After a visit to Israel’s national museum – where he inspected the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the land that is now Israel – Obama headed to the West Bank to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority for his administration.
He is not bringing a new plan to relaunch peace talks, but in meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a speech to Israeli students later in the day, he will appeal to both sides to halt unilateral actions that make negotiations more difficult. (AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
So far the best photo from Obama’s visit to Israel: US President Barack Obama, second left, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, and Israel’ President Shimon Peres, left, walk during a welcoming ceremony upon Obama’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 20, 2013. President Barack Obama is declaring common cause with Israel, highlighting the bonds between the United States and its Mideast ally. He says he has made Israel the first stop of the first trip of his second term to restate his commitment to Israel’s security. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Barack Obama arrives in Israel for first trip as president President Barack Obama is declaring common cause with Israel, highlighting the bonds between the United States and its Mideast ally. He says he has made Israel the first stop of the first trip of his second term to restate his commitment to Israel’s security.
Obama arrived Wednesday in Tel Aviv, joking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was “getting away from Congress.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed Obama, declaring that “A world without America’s leadership, without her moral voice, would be a darker world. A world without your friendship, would invite aggression against Israel.”
Obama called the U.S. Israel’s “strongest ally and your greatest friend.” (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
“I would anticipate that this isn’t going to be the first Israeli air strike designed to degrade Hezbollah’s military capabilities over the next year,” said Gary Gambill, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.
“If Israel is considering a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, then Hezbollah’s capacity to retaliate is going to be an important factor.”
Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul-Karim Ali says Damascus has “the option and the surprise to retaliate.” He said he cannot predict when the retaliation will be, saying it is up to relevant authorities to prepare for it.
In Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on Thursday as saying the raid on Syria will have significant implications for the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
The regional officials said Israel had been planning in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for the Islamist militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. They said the shipment included sophisticated, Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would be strategically “game-changing” in the hands of Hezbollah.
Officials in the North African nation have concluded that Israel fitted a vulture with a GPS chip and solar-powered equipment that can take reconnaissance pictures from a bird’s eye view, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, which cited Egypt’s El Balad website.
“[The Egyptian site reported that] the vulture was captured in the town of Kereinek in the Darfur region in Sudan’s west and that the finding prompted Sudanese authorities to announce Israel was using vultures to spy on their country,” Haaretz said. “The report in El Balad does not say who made these claims.” (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Graphic: The state of Palestine Becoming a non-member observer state at the United Nations may do nothing to change conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The areas rely heavily on aid, poverty is rife, unemployment is high and living standards are low.
The cease-fire announcement had set off frenzied late night street celebrations in the coastal strip, and raised hopes of a new era in relations between Israel and Hamas. The two sides are now to negotiate a deal that would open the borders of the blockaded Palestinian territory.
“Today is different, the morning coffee tastes different and I feel we are off to a new start,” said Ashraf Diaa, a 38-year-old engineer from Gaza City.
However, the vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.