourth time that a UN facility has been hit since Israel began Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the BBC reports.

Nearly 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, which intensified last week when Israel launched a ground operation to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to deploy a regular stream of rockets into Israel.

The international community has struggled to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, even as the United Nations has condemned both sides in the conflict.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Wednesday there was a “strong possibility” that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza while also condemning the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed “outrage and regret” after rockets were found to have been stored inside a UN building in Gaza.

A spokesman for the Israeli military, Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner, said that it was possible that the damage had been caused by Hamas rocket fire, Reuters reports. “We don’t strike schools. We don’t strike U.N. facilities. We do not target the United Nations,” he was quoted in the New York Times.

More than 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza since the fighting, many of whom have taken shelter in UN buildings, the UN has said.

According to CBS, survivors at the school on Thursday said they were warned that the school was being targeted and were preparing to leave when Israeli forces opened fire. The Israeli military told CBS it was reviewing the incident.

[BBC]

An earlier version of this story drew a premature conclusion that the attack on the Gaza shelter was committed by Israel. The source of the attack has not yet been confirmed.

TIME India

An Indian Boy With 260 Teeth Just Got 232 of Them Pulled Out

Indian Boy Gets 232 Pulled
Indian dentists operate on Ashik Gavai at JJ Hospital in Mumbai on July 22, 2014, AFP/Getty Images

Doctors said the operation was "really fun"

A boy in India endured a six-hour operation Monday to remove 232 teeth that grew as a result of a rare medical condition. Now, Ashik Gavai, 17, has 28 teeth left—four fewer than most adult mouths.

17-year-old Gavai had been suffering from composite odontoma, a condition in which a benign tumor forms in the mouth, causing additional teeth to grow as well. In Gavai’s case, a molar tooth in his lower jaw had grew hundreds of smaller teeth. Gavai’s doctors at J.J. Hospital in Mumbai couldn’t initially remove the growth deep in Gawai’s jaw with normal surgical tools, so they opted for a “basic chisel and hammer” before more delicately removing teeth one-by-one. His doctors called their operation a “world record,” and are planning to submit it to Guinness World Records.

“I have never seen anything like it in all my years of practice,” Sudanda Dhiware, head of the hospital’s dentistry department, told the Washington Post. “We were so excited by it. And it was really fun for us to be able to extract them all, one by one.”

The condition doesn’t normally result in teeth as plentiful as Gavai’s — Dhiware said medical literature shows that a maximum of 37 teeth have been extracted in the past.

Gavai, who comes from a poor family of cotton growers hours outside of Mumbai, had noticed swelling along his jaw months before his operation. But local doctors were unable to fix his condition, and his family didn’t have enough money to seek immediate, proper treatment. Fearing that Gavai’s puffy cheek may have been cancer-related, his family went to a state-run hospital, where they obtained funds through a program offering financial support to poor patients.

Gavai is currently recovering from his grueling surgery, and his doctors are hoping that the condition doesn’t reoccur—which it could, if a bit of tumor, even microscopic, remains.

[Washington Post]

TIME Germany

Poll: Only Germans Think They Are Helping to Fix Global Warming

Germany Debates Its Energy Future
Wind turbines stand behind a solar power park on October 30, 2013 near Werder, Germany. Sean Gallup—Getty Images

Germans have a pretty high opinion of themselves when it comes to environmental stewardship, according to a recent TIME poll, but their pride might be a little premature.

From among six large countries surveyed in a recent TIME poll, only Germany sees itself as more a part of the solution to global warming (60%) than part of the problem (40%). Only in Germany did the majority of poll respondents report that their country has a “mostly” or “somewhat positive” role in combating global warming.

The TIME poll surveyed 3,505 online respondents between May 10 and May 22 from the Germany, the United States, Brazil, Turkey, India and South Korea, with an equal number of respondents in each country. The margin of error in the survey is 1.8%.

Despite their environmentalist pride, Germans are not optimistic about the ability of the world as a whole to change its polluting ways—just 19% of Germans think the planet can reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 37% of respondents overall.

The Germans’ pride likely stems from Energiewende, or “energy transition,” Germany’s closely-followed effort to ramp up energy production from renewable sources. The country has indeed significantly increased solar and wind power, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in April found Germany to be the most energy-efficient major economy on earth. Germany hit a new record around noon on a day in May this year, producing 74% of its electricity needs from renewable sources.

The problem is that, while solar power plants may be super-effective power producers at noon on a sunny day, without scalable energy-storage technologies they aren’t so effective producing power for other times—when it’s dark, for example. Because Energiewende has been accompanied by a rapid move away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster Germany has had to make up its energy deficit by increasing its reliance on coal for the first time in years. German CO2 emissions have actually been rising over past three years.

The country is continuing to perfect and expand its renewable energy portfolio and may one day succeed in cutting back again on its coal habit. For the time being though German perceptions aren’t quite in line with the reality.

TIME Iraq

UN: ISIS Orders Women and Girls in Mosul to Undergo Genital Mutilation

"This is not the will of Iraqi people," U.N. humanitarian coordinator says

Islamic extremists who control parts of northern Iraq have ordered girls and women in and around the city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, a United Nations official said Thursday.

Nearly 4 million girls could be affected by the “fatwa” issued by the militant group that refers to itself as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in Geneva via videolink from Iraq.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said according to Reuters. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by terrorists.”

[Reuters]

TIME viral

This Is What It Looks Like When The Queen Photobombs Your Selfie

One is amused

An Australian field hockey player was minding her own business, talking a selfie at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, when her picture was photobombed by the Queen. As in, Elizabeth II, Queen of England.

AND she was smiling.

This wasn’t the Queen’s first time embracing millennial photobomb culture, either:

Royals. They’re just like us.

TIME

Israeli Fire Hits U.N. Facility in Gaza, Killing At Least 15

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.

Pools of blood soiled the school courtyard, amid scattered books and belongings. There was a large scorch mark in the courtyard marking the place where one of the tank shells hit.

The strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting throughout the coastal territory as Israel pressed ahead with its operation to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area.

It was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, since the Israeli operation began July 8.

UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, has said it has found militant rockets inside two vacant schools.

The strike came on a day of heavy fighting throughout the Gaza Strip as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade amid international efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors.

An airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Abassan killed five members of another family, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Abassan is near Khan Younis, in an area that saw intense fighting on Wednesday.

The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say. Israel has lost 32 soldiers, all since July 17, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground operation it says is aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no reference to the cease-fire efforts in underscoring his determination to neutralize the rocket and tunnel threats.

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.

“We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel… And we shall return it,” Netanyahu said at a joint appearance with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

___

Enav reported from Jerusalem.

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