The Middle East Channel

Israel Intensifies Gaza Offensive Amid Rocket Fire

Israel has launched an offensive on the Gaza Strip, "Operation Protective Edge," as rocket fire continues from Gaza. On Tuesday, Israel struck over 50 targets killing an estimated five people after an estimated 80 rockets were launched into southern Israel. The Israeli military said it was preparing for a long battle against Hamas in the Gaza. The operation has begun with an aerial campaign and naval assaults, however officials have said a ground invasion would be possible, and the army has deployed troops to the border and called up 1,500 reservists. The escalation has come amid three weeks of increasing tensions from an exchange of fire and the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian teen.

Syria

The United Nations has released a report highlighting the hardships facing Syria's female refugees. According to the United Nations, four-fifths of the estimated 2.8 million people who have fled Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011 are women and children. Additionally, women are the sole providers for about a quarter of refugee families, about 145,000 families. Meanwhile, the U.S. ship Cape Ray, in the Mediterranean Sea, has begun the 60-day process to neutralize Syria's chemical weapons materials. However, the joint United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission is looking into possible discrepancies in the Syrian government's initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Headlines

  • Bahrain ordered Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights, to leave the country for interfering with internal affairs after meeting with the main opposition group, al-Wefaq.
  • Facing criticism for delaying the next meeting of parliament for five weeks, Iraqi lawmakers scheduled the next session for June 13 as they struggle to form a government.
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran needs greater uranium enrichment capacity as talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program make little progress.

Arguments and Analysis

'The logic of violence in the Islamic State's war' (Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Washington Post)

"if the Islamic State ought to be characterized, it would be as a revolutionary (or radical) insurgent actor. These groups project a goal of radical political and social change; they are composed of a highly motivated core, recruit using ideological messages (although not all their recruits or collaborators are ideologically motivated - far from it) and tend to invest heavily in the indoctrination of their followers. They tend to prevail over their less effectively organized insurgent rivals (see the examples of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front or the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka), but their Achilles heel lies in their radical proclivities which often turn local populations against them if the opportunity arises, as happened in Iraq with al-Qaeda in Iraq. Revolutionary groups can appropriate a variety of other causes (nationalism, ethnic or sectarian identities), but their revolutionary identity is central and helps make sense of much of their activity. In that respect, we have much to learn from revisiting the action and strategy of the last generation of insurgent revolutionary actors, those of the Cold War."

'New President, Old Pattern of Sexual Violence, in Egypt' (Vickie Langohr, MERIP)

"Recent experience, however, provides many reasons for skepticism. Under four previous governments -- those of Mubarak, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mursi, and the nominally civilian rule of Mansour -- court cases brought by survivors of mass assault have been prosecuted only when the government could achieve some political gain, usually when government adversaries could plausibly be blamed for the assaults. In addition, state security tactics to quash protest since Mursi's overthrow have likely worsened harassment and may have decreased the chances of rescuing survivors from assault. Since August 2013, the Tahrir metro stop -- the city's busiest -- has been closed in order to prevent protesters from emerging directly into Tahrir. This closure has led to unprecedented crowding in other stations, facilitating the kind of sexual harassment which was already endemic on public transit. Crackdowns on most forms of street-level organizing led some of the activists who coordinate teams to rescue women from assault during Tahrir gatherings to suspend their work. The government will need to do much more than make small revisions to the criminal code and create new task forces to effectively combat public sexual violence."

'The Likud-Beytenu divorce has nothing to do with Gaza' (Raphael Ahren, The Times of Israel)

"On January 22, 2013, Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu party ran on a joint list with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud. On Monday, Liberman dismantled that alliance, citing differences in opinion between him and Netanyahu over Israel's response to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.

But in divorcing Likud, Liberman likely had his eyes on political machinations rather than military ones. By calling for a harsher response on Gaza, the foreign minister was able to score points with right-wing voters while also finding a convenient exit strategy from a partnership that had outlived its usefulness."

-- Mary Casey

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Israel Carries Out Airstrikes After Rockets Launched From Gaza

Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Monday have killed nine Hamas militants. The Israeli military reported the strikes targeted "terror sites and concealed rocket launchers" across Gaza after about 25 rockets were fired into Israel on Sunday. According to the Israeli military, rockets launched from Gaza injured an Israeli soldier on Monday. The increase in attacks has come amid rising tensions over the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian teen. On Sunday, Israeli authorities arrested six Israelis over the suspected revenge killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who is believed to have been burned to death after he was kidnapped. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Palestinian teenager's father Monday expressing outrage over the "reprehensible" murder, vowing to deal with the suspects "to the fullest extent of the law."

Syria

The Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition is holding a meeting over three days in Istanbul to elect a new president to replace Ahmad al-Jarba. On Monday, Syrian troops advanced in and around Aleppo in an apparent attempt to regain territory held by opposition fighters since an offensive in the northern city in 2012. Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have expelled more than 30,000 residents from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shuheil and 30,000 others from two towns in the eastern Deir al-Zour province, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Saturday, ISIL released a video of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the so-called "Islamic state" stretching across eastern Syria and much of northern and western Iraq. 

Headlines

  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he wished that three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists, convicted for "aiding a terrorist group," were deported and not put on trial.
  • Clashes that began Friday between Houthi rebels and fighters from the government-allied Hashid tribal confederation have killed at least 35 people in and around the Yemeni city of Amran.
  • Kuwaiti police fired tear gas at a historic market to disperse over 2,000 protesters who were calling for the purge of corrupt judges and the release of opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak.
  • Egypt announced an increase in sales tax on cigarettes and alcohol a day after a cut in fuel subsidies sparked protests.

Arguments and Analysis

'It's in our hands to put an end to bloodshed' (Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin, Ynet)

"We are allowed to argue. We even have to argue. We, all of us, have all the ways to express our pain, our opinion and our world view. But incitement is not the way. Collective accusation is not a solution.

It is our duty to stop the journey of incitement. We must understand that we have no other way but to live together. The bloodshed will only stop when we all realize that we have not been sentenced to live together, but destined to live together. Any hesitation or compromise on this issue will lead to deterioration which could be disastrous not just to our life together, but to our actual life."

'Egypt's Government by Baltaga' (Andrea Teti, MERIP)

"Most reactions to the farcical convictions of Australian journalist Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamad Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamad express shock and outrage at everything from the ridiculous evidence presented to the sentences that would have made Draco himself blush. The strongest reactions came from the British and US governments, with Foreign Minister William Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron saying they were 'appalled,' and Secretary of State John Kerry calling the verdict 'chilling' and 'deeply disturbing.' Amnesty International Director Steve Crawshaw called the sentence 'outrageous' and an 'absolute affront to justice.'

This outrage is entirely justified, but entirely misses the point. The arrest, trial and often torture of journalists, activists and students from across the political spectrum has nothing to do with the pursuit of justice or security. Even comedians are harassed. These actions are best understood as a mafia-style warning, the content of which is fairly obvious: For anyone opposing the regime installed since the 2013 army coup, there is no safety in the law, nor in Western governments, nor in the international media. The use of violence to repress or stir up conflict useful to the regime is nothing new."

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images