- Hundreds killed in clashes between Egyptian army and Islamists, as Muslim Brotherhood targets government and Christian buildings
- Car bomb rips through Hezbollah stronghold, underlining fears of Syria spillover
- Reports: rebels using Saudi weapons to slow regime offensive
- Moody's reaffirms Israel's A1 rating, cites U.S. ties and "high-tech... and entrepreneurial culture"
What we’re watching today:
- The Egyptian Health Ministry reported this evening that renewed violence in Egypt has left at least 638 dead and nearly 4,000 injured, as the country braced for promised Friday protests by supporters of the country's former Muslim Brotherhood-linked President Mohammed Morsi. The BBC described Egyptian TV footage showing firefighters attempting to rescue employees from a government building near Cairo that had been stormed and set on fire by Brotherhood members, and seven Egyptian soldiers were shot and killed today in the Sinai Peninsula. Arabic media sources characterized ongoing attacks on Christians as "frenzied," stating that "Morsi loyalists orchestrated nationwide assaults on Christian targets, wreaking havoc on churches, homes, and Christian-owned businesses." Egyptian officials yesterday declared a state of emergency, and police officers have been given the authorization to use deadly force. President Barack Obama spoke on the crisis this afternoon. While acknowledging that Morsi's government "was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians," the President "strongly condemned" the army-backed interim government for cracking down on pro-Morsi elements and announced the cancellation of a joint military exercise with the Egyptian military.
- A car bomb detonated today in the southern Dahiyeh of Beirut killed at least 18 people and wounded over 200. The area is a Hezbollah stronghold, and was targeted by another car bomb last July that wounded roughly 50 people. A statement issued today by a previously unknown Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for both blasts.The Daily Star quoted a local Hezbollah supporter declaring that "they promised us more and we're ready," a reference to threats by Sunni jihadists to target Hezbollah infrastructure inside Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime. TIME linked the explosion to the "frequently-voiced fear that the Syrian crisis could engulf the region." Lebanese public figures had become increasingly vocal in recent weeks in their demands that Hezbollah untangle itself from the war, and earlier this week Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, accused the Iran-backed terror group of plunging Lebanon "into fire."
- Missiles supplied by Saudi Arabia are playing a key role in efforts by Syrian rebels to halt months of advances by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Russian-designed Konkurs anti-tank weapons were used this week in battles near the Jordanian border and around Damascus. Reuters outlined today the "hands-on" Saudi approach to supplying the largely Sunni opposition with arms, including "rocket launchers and other lethal equipment." Anti-government activists declared this afternoon that rebels had downed a Syrian warplane, a claim that if confirmed would be read alongside analyst conclusions that opposition forces cannot defeat Damascus without a response to the regime's air assets. Meanwhile rebel groups described renewed fighting between anti-government forces and Hezbollah soldiers backing the Syrian regime. Opposition groups also claimed today that they captured an Iranian soldier, uploading video to YouTube as proof of the claim.
- Moody's today affirmed Israel's A1 rating, primarily citing the resilience and growth of the Jewish state's economy but also emphasizing Jerusalem's close ties with the U.S., its diplomatic accords with Egypt and Jordan, and its efforts to secure peace with the Palestinians. The rating agency declared that Israel's "high-tech niche and entrepreneurial culture have continued to underpin its latent dynamism," and noted that official reserves have risen "to record high levels." Israel's start-up culture most recently became global news when the Israeli maps mobile application Waze was purchased by Google for over one billion dollars. A few months ago billionaire investor Warren Buffett declared that Israel is the "most promising investment hub" outside of the United States. A recent innovation summit highlighted how Israeli knowledge and technology could be used to help solve some of Asia's most pressing problems.
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