World View: Laos Sides with China in South China Sea Dispute

In secretive communist Laos, Bounhang Vorachith (C), pictured here in 2006, has taken office as the country's new president and party secretary general

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Israel to open another truck crossing to the Gaza Strip
  • Report: Hamas, Israel and Egypt in alliance fighting ISIS
  • Laos sides with China in South China Sea dispute

Israel to open another truck crossing to the Gaza Strip

The Erez crossing (file photo)
The Erez crossing (file photo)

Because of the blockade of the Gaza strip by both Israel and Egypt, most of the food, medicine and other supplies reaching Gaza come through a single checkpoint, the Kerem Shalom crossing, between Israel and southeastern Gaza. Some 600-1000 trucks pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing every day, creating a hazard on some of the local roads.

Israel announced on Monday that it will open a second crossing to commercial traffic, through the Erez terminal on Gaza’s northeastern tip. No implementation date has been given, but it is expected that the traffic will then be split between the two crossings.

Israel has imposed harsh restrictions on the kinds of goods that may be imported into Gaza. In particular, building materials like lumber, cement, and iron are restricted because they could be used to build tunnels and bunkers for use in war against Israel. However, officials complain that these restrictions prevent Gaza from rebuilding the homes that were destroyed since the 2014 war. The announcement made no mention of whether any of these restrictions will be lifted.

The announcement appears to be a goodwill gesture to Hamas. Israel halted commercial traffic through Erez in 2000, after the Palestinian intifada began, and only passenger transit has been allowed since. The decision to reopen the Erez crossing was taken in recognition that a truce that ended the 2014 war against Hamas is holding. Jerusalem Post and Reuters

Report: Hamas, Israel and Egypt in alliance fighting ISIS

Israel and Egypt have been in alliance for some time to fight Wilayat Sinai (State of Sinai), Sinai’s branch of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). In the past, Egypt has accused Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, of allowing ISIS militants to use Gaza as a safe haven, and to allow them to cross into Sinai through smuggling tunnels. Hamas denies the allegations, saying it has no sympathies to the ISIS, which branded Hamas as infidels in a video two years ago.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that Egypt is pressuring Hamas to control its border and prevent any movement of fighters or couriers between Gaza and Sinai. Egypt has economic leverage on Hamas, as Hamas depends on Egypt in part for its economic survival.

Last week, Hamas deployed over 300 fighters to Gaza’s border with Egypt, to prevent ISIS militants from crossing over the border in either direction.

Being the generally suspicious person that I am, it is not clear to me how this will have any effect. If Hamas is providing a safe haven for ISIS militants and allowing them to cross into Egypt, then Hamas fighters will just let that continue. In fact, the Hamas fighters might actually provide cover for ISIS militants to cross back and forth.

According to Eyad al-Bozom, a Hamas spokesman, “The national security forces redeployed along the borders with Egypt, and it is part of the security plan to fully control the borders and the stability of it, as well as the security of our Egyptian brothers.” Washington Post and Jerusalem Post

Laos sides with China in South China Sea dispute

A question that Generational Dynamics seeks to answer is how the countries of Asia will line up for and against China in the South China Sea dispute and the coming Clash of Civilizations world war.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China had reached a four-point consensus with Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos about resolving the South China Sea disputes. In particular, they all acceded to China’s demand that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) not play a part.

It has been clear for some time that Cambodia is firmly in China’s camp, but Vietnam was shocked by the announcement, since they always consider Laos to be “brothers.”

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues to use belligerent military operations to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Much of China’s announcement is just symbolic, since neither Cambodia nor Laos have made any claims in the South China Sea. Brunei does have a conflicting claim, but China’s announcement does not say that the three countries accept China’s sovereignty. It only says that they have adopted China’s bilateral process for resolving the dispute.

China’s claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing their claims are groundless and that they would lose.

However, a court is expected to issue a ruling in the next few weeks. The Philippines filed a case with the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in 2013, challenging China’s claims to the entire South China Sea. China has already reacted angrily to the Philippines’ action filing the case, and if the court ruling goes against China, as many analysts believe it will, then China is expected to be furious, and may take further military action. China has repeatedly made it clear that it will never compromise in the South China Sea, and that it will take whatever military action is required to support its annexation of the region. The Diplomat and China Foreign Ministry and VOA

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Israel, Gaza, Hamas, Egypt, Eyad al-Bozom, Kerem Shalom crossing, Erez crossing, Wilayat Sinai, State of Sinai, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, China, South China Sea, Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, International Tribunal for Law of the Sea
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