Why does the world not react to Israeli attacks on Palestine / Gaza?

The Short Answer

The polarized and well publicized views of each side and their supporters are so jaded, “old hat” and reactionary that few international commentators or governments wish to become embroiled in a conflict whose roots are so deep that few believe a resolution will ever be possible until one side is utterly defeated by the other. This outcome is completely unacceptable of course so as bad as the status quo would appear to be it is better than the alternative. 

The Long Answer

To elaborate – the current crisis in Israel / Gaza is a two sided affair. Each side and even their moderate supporters comment and pass judgment in an increasingly partisan fashion. 

Palestinian supporters post images of bombed out domestic dwellings, civilian deaths, mass panic after receiving 60 second “dud rocket warnings” / “knock on the roof” bombing techniques and in particular the deadly consequences of the Israeli bombardment for the children of Gaza. Israeli supporters post images of rocket intercepts, burned out cars hit by Hamas rockets, allegations that Hamas are targeting a nuclear reactor and images of firefighters battling gas station blazes caused by short range rocket attacks which were not intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense system.

The Iron Dome is Israel’s anti-missile defenSe system that, it is claimed, has had a nearly 90 per cent success rate in intercepting potentially deadly rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome was designed and built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in 2011. It’s aim is to intercept potentially deadly rockets aimed at the Israeli territories. There are seven missile batteries placed around Israel firing 10ft long projectiles to intercept rockets fired on Israeli territories. The missiles have a range of between 2.5 and 43 miles. Each missile fired costs $50,000. Israel has invested in excess of $1 billion into the Iron Dome. The US has also pumped $235 million towards the project this year alone. If the Iron Dome was not in place then atrocities in Israel would match or exceed those in Gaza. 

In the worst violence since 2012 Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Operation Protective Edge – the Israeli response – continues to bombard targets throughout Gaza including, highly controversially, the private dwellings of suspected Hamas leaders with the inevitable consequences for those living close by.

It is clear to all impartial observers that the response of a first world military organization will be far more deadly than the acts of terrorism which have provoked it. The Hamas arsenal is made up of short range rockets albeit with lethal consequences when targets are hit. The Israeli arsenal is a complex mix of highly effective and brutally destructive state of the art guided munitions capable of being deployed from land, sea and air platforms. 

The fact is that the provocative acts, whether based on genuine grievances or not, have produced a far deadlier effect for the civilians of Gaza – a sacrifice that Hamas appears to be willing to let their fellow countrymen absorb. 

So why does Hamas do it & why does Israel not experience more international pressure to cease reacting? Here are three points to keep in mind.

Quoting Ishaan Tharoor writing in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Hamas does not want a return to the status quo

A cessation of hostilities may end the current Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza, but it would reinstate a state of affairs many Gazans find intolerable. Since 2007, when Hamas won a battle for control of the Gaza Strip, Israel has clamped down on the densely populated, impoverished territory, imposing blockades and launching various military incursions. “The problem is not the cease-fire, the problem is the situation in Gaza,” said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, in a televised address this week.

Hamas, as well as many ordinary Gazans, want restrictions on border crossings into the enclave to be loosened – in particular, the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which is the main gateway into the territory for goods and aid. But that has been closed since the ascension of Egypt’s Sisi, who ousted president Mohamed Morsi and banned Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, an institution that is Hamas’ ideological progenitor.

After the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last month (who were eventually found murdered), Israel conducted mass arrests of hundreds of suspected Hamas operatives living there, even though the group denies any role in the teenagers’ abduction. Critics accused Israel of carrying out “collective punishment” on the Palestinians. Hamas wants some 54 of those detained to be released. Other demands include the extension of fishing zones in compliance with a 2012 agreement that critics say Israel has not followed. Gazan fishermen, struggling in the dwindling shoals, face routine harassment from Israeli gunboats.

For Hamas, rockets are politics by other means

Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome system has neutralised most of the dangerous rockets launched from the Gaza Strip; many of the rockets fired carry no payload or land harmlessly in the desert or sea. Yet militants in Gaza continue to launch them at Israel amid the current crisis.

Rocket fire is Hamas’ main tool for achieving, or at least asserting, its demands. The Islamist organisation styles itself as a resistance movement against Israeli occupation and has long been at odds with the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the main Palestinian interlocutor in the stalled peace process with Israel. Abbas has little influence over Gaza and the current escalation sidelines him even more, as Griff Witte and William Booth write in The Washington Post:

Bitter Abbas aides acknowledge that the president is fast losing relevance, but they say this is what Israel intended all along: hopeless negotiations followed by a fight that would elevate militant Palestinian elements at the expense of relative moderates. The timing, they say, is aimed at derailing a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that brought together the various factions, including Hamas, under Abbas’ leadership. “The objective of this war for Israel is political revenge against Mahmoud Abbas,” said Husam Zomlot, a top foreign policy official in Abbas’ secular Fatah party. “Israel wants to pull all of us into the military arena, because that’s where they have the advantage.”

Hamas thrives in this polarised context. Earlier Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza in 2008 and 2012 led to tremendous loss of life, but did little long-term damage to the militants. Hardline politicians in Israel are now calling for a ground offensive into Gaza, a move that could lead to a calamitous escalation of the conflict.

Hamas also tragically gains from the rising death toll of Palestinian civilians. A cease-fire on Israel’s terms, writes Mya Guarneri of the +972 blog, “would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls Operation Protective Edge”.

Hamas has fewer options and less leverage than in the past

Away from the battle, Hamas in Gaza faces crippling financial headaches and mounting anger over its record of governance in the territory. Some 40,000 public employees employed by the Hamas-run government in Gaza have gone without salaries for months, eking by on small stipends. The group is demanding the payment of these salaries as a condition for a cease-fire.
The shortfall in funds is in part a consequence of the upheavals of the Arab Spring. The civil war in Syria caused it to lose a key backer in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s now the target of Sunni antipathy – and Palestinian Muslims are Sunnis – across the region. Iran, the Middle East’s chief Shiite power, has also reduced its assistance to Hamas in recent years.

The closure of many smuggling tunnels into Gaza from Egypt has taken a toll as well. Sisi seems to have returned his country’s foreign policy to the earlier era of Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, where a US-authored pact with Israel guaranteed a degree of stability in the region and military aid to Egypt, but did little to improve the lot of ordinary Palestinians. Sisi accuses Hamas of abetting an insurgency in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula.

Without Egypt on its side, it’s unclear where Hamas can turn abroad for greater leverage. It retains varying levels of support from governments in Qatar and Turkey, but not enough that it can place much stock in a positive diplomatic solution. And so it clings to its bellicose rhetoric and rocket fire, no matter the bodies piling up around it.

Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a Senior Editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.

Read more: Three reasons Hamas keeps fighting a losing battle

Multiple crises blending into regional "end of days"

Libya, Syria, Iraq and Gaza are all edging ever further toward the abyss as the cycles of violence, retribution and retaliation worsen, drawing in – as these matters inevitably do – previously unconnected third parties. Egypt, Israel, Turkey, the EU, the USA and Iran are all getting pulled in by forces outside of their control. 

The USA and Iran make an unlikely couple in Iraq as they consider how best to co-operate in the fight against the Islamic State (formerly ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al-Sham)) and the newly declared leader of the caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad was recently sworn in for his third presidential term amidst allegations of barrel bombing of residential neighbourhoods and the use of WMD in the three year old civil war. IS carve out large swathes of territory from the Iraq border deep into Syria and even the UN states that in the unlikely event of an outcome between the warring sides that the nature of the conflict and “the devastating toll will have sown the seeds of future conflict”.

In Gaza, Hamas are feeling threatened by the emergence and presence of IS and similarly Fatah in the West Bank are feeling the influence of the group on their control of “cells” within their organisation. With the commencement of the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza (07.17.2014) the prospect is raised of the first “official” face-off between Israel and IS. 

Libya has seen an escalation in fighting over recent months – between the victorious groups / militia’s post-Gaddafi (who significantly outnumber government forces) – to the point where the EU this week declared the evacuation of all its citizens and a potential call for the deployment of international troops. Tripoli airport is damaged to the extent that the Libyan government has declared it unfit for purpose and the fleet will require hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to make it operational. 

Egypt has only recently emerged from a period of serious instability after the Hamas friendly Muslim Brotherhood regime was ousted in favor of Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein el-Sisi, former Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Egypt’s attempts to broker a Palestinian / Israeli ceasefire in Gaza failed recently and the Egyptian administration is wary of being perceived within Egypt to be negotiating too closely with Hamas due to the latters association with the Muslim Brotherhood. MB has been accused of being Hamas spies while Hamas is a proscribed organisation in Egypt and is constantly attacked in pro-regime Egyptian media for allegedly meddling in Egyptian affairs. 

Turkey is threatened by events to the south and across the Black Sea matters in Ukraine crisis grow more grave as it plays surrogate to a Russia-EU-US power play over regional influence and after Russian arms in the hands of East Ukraine rebels allegedly downed a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in Russia / Ukraine airspace (07.17.2014). 

Meanwhile IS have allegedly shown up in Nigeria in talks with Boko Haram, in Afghanistan and release training videos from locations in Uzbekistan and Chechnya. The IS social media campaign has led to a flurry of border activity in the EU and the US as governments there seek to prevent Mujahid recruits from joining the fight and potentially becoming an internal security threat upon their return. 

The effects and consequences of this series of conflicts / crises and the emergence of IS are global. Regardless of the attitude to the declaration of the caliphate – it acts as a new departure in how radical Islam organizes and dispels with national and regional politics in favor of an over-arching unifying call to all Muslims in the context of the Mahdi and “end of days” concept.

The ripples are being felt in the EU and the US as disaffected Western men influenced by the increasingly sophisticated recruitment techniques of IS seek to make the trip to join and fight under the IS banner.   

(VIDEOS/PHOTOS) Is Operation Protective Edge the tipping point in Israel? – Gaza pounding continues …

The civilians of the Gaza Strip cannot afford to pay the price of Hamas aggression which exposes them to death and destruction on a terrifying scale. The civilians of Israel cannot also be expected to run to bomb shelters on a daily basis and live in constant fear of unannounced aerial bombardment. The innocent civilians, moderates and children of Israel and Gaza are the victims of unacceptable extremism on both sides. Scant coverage is given to the fact that Abbas and Netanyahu exhausted all efforts to avoid this catastrophic escalation of violence but both have been cornered by the activities of extreme nationalists in their camps. The current crisis in Israel / Gaza is a two sided affair. Opinions are generally polarized with each side and even their moderate supporters commenting in an increasingly partisan fashion. 

Partisan Commentary by Both Sides: Palestinian supporters post images of bombed out domestic dwellings, civilian deaths, mass panic after receiving 60 second “dud rocket warnings” / “knock on the roof” bombing techniques (see Israeli ‘knock on the roof’ bombing technique caught on film (VIDEO) below) and in particular the deadly consequences of the Israeli bombardment for the children of Gaza. Israeli supporters post images of rocket intercepts, burned out cars hit by Hamas rockets, allegations that Hamas are targeting a nuclear reactor and images of firefighters battling gas station blazes caused by short range rocket attacks which were not intercepted by the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defence system.

(VIDEO) IDF “knock on the roof” bombing technique: The IDF practice of firing a missile at a civilian home to warn the occupants to leave the building before a larger attack, has been caught on film. Amnesty International has decried “roof knocking” saying it in no way constitutes an “effective warning”. A YouTube video uploaded on Saturday shows how a Palestinian house in Samir Nofal is struck by a warning hit before being destroyed about a minute later by a full missile attack. Prior to the strike the occupants of the building reportedly received a call from the IDF, warning of an imminent attack. Amnesty International has condemned the “knock on the roof” technique in an appeal to the UN to investigate possible violations by Hamas and the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. 

 Israeli 'knock on the roof' bombing technique caught on film (VIDEO)


Comparison with the Crisis of 2012: In the worst violence since 2012 Hamas continues to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Operation Protective Edge – the Israeli response – continues to bombard targets throughout Gaza including, highly controversially, the private dwellings of suspected Hamas leaders with the inevitable consequences for those living close by. The map below is a Haaretz analysis of the 2012 crisis – the current crisis has already far exceeded the statistics in this info-graphic in a matter of days.



Weaponry & Response Comparison: It is clear to all impartial observers that the response of a first world military organization will be far more deadly than the acts of terrorism which have provoked it. The Hamas arsenal is made up of short range rockets albeit with lethal consequences when targets are hit. The Israeli arsenal is a complex mix of highly effective and brutally destructive state of the art guided munitions capable of being deployed from land, sea and air platforms. 




While the info-graphic below draws conclusions from the death toll attributed to each sides arsenal in 2012 the fact is that the provocative acts, whether based on genuine grievances or not, have produced a far deadlier effect for the civilians of Gaza – a sacrifice that Hamas appears to be willing to let their fellow countrymen absorb. 


(VIDEO) Israeli Moderate Ari Shavit Speaks of Extreme Consequences: Ari Shavit, senior correspondent for Ha’aretz, says serious and potentially apocalyptic escalation between Israel and Hamas may be imminent and blames “extreme Jewish nationalists” who have been acting in a “very violent way for a long time” for forcing “moderates” on both sides into an unwanted escalation. More from CNN at http://www.cnn.com/


(VIDEO) The Iron Dome: The Iron Dome is Israel’s anti-missile defence system that, it is claimed, has had a nearly 90 per cent success rate in intercepting potentially deadly rockets from Gaza. The Iron Dome was designed and built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in 2011. It’s aim is to intercept potentially deadly rockets aimed at the Israeli territories. There are seven missile batteries placed around Israel firing 10ft long projectiles to intercept rockets fired on Israeli territories. The missiles have a range of between 2.5 and 43 miles. Each missile fired costs $50,000. Israel has invested in excess of $1 billion into the Iron Dome. The US has also pumped $235 million towards the project this year alone.



(VIDEO) Reuters report on Operation Protective Edge: Israel says it won’t tolerate rocket fire on its cities as it intensifies aerial offensive against Hamas in Gaza, bombing 50 sites, including homes. 



The consequences for the civilians of Israel – Static Images from the last 72 Hours


The consequences for the civilians of the Gaza Strip – Static Images from the last 72 Hours 


(PHOTOS) July 2014 Alleged Demolition of Shrines & Mosques by IS (ISIS)

This series of images allegedly shows IS (ISIS) jihadists demolish mosques, shrines in northern Iraq. Photographs from the area posted online under the banner: “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh” depicted mosques being turned into piles of rubble – explosives deployed against Shiite buildings – and bulldozers flattening the shrines. 

According to sources who spoke to RT: (http://rt.com/news/170652-jihadists-destroy-mosques-iraq/)
EXCERPT BEGINS:
Islamic militant sect, ISIS, which has been rampaging across the north and west of Iraq since last month, has been demolishing sacred sites such as shrines and mosques around the historic northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province.

At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed by the bulldozers, according to AFP. The structures had been built around graves of Muslim saints. Six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed using explosives.

“We feel very sad for the demolition of these shrines, which we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers,” 51-year-old Mosul resident Ahmed told AFP. 

“They are landmarks in the city,” he said.

Local residents verified that buildings had been destroyed and two cathedrals occupied to the agency. Crosses at the front of Mosul’s Chaldean cathedral and Syrian Orthodox cathedral were removed and replaced with the black flag of the Islamic State.

The city of Tal Afar, approximately 70km west of Mosul, was also targeted, with a Shiite Huseiniya temple being blown up. 

One of the shrines destroyed had survived a prior targeting by the group on June 24.

“Dozens of men, women and children formed a human wall and surrounded the sacred shrine of Sheikh Fathi in al-Mushahada neighbourhood of western Mosul and prevented the terrorists from storming it,”Ninawa tribal council deputy head Ibrahim al-Hassan told Al-Shorfa shortly after the incident.

Sheikh Fathi’s shrine – one of Mosul’s most important, dating back to 1760, was among those destroyed.

Mosul was captured on June 10 when Sunni militants drove Iraq’s army out of the city. Thousands of civilians fled as jihadists took control of the city against the Shi’ite majority Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki has sworn to defeat the jihadists; on Friday he stated publicly that: “Pulling out of the battlefield while facing terrorist organizations that are against Islam and humanity would show weakness instead of carrying out my legitimate, national and moral responsibility.” 

“I have vowed to God that I will continue to fight by the side of our armed forces and volunteers until we defeat the enemies of Iraq and its people,” he said.
EXCERPT ENDS:

The places you’re most likely to get kidnapped



The places you’re most likely to get kidnapped.
Author: Gordon Bottomley 
http://www.vocativ.com, Jan 07, 2014 07:57 EST
Additional reporting by Jan-Albert Hootsen in Mexico City and Jeff Neumann in Beirut.

What’s my motivation?

An overwhelming majority of kidnappings today are motivated by aims that are chiefly financial in nature. Although kidnappers’ motivations can (and do) range from ideological to the more amorous and/or custodial (think Helen of Troy), kidnapping has emerged as a lucrative, reliable stream of income for organizations and individuals (consider the fact that ransom payments in 2012 topped $500 million).

How we know

First, we began by collecting data on global kidnappings incidents by country using a variety of sources, including government and inter-governmental agency data, local, regional and national press and media reports, global incident databases and forums, input from relevant subject matter experts, and (yes) industry-specific reports published by risk advisory firms, tourism groups and insurance companies. 

Next, we filtered the unstructured data using unique keyword strings to sort incidents into buckets based on specific parameters, such as motivation, type and location. This enabled us eventually to focus on the most relevant incidents for international travelers—that is, kidnappings that are motivated solely by financial gain.

Finally, we combined incident information for each country with relevant tourism and travel data, to find the intersection of popular travel destinations that have relatively high kidnap rates.
It’s a growth industry

Kidnapping is booming. To help you to stay safe when you travel, we’ve mapped out the places where you face the greatest risk of getting scooped up by rebels, terrorists or “mainstream” criminals.

There are lots of reasons people avoid high-profile travel destinations—the flights are too long, the hotels are overpriced, the beaches are overrun with German men in skimpy swimwear. But there’s another, sometimes overlooked criteria that you probably won’t find in your copy of Frommer’s or the Rough Guide: The likelihood of getting kidnapped at gunpoint.

Unless you’re the kind of person who heads to the swamps of Nigeria for a little R&R, it’s unlikely you’ve given much thought to the threat of kidnapping when planning your trips. But kidnapping has boomed over the past decade, thanks to the growing socioeconomic divide around the globe and the spread of radical groups. While kidnappers used to target rich locals, and the abductions were largely confined to a handful of countries, these days foreign business executives and tourists are now just as likely to be the victims, and the abductions can happen virtually anywhere. Public policy groups estimate there were more than 100,000 kidnappings around the world last year, including locals and foreigners.

Kidnapping hotspots

To make sense of today’s kidnapping risk overseas, we’ve mapped out the places where you face the greatest danger. This isn’t simply a list of places with the highest kidnapping rates, That directory would include no-brainers like Syria (which has been fighting a bloody civil war for the last three years) and Afghanistan (which has become a haven for Jihadists). We’re assuming you don’t need someone to tell you that those places are somewhat perilous for travelers.
Our list focuses, instead, on countries that are first and foremost popular travel destinations—and that also happen to have a high rate of abductions. There are some surprises on the list: India, for example, might seem out of place among the world’s kidnapping capitals, but the numbers don’t lie.



The official data is skewed

It’s not easy to wrangle data on kidnappings. For one, both governments and kidnapping victims are known to underreport abductions. Also, there are a number of different varieties of kidnapping, and not all countries classify each and every kind as a “kidnapping.” For example, in parts of Asia and Latin America, so-called virtual kidnappings are common—that’s where the bad guys claim falsely that they have abducted someone and demand a ransom. In some countries, these go in the books as “fraud” not “kidnapping.” Another example: “Express kidnappings” where hostages are taken for a day or two at most, just long enough to deplete their bank accounts or max out their credit cards, are sometimes logged as “robberies.”

In pulling together this list, we’ve adjusted for these various quirks and discrepancies to focus on the types of abductions that most often affect tourists and travelers. The countries below are ordered from most kidnapping incidents to least.

Safe travels.

MEXICO


A group of people kidnapped by alleged drug traffickers sit on the 
floor after being rescued by the Mexican Army. (Dario Leon/AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping isn’t a new threat in Mexico, but it is now endemic. In the last decade, kidnappings have grown 245 percent (and that’s just reported incidents). Last year, almost 1,583 kidnapping cases were reported to Mexican authorities—the highest number since Mexico began tracking kidnapping stats in 1997.

How the kidnaps typically play out: ”Express” and “virtual” varieties that target both locals and foreigners. Last year’s virtual kidnaps included a Spanish indie rock band visiting Mexico City to perform in a music festival and a U.S. citizen participating in an Ironman competition in Cozumel. The kidnappers demanded $380,000 for the band. Both of these incidents were relatively mild. The country’s kidnappers have a reputation for being particularly violent: 935 victims were killed between 1994 and 2008.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: The government clampdown on Mexico’s drug trade has played a role, heightening competition among traffickers and, in some cases, forcing the traffickers to look for other sources of revenue.

The bottom line: The droves of spring-breakers and tequila-drinkers that descend on the country each year are safest holed up in their private resorts, as Mexico has the highest number of kidnappings in the world.

INDIA


A Maoist guards Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo and 
tour operator Paolo Bosusco, both of whom were kidnapped, 
in Orissa state, India. (AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping and abduction rates have grown faster than any other crime over the past 60 years in India.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Several highly publicized abductions and rape incidents involving tourists last year made headlines. One involved a 30-year-old American tourist who was offered a ride back to her hotel by three men. Instead, the men took her to a secluded spot and raped her.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Poverty appears to be the single biggest driver. The country’s poorer states, like Bihar, regularly account for a large share of kidnaps. Several larger criminal organizations and rebel groups also use abductions to augment their revenue streams.

The bottom line: While visitors to India’s postcard-worthy wonders like the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri can be reasonably confident of their safety, both of these UNESCO heritage sites are in Uttar Pradesh, one of the Indian states with the highest number of abductions.

VENEZUELA


Angel Falls at Canaima National Park (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

Kidnap rate: There were more than 1,000 kidnap-for-ransom incidents last year.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Caracas, the capital, has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. One of the more recent and harrowing kidnapping incidents took place in July 2012. A Portuguese man was taken from a highway service station and held captive in an underground bunker beneath a rural residence in Carabobo state for nearly a year. He was rescued in June 2013 (the perpetrators did not receive the $6.5 million ransom they had demanded).

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lack of economic opportunities, especially in Caracas, create an environment conducive to kidnappings. In some of the city’s poorest areas, police are unable to maintain order, and criminals have license to do as they please.

The bottom line: Caracas is the country’s hotbed of kidnapping activity, and there are fewer risks for foreigners traveling outside the capital. But the key takeaway is this: Travel to Venezuela is not for the risk-averse, as it remains one of the most kidnapping-prone places in the world.

LEBANON


Lebanese gunmen from the al-Muqdad, a large Lebanese Shiite Muslim clan, 
say they have kidnapped at least 20 Syrians to try to secure the release of a family member. (AFP/Getty Images)

Kidnap rate: Some estimates suggest kidnapping rates rose as much as 94 percent in 2013. Our analysis showed at least 39 kidnappings last year, though given the current porous, shifting nature of the Syrian border, that number is almost certainly much higher.

How the kidnaps typically play out: While the majority of abductees seem to be locals, aid workers, journalists and foreign tourists have been hit, too. Seven Estonian cyclists were abducted in March 2011 in an attack that Lebanese officials described as planned and coordinated. The cyclists were freed four months later. The Estonians later described their abductors as eight Islamic extremists armed with Kalashnikovs who had pressured them to convert to Islam.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lebanon spent much of the ’70s and ’80s beset by a brutal civil war, and tit-for-tat kidnappings were a near-daily occurrence. The end of hostilities in the ’90s ushered in a period of relative stability, and tourism flourished. But the civil war in neighboring Syria has plunged Lebanon back into chaos.

The bottom line: As long as Syria remains mired in conflict, kidnappings in Lebanon are unlikely to subside. For the moment, Westerners have remained largely outside the crosshairs of kidnappers. But, as one journalist warned back in September, Americans and Europeans could easily become the next victims, especially if local groups take issue with their countries’ foreign policies.

THE PHILIPPINES


El Nido is bordered by the Linapacan Strait in the north, the Sulu Sea in 
the east, and the South China Sea in the west. (Getty Images/Jonas Gratzer)

Kidnap rate: Kidnappings in the Philippines nearly doubled in 2013—and there were more than 20 kidnap-for-ransom cases alone, based on media reports and government figures.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Pirates trolling the Sulu Sea, which separates the Philippines islands from Malaysia’s Sabah region, have been the scene of numerous abductions over the last decade. Just last November, armed gunman took a Taiwanese tourist from an island just off Sabah after killing her husband. The tourist was rescued a month later. Officials have not said if a ransom was paid.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Criminals and separatist groups that operate in the region treat foreigners, particularly wealthy visitors from China, as human ATMs. Abu Sayyaf, a prominent militant Islamist group with links to Al Qaeda, has been responsible for numerous tourist abductions over the past few years. Some figures suggest the group has collected over $35 million in ransom fees.

The bottom line: Unfortunately, the coastal and island resorts in the southern Philippines that are particularly popular among vacationers are also frequented by kidnappers and pirates. The good news? The vast majority of abductees have been released unharmed. (Of course, that’s assuming you can foot the bill.)

COLOMBIA


Leticia in Colombia, a gateway town to the Amazon River (Wikipedia/Pedro Szekely)

Kidnap rate: The kidnap threat in Colombia has improved significantly in the last 10 years, thanks to peace talks between the government and the rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), with just 219 incidents reported last year, according to Colombia’s Defense Ministry.

How the kidnaps typically play out: A majority of the kidnappings in tourist areas are “express,” usually lasting less than 48 hours. During these “quicknappings,” armed gangs force their victims to withdraw funds from one or more ATMs, sometimes using other proxies, such as cab drivers, to facilitate the kidnap.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Economics. FARC, which has a history of kidnappings to raise money, last year called a stop to that practice as part of the peace process. It’s not uncommon for criminals to claim kidnappings or other actions in the FARC’s name.

The bottom line: While Colombia is no longer teeming with criminal gangs and narco-traffickers the way it was five years ago, it is still a volatile place. Risks remain for foreigners, more so for employees of international oil and mining companies than sightseers and vacation travelers.

BRAZIL


The statue of “Christ the Redeemer” atop Corcovado mountain in Rio. (Reuters/Bruno Domingos)

Kidnap rate: Brazil officially recorded 319 kidnapping cases in 2011. But because express kidnaps—the most common type of extortion scheme in Brazil—are not included in official kidnapping stats, our analysis suggests that well over 6,000 kidnappings take place each year.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Last year, an American tourist was kidnapped, raped and robbed after the minibus she was traveling on was hijacked by three men outside of Rio. The woman was traveling with her French boyfriend, who was also abducted, beaten and bound, and forced to watch the ordeal. The three men left with the passengers’ credit cards, which were reportedly used in multiple locations over the next few hours.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Kidnappings in Brazil are fueled partly by organized crime, though many of the gangs are largely made up of untrained thugs looking for a quick financial gain. As a result, victims are often selected from Brazil’s lower classes because they can be targeted with little preparation.

The bottom line: Improvements in security in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and Summer Olympics in 2016 should slow abduction rates in Brazil, which is far safer than most of its neighbors when it comes to kidnapping risk.

KENYA


People taking cover behind a bar inside a shopping mall following an 
attack by masked gunmen in Nairobi in September that killed at least 67 people. 
(AFP/Getty Images/Nichole Sobecki)

Kidnap rate: In 2013, there were about 74 kidnapping-for-ransom incidents in Kenya.

How the kidnaps typically play out: A British woman was kidnapped and her husband murdered in 2011 at a coastal resort near the Kenya-Somali border. Six months later, a French national was snatched from a private home in another heavily trafficked tourist hotspot nearby. She died in captivity in Somalia.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Drastic socio-economic conditions and general lawlessness in Somalia are boosting kidnappings in Kenya, predominately along their shared border. These conditions serve as a breeding ground for extremists, like Al Shabaab, as well as run-of-the-mill criminals.

The bottom line: While Kenya’s wildlife safaris are a powerful draw for travelers, the beaches and resorts on the country’s north coast play an increasingly vital role in attracting tourists, but that’s also where the kidnapping risk is greatest. Travelers to other parts of Kenya should take precautions, too, given the recent growth of certain terrorist groups in the region. In September, Al Shabaab stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi. Though unconfirmed, Al Shabaab is thought to be behind some of the more recent kidnappings, too.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Author: Gordon Bottomley; Contact: gbottomley@vocativ.com / @gfbiv. Reproduced by TMG CORPORATE SERVICES / THE MEDIATOR GROUP with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permissionOriginal article can be found at: http://www.vocativ.com/01-2014/places-youre-likely-get-kidnapped-vacation/ 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________