Border fighting tests Gaza ceasefire; Iceland government collapses; China's PM beings European tour; Obama gives first presidential interview to Arab channel; and more
Top of the Agenda: First Test of Cease-fire
In the first major test of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian were killed today in a clash along the Gaza border, the first major violent outbreak since the end of the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas on January 18. Al-Jazeera reports a planted bomb killed the Israeli soldier and injured three other troops, and that after the explosion other Israeli troops opened fire, killing a Palestinian farmer. As yet, no Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israeli leaders reacted quickly and sharply. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel "needs to respond immediately" (Haaretz) to the bomb attack, adding that "Israel doesn't need to demonstrate restraint against terror." Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak also vowed swift retaliatory action, and Ynet reports the head of the religiously conservative Shas Party has urged another Israeli strike on Gaza.
The New York Times reports the incident gives an uncertain backdrop to the first U.S. foray into Middle East politics since Barack Obama's inauguration. Obama yesterday dispatched his new Middle East special envoy, George J. Mitchell, on an eight day trip to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France, and Britain.
- CFR.org's Crisis Guide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gives an in-depth look at the roots of tensions in the region.
- In a new interview with CFR.org, Middle East expert Aaron David Miller discusses Mitchell's prospects as envoy.
PACIFIC RIM: Wen Jiabao's Europe Tour
China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao left Beijing today (Xinhua) for a tour of Switzerland, Germany, Spain, and Britain. The Economist, in it's "week ahead" feature, called Wen's tour a "trip of confidence" aimed at reassuring Europe that Beijing intends to help solve global economic and financial problems.
S.KOREA-CHINA: The Korea Times questions how big of a threat a stumbling Chinese economy is to the South Korea, which the article says has developed "high dependence" on Beijing.