A lot is going down right now in the Middle East.
We can't deny that the situation isn't complicated, but we can give you 10 basic facts to understand the ongoing conflict. (And if you'd like a little more background, we've got that too.)
1. Israel attacked Syria.
It happened on Sunday, and it was actually the second attack in three days. Israel says they struck Syria to prevent Syrian government forces from delivering weapons to Hezbollah, a militant Islamic group dedicated to destroying Israel, not to enter into the civil war in Syria. (Hezbollah is also allied with the Syrian government against the rebels.)
The areas hit were places of weapon storage. The strikes also killed dozens of Syrian government troops.
2. The U.S., UK, and France were secretly talking about using American airstrikes to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, shortly before the Israeli strikes.
U.S. lawmakers were reportedly encouraging President Obama to arm Syrian rebel forces. Senator John McCain is a huge supporter of waging airstrikes on Syria. He said, "the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it fairly easily.”
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 5, 2013
3. Syria might strike back.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said Syria intends to retaliate against Israel:
"When they attack, this is a declaration of war. This is not something that is (new). We dealt with this on several occasions, and we retaliated the way we wanted, and the retaliation was always painful to Israel, and they will suffer again."
But how will they retaliate? No one's really sure.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) May 5, 2013
By EVERY Argument coming out of Israel, i.e. Right to Defend, SYRIA now has ALL THE RIGHT IN THE WORLD to STRIKE BACK at Israel... HARD.
— Ina (@InaMaziarcz) May 5, 2013
@SyrianFortress doubt it will happen... Syria is in a lose-lose situation. Strike back and get annihilated, don't strike back = humiliation.
— Banda (@PandaKinges) May 5, 2013
On one hand, Syria publicly condemned the strikes, saying that they "opened the door to all possibilities." On the other, a country in the midst of a bloody civil war is not in the best place to wage war against powerful Israel.
4. Then again, this whole thing is probably really about Iran.
Remember Syria is not about Syria— it’s about Iran and Russia… http://t.co/XiwkHg18sv
— DavidNWagner (@CatholicismUSA) May 6, 2013
Could the Israeli government have been telling the truth when officials said that attacks were actually to prevent weapons from going to Hezbollah, in Iran?
While the ongoing civil war in Syria is worrisome, Israel is at odds with Iran and Hezbollah. And Iran doesn't seem shy about engaging with Israel.
— PaulaSlier_RT (@PaulaSlier_RT) May 5, 2013
5. Who's in charge
In case you need a quick intro or refresher:
Bashar Al-Assad - Syrian President. His administration opposes the rebel forces in his country, which is currently in the midst of a horrific civil war.
Benjamin Netanyahu - Prime Minister of Israel.
Barack Obama - President of the United States. Concerned about chemical weapons in Syria, and the increasingly escalating conflict.
Hassan Nasrallah - Leader of Hezbollah.
6. The U.N. says there's "conclusive proof" of chemical weapons in Syria.
So, there's that.
But so far it's not entirely clear whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons.
7. The U.N. says it has 'strong, concrete' suspicions that Syrian rebel forces have used chemical weapons themselves.
8. The U.S. is maybe possibly considering getting involved.
There are mixed messages coming out of the White House on Syria.
Is the U.S. considering arming the rebels? That's what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says.
But on Friday, Obama said this:
“I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria — American boots on the ground in Syria — would not only be good for America but also would be good for Syria.”
So which is it?
There's also been a lot of talk about what Obama really meant when he said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that would "change [his] calculus" when it comes to Syria.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has supplied the Syrian people with some aid.
9. Russia and China are alarmed.
Um, in case you were wondering?
The two countries also weighed in on the Syria vs. Israel conflict today and both are trying to talk Syria off a ledge, away from striking back on Israel.
Ironically, this was a year ago, when Russia and China voted against U.N. measures to try and reduce the violence:
10. This is a big mess.
This New York Times Op-Ed on the Syrian civil war kind of sums it up:
"After more than two years of conflict and more than 70,000 deaths, including thousands of children. ... After more than five million people have been forced to leave their homes, including over a million refugees living in severely stressed neighboring countries ... After so many families torn apart and communities razed, schools and hospitals wrecked and water systems ruined ... After all this, there still seems to be an insufficient sense of urgency among the governments and parties that could put a stop to the cruelty and carnage in Syria."
Th question is, what should be done, and who should do it?
Here's some more useful background:
Images used under Creative Commons licensing.