The Middle East Channel

Israel Bombards Gaza as Rockets Target Central Israel

Israel is continuing to hit the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and naval fire as Hamas rocket fire targets central Israel. The Israeli military said it hit about 160 targets in Gaza overnight, including rocket launchers and Hamas command and control centers. Israeli attacks have killed an estimated 27 Palestinians since Tuesday, including at least 18 civilians. Another 150 people have been wounded. The Israeli military reported 117 rockets hit Israel Tuesday, and rocket fire continued Wednesday morning. Multiple rockets have landed near Jerusalem and the Iron Dome intercepted several over Tel Aviv. One rocket hit near the coastal city of Hadera, over 60 miles north of Gaza. According to the Israeli military, militants in Gaza have dozens of long-range rockets. In preparation for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, the Israeli government has authorized the call-up of up to 40,000 reservists.

Iraq

Iraqi security forces discovered 53 bodies, blindfolded and handcuffed, early Wednesday in the village of Khamissiya, south of Baghdad. The men, whose identity was not clear, had gunshot wounds to the head or chest. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has notified that United Nations that it lost control of a former chemical weapons facility, which was seized by "armed terrorist groups." The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations said the Muthanna site, northwest of Baghdad, was overtaken on June 11. The United States has said there were no intact chemical weapons at the facility, and that it would be hard to use the chemical remnants for military purposes.

Headlines

  • Houthi fighters have seized the northwestern Yemeni city of Amran after fierce clashes forced an estimated 15,000 families to flee the city.
  • Libya's Sharara oil field has resumed production doubling the country's oil flows after protesters ended a four-month strike.
  • At a meeting in Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition elected Hadi al-Bahra, lead negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as president to replace Ahmad al-Jarba.
  • For the fifth day in a row, Kuwaiti security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters, following the release of opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak.

Arguments and Analysis

'Hamas and Israel at the Brink' (Benedetta Berti, Sada)

"Hamas also needs to ensure internal cohesion and prevent intra-organizational feuds, which would have ensued had the group not reacted to the dramatic events following the kidnapping of the Israeli teens. The group has been under deep internal pressure from its armed wing to respond to Israel's campaign against Hamas in the West Bank, such as the recent killing of seven Hamas members and the arrest of the former prisoners who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal.

Hamas seems to be making the assumption that its recent actions and defiance of ultimatums will not lead to another all-out war, banking on Israel's reluctance to orchestrate another full-scale military campaign in Gaza. But the group's strategy-to project strength, which improves its domestic reputation, and keep internal conflict at bay through a short-term escalation-is an extremely risky gambit as pressure mounts in Israel to show 'determination' against Hamas."

'ISIL's Bold Caliphate Roll-Out: Objectives and Risks' (Barak Mendelsohn, War on the Rocks)

"most importantly, the announcement is part of a plan to mobilize the Muslim masses. By announcing a caliphate, ISIL hopes to attract more volunteers, foot soldiers and professionals who are required to meet the demands of continued fighting alongside state building and governance. Indeed, in Baghdadi's Ramadan message, he calls on Muslims around the world to join the Islamic State. This is not a request. Using his title as the 'Emir of the Believers,' Baghdadi declares immigration to the caliphate an individual duty, one that all able Muslims must obey. The roll-out of the caliphate was probably timed to take advantage of the holy month of Ramadan, which infuses ISIL's measures with additional religious symbolism and is expected to enhance its appeal to jihadis and the broader Muslim community."

'Taking Sides in Libya' (Frederic Wehrey, The New York Times)

"But there is a stark danger - for Libyans and their friends abroad - in backing a military strongman whose vague definition of terrorism includes nonviolent Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. General Hifter denies the right of peaceful Islamist groups to shape the future of the post-Qaddafi state, even though they fought in the revolution, too, and played a greater role than he did. Many Libyans draw a distinction between these groups and Ansar al-Sharia. The danger is that by lumping them all in the same basket the general will radicalize the moderates.

Even more worrisome for Libya is the general's claim that he is defending democracy while threatening the country's main elected body with military force. Whether he can be tamed by being ‘brought into the fold' seems unlikely: History is littered with examples of such appeasement of strongmen gone horribly awry."

-- Mary Casey

SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

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