Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In a State of the Union address devoted to domestic affairs, Pres. Obama pointedly calls on Syrian pres. Asad to realize “that the forces of change cannot be reversed and that human dignity cannot be denied” and urges the international community to “isolate” his regime. He also stresses that the U.S. will not take any options (i.e., a military strike) off the table in dealing with Iran and emphasizes “our ironclad commitment—and I mean ironclad—to Israel’s security.” (NYT, WP, WT 1/25; WJW 2/2)

Unidentified Palestinians fire 2 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. IDF troops on the n. Gaza border nr. the Erez crossing fire warning shots and tear gas at a group of Palestinians and international activists staging a nonviolent march to the crossing to protest Israel’s imposition of a no-go zone; no serious injuries are reported. With a sharp increase in the number of Gazans seeking to exit to Egypt through the Rafah border, the Gaza Interior Min. reimposes requirements (lifted on 12/18/11) that Gazans register with the ministry before traveling. In the West Bank, the IDF demolishes 8 Palestinian homes in Anata village nr. East Jerusalem, displacing 52 Palestinians, including 29 children; escorts 100s of Jewish settlers to pray at Joseph’s tomb in Balata village nr. Nablus; patrols in 1 village nr. Salfit in the morning, briefly detaining several Palestinian for questioning; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches nr. Hebron and Nablus. (JP 1/24; PCHR 1/26; OCHA 1/27)

After a long delay, Hamas authorities in Gaza allow the Central Elections Commission to open a voter registration office in Gaza to prepare for eventual elections in implementation of the 5/2010 national unity deal. (WP 1/25)

Jordan says King Abdallah will receive Hamas leader Mishal on 1/29, when he makes his 1st official visit to Jordan in 13 yrs. Officials say that the kingdom will continue to bar Hamas for undertaking political activities on its soil. Analysts view this as: (1) Jordan trying to take a more active diplomatic role and say reopening diplomatic ties with Hamas could be a step toward trying to broker reconciliation btwn. Hamas and Fatah (WP 1/25); and (2) the king engaging with Islamists, who have gained strength regionally during the Arab Spring, to quiet Jordan’s own Islamist opposition. (WP, WT 1/25)

Police in Azerbaijan arrest several people allegedly linked to an Iranian-backed Hizballah cell for plotting an attack against Israeli amb. to Azerbaijan Michael Lotem and on a Jewish school in Baku. (JPI 2/3; NHR 2/21)

A Lebanese court sentences fmr. brig. gen. Fayiz Karam to 2 yrs. in jail (including time served) for giving classified information to Israel. Karam, jailed in mid-2009, will be released in 6 mos. (NYT 1/25)