Despite appalling economic news, the focus in the U.S. and the world shifted back to the Middle East this week.
On Thursday in the Mideast (late Wednesday in the U.S.), Israeli aircraft struck a weapons facility in Gaza near the Egyptian border, according to Reuters. The strike came after a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel.
Late Tuesday (early Wednesday in Gaza), Israeli aircraft targeted tunnels that are used for smuggling on the Gaza-Egypt border. The strike came after an Israeli soldier was killed by a bomb on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. According to the Haaretz newspaper, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of a "further response" to the bomb attack.
As Israeli and Palestinian combatants put a fragile week-old cease-fire in danger, President Barack Obama chose an Arab television network for his first full interview since taking office:
A Gallup Poll also released Jan. 27 underscores the gravity of the new president’s task in improving public opinion in several predominantly Muslim countries with regards to American leadership.
In Gaza, an Israeli soldier was killed that same day by a bomb on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Troops then returned fire, killing a Palestinian, in violence that has left people there fearing further Israeli attacks. Although neither side suggested that the 10-day-old truce was over, our reporter found that the killings left many Palestinians more pessimistic than ever about the possibility of a permanent peace.
And Obama’s pick for Middle East envoy, Sen. George Mitchell, arrived in the region bearing a message that the "moment is ripe" for peace talks. Israeli leaders, facing an election in two weeks, begged to differ, reportedly promising voters that they would hit back hard in retaliation for the deadly bomb.
The U.S. diplomatic offensive may even widen to include Iran, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper Thursday, which said that the Obama administration had drafted a letter to the Islamic nation aimed at unfreezing relations and opening the way for direct talks.
And, half a world away, the venerable BBC has defiantly reaffirmed its recent decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies for victims of Israel’s recent military actions in Gaza. Their reasoning: the need to protect the BBC’s impartiality in the Arab-Israeli dispute.
And as Palestinians try to recover from the 22-day Israeli bombardment, concerns have arisen over the conflict's lasting effects on Gaza's children.
It seems that even amid news of massive job cuts in America and a global slowdown that affects billions around the world, this troubled region can still top the headlines.