Slatest PM: Gaza Conflict Moving From Bad to Worse

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 15 2012 3:35 PM

Slatest PM: Gaza Conflict Moving From Bad to Worse

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TROUBLE: New York Times: "Israel and Hamas widened their increasingly deadly conflict over Gaza on Thursday, as a militant rocket killed three civilians in an apartment block [in Kiryat Malachi]. The deaths were likely to lead Israel to intensify its military offensive on Gaza, now in its second day of airstrikes. ... The regional perils of the situation sharpened, meanwhile, as President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt warned on Thursday that his country stood by the Palestinians against what he termed Israeli aggression ... The 120-nation Nonalignmed Movement, the biggest bloc at the United Nations, added its condemnation of the Gaza airstrikes in a statement released by Iran, the group’s rotating president and one of Israel’s most ardent foes."

FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Associated Press:  "The major operation Israel launched to stop Gaza rocket fire bears some striking similarities to a punishing three-week campaign it unleashed against Hamas militants four years ago [known as Operation Cast Lead]. Both began with a sudden series of airstrikes that caught Hamas off guard, included a threat to invade the coastal strip and came shortly after an American election and before an Israeli one. But the rules of the game have changed. That means Israel is now likely to carry out a briefer, more focused operation."

WHAT'S CHANGED I: AP: "A prolonged offensive appears riskier for Israel this time around. While Israel's missile defense systems are vastly improved, it is also facing a better armed Hamas that has missiles capable of reaching farther than ever into Israel. Also, Hamas has the key backing of the new Islamist government in Egypt, while a jittery Obama administration and a Europe suspicious of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could give the Israelis little room for error."

WHAT'S CHANGED II: Foreign Policy: "It is impossible to know how the conflict will unfold in the days ahead, but what is clear is that the outbreak of violence is the result of a swirl of events that are reshaping power structures within Hamas and its relationships with regional forces, including with Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed—largely due to internal transformations within the group itself."

IT'S THURSDAY. Welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

SANDY UPDATE: Associated Press: "Obama vowed Thursday to stick with New Yorkers still struggling 17 days after Superstorm Sandy 'until the rebuilding is complete' after getting an up-close look at devastated neighborhoods rendered unlivable. Obama brought the spotlight to people still living without heat or electricity, and hugged many of those trying to rebuild their lives. He also delivered a postelection message of unity, nine days after a closely divided America gave him a second term."

WHAT WE KNOW NOW ABOUT THE SHIRTLESS FBI AGENT: His name is Frederick W. Humphries II, and colleagues described him to the New York Times as a "hard-charging" veteran who helped investigate the foiled millennium terrorist plot in 1999. "Fred is a passionate kind of guy,” one former colleague told the paper. "He’s kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth onto something, he’d be a bulldog."

BUT ABOUT THAT SHIRTLESS PHOTO: The Seattle Times: "Humphries, 47, confirmed the photograph exists and was sent to Kelley and dozens of other friends and acquaintances in the fall of 2010 ... Indeed, among his friends and associates, Humphries was known to send dumb-joke emails in which the punch line was provided by opening an attached photo. A Seattle Times reporter was among those who received an email containing an attachment of the shirtless photo. The subject line read: 'Which one is Fred?' The snapshot shows Humphries—bald, muscular and shirtless—standing between a pair of equally buff and bullet-ridden target dummies on a shooting range." Photo here.

GULF SPILL: Reuters: "BP will pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to felony misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst U.S. offshore oil spill ever. The settlement includes a $1.256 billion criminal fine, the largest such levy in U.S. history, the oil company said on Thursday. Wall Street analysts said the deal will allow BP to focus again on oil production."

A LITTLE CONTEXT: The settlement will be spread out over five years. Of course, the London-based company won't have to go looking too hard to find the cash to pay it off. The company reported a net profit of about $5.5 billion in the third quarter of this year alone.

FLASHBACK: The issue of rig and drilling safety has largely disappeared from the national debate about energy production, a topic that itself was swallowed whole by the campaign debate over job creation. But it's important to remember that in the immediate wake of the oil spill, the outcry over the Gulf spill was so great that environmentalists and their like-minded allies in Washington thought they could harness the demand for stricter drilling regulations to pass sweeping climate legislation. That effort, obviously, fell short.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.