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inFOCUS Quarterly

Spring 2015

inFocus Examines Israel


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Yemeni Conflict Leads to New Humanitarian Crisis

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report earlier this week highlighting the worsening plight of civilians caught between the Saudi military and Houthis fighters in Yemen. Following their first visits to remote parts of the country during a now-expired five-day ceasefire, aid officials have expressed dismay at the living conditions facing many Yemeni families.

According to figures released by the UN, more than 545,000 people are estimated to be displaced as a result of the fighting. Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign has dramatically increased the death toll, which officials believe to be approximately 1,850, with another 7,400 people wounded.

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By Michael Johnson  |  May 21, 2015 at 9:37 am  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Salafists Clash with Hamas in Gaza

Salafists claiming ties to Islamic State took responsibility for launching mortars at a Hamas military base in Gaza on Friday. There were no reports of injuries or damage to the Qassam Brigades' facility near Khan Yunis, but the attack comes amid increasing tensions between Hamas and other radical jihadists.

The mortar launching may be in response to Hamas's demolition of a mosque near Deir al-Balah frequently visited by Salafi fighters. Hamas security forces have also arrested 30 radical Salafists recently including Imam Adnan Khader Maya. According to Israeli media, the imam had been making speeches in support of IS and called for the overthrow of Gaza's rulers. Salafists allege their supporters have been tortured at the hands of Hamas.

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By Michael Johnson  |  May 14, 2015 at 12:37 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Freedom Flotilla III Sails for Gaza

Leftist activists aboard the ship Marianne of Gothenburg departed port in Sweden over the weekend, hoping to break an Israeli-Egyptian naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Organizers of the campaign called their journey the Freedom Flotilla III, the third attempt by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to gain access to the enclave by sea.

The ship's crew plans to stop again in Sweden and Copenhagen as they continue their 5,000 mile long journey. Organizers hope more ships will join the flotilla as they dock in other European cities. Activists on the vessel claim to be carrying solar panels and medical equipment, which they aim to deliver to Palestinians living in Gaza.

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By Michael Johnson  |  May 13, 2015 at 9:20 am  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Protests Against Israeli Police Turn Violent

Demonstrations against perceived racism toward Israel's Ethiopian community turned violent over the weekend, injuring at least 13 people. Several thousand Israelis took part in a protest Sunday, highlighting problems stemming from integration, racial discrimination, and police brutality.

Protests remained relatively peaceful during the day and included Israelis many from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. But by nightfall, a contingent had turned violent: shutting down a major highway in Tel Aviv, overturning cars, throwing stones, and setting fires. Police in riot gear used tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowds as they marched toward City Hall. Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that "multiple protesters" had been arrested.

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By Michael Johnson  |  May 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Iran Detains Cargo Ship

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) detained a commercial cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a statement made by the U.S. Navy on Tuesday. The seizure of the Maersk Tigris, and a similar encounter with a U.S.-flagged ship last week, shows Iran's continued disruptiveness to trade in a vital shipping lane.

The Maersk Tigris, a 65,000-ton container ship, departed Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the United Arab Emirates. However, upon reaching the Strait of Hormuz, IRGCN patrol boats ordered the vessel to deviate from its scheduled course in international waters and detour into Iranian territory. When the ship's crew refused, the Iranians fired a warning shot across its bow, prompting the caption to send a distress signal to the U.S. military. The IRGCN then boarded the boat, docking it near Bandar Abbas.

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By Michael Johnson  |  April 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Egyptian Court Convicts Former President

An Egyptian court sentenced former President Mohamed Morsi to 20 years in prison on Tuesday in connection with the beating and unlawful detention of protesters in December 2012. Morsi's conviction highlights the government's legal battle to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood following mass arrests over the past two years.

The court ruled that Morsi, along with 12 other leading Islamists, facilitated the physical intimidation of opposition protesters outside Cairo's Presidential Palace in late 2012. At the time, demonstrators had gathered to demand that President Morsi call off a vote on the Islamist-dominated draft constitution. According to the court documents, Morsi and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian then allowed their Islamist supporters to clear the camping protesters using clubs and rifles. In the process, Morsi's supporters detained and assaulted demonstrators at a makeshift prison on the site. In all, 10 people were killed in the clashes. However, the former president was not found responsible for these deaths.

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By Michael Johnson  |  April 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Islamic State's Terror Spreads to Afghanistan

Islamic State-inspired terrorists took responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 34 people over the weekend in Afghanistan. While the militants' claims could not be independently verified, Saturday's killings could mark the first time IS has conducted a mass casualty attack in the country.

The explosion occurred in the eastern city of Jalalabad, only about 50 miles from the border with Pakistan. According to the provincial police chief, a man detonated his explosives in front of a local bank where many civil servants and military members come to collect their salaries. However, all of the victims were civilians, with witnesses reporting that numerous children were among the dead.

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By Michael Johnson  |  April 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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