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A Tense Engagement Over The Golan

A Tense Engagement Over The Golan

On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces used two surface-to-air missiles to shoot down a Syrian fighter jet that strayed two kilometers into Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. It is the first time Israel has shot down a manned Syrian aircraft in four years, and comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, as Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad moves to mop up remaining resistance to his regime, and a host of foreign countries with a stake in the conflict push to shore up their interests. Here's Willis Sparks with the rundown on what it all means.


Why did this happen?

Israeli defenses are on high alert at the moment, because Assad’s forces are attacking Syrian rebels in areas near the Israeli border. Assad is close to reestablishing control of territory long held by rebel groups. The Israeli action appears to have been an automatic response to a Syrian jet that got too close.

What might happen next? 

Tensions are high. Syria reacted angrily on Monday after Israel evacuated Syrian volunteers providing humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas in the face of a Syrian military advance – the so-called White Helmets. Also on Monday, Israel reportedly used its “David's Sling” missile defense system for the first time, in this case in response to two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles fired near Israeli territory.

That said, a major escalation in response to this particular incident is unlikely. Israel understands that Assad has survived Syria’s civil war and will remain in power, but it wants to signal to his victorious forces that they must respect Israeli airspace and defenses now and in the future. The Syrian government will continue to issue complaints and threats, but Syria is fighting rebels, not Israel.

How does this piece fit in the broader puzzle?

This otherwise isolated incident is interesting because it highlights the complex overlapping relationships playing out in a very tight space. A few key facts:

  • The primary threat to Israel comes not from Syrian forces but from Iranian fighters that Assad has invited to set up operations near the Israeli border.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to court the Russian government in hopes of winning an agreement that would sideline Iranian involvement in Syria.

  • Russian forces would like to elbow Iranian forces from Syria to expand its own influence there, but Russia also cares about it relationship with Iran.

  • Tuesday’s incident involved the use of US-made Patriot missiles to shoot down a Russian-made Syrian jet, a reminder that outside powers still have intense interest in this arena of conflict.

Throw in Turkish forces, various Kurdish groups, surviving Syrian rebels, the remnants of ISIS, ambitious Russians, internal Trump administration tensions over relations with Moscow, an increasingly isolated and frustrated Iranian leadership, and some keenly interested Saudis and there is plenty of suspicion, hostility, and weaponry to keep the region on simmer for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response

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