Gaza's health ministry reported 100 Palestinians have been killed and 670 wounded as Israel continues air and naval strikes on the Gaza Strip. On Friday morning, three rockets fired from Gaza targeted central Tel Aviv, though all were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome. About 550 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past four days, possibly landing as far north as Haifa. No deaths have been reported, however eight people have been wounded. Additionally, unknown militants in southern Lebanon fired between two and four rockets into northern Israel Friday and the Israeli military responded with artillery fire. On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offering to facilitate a cease-fire. However, in a televised statement Thursday, Netanyahu said, "So far the battle is progressing as planned, but we can expect further stages in the future." Israel has hinted at a possible ground invasion, and has mobilized 20,000 army reservists. Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence officials reportedly issued gag orders to suppress reporting on investigations into the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian teen.
Kurdish forces have seized oil productions facilities in Bai Hassan and oil fields in Kirkuk amid an intensifying dispute with the Iraqi central government. Additionally, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is Kurdish, said the Kurdish political bloc has "suspended our government business" and will boycott cabinet meetings. However, the Kurds will continue to attend parliament sessions. Recent tensions were sparked when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday accused the Kurds of harboring militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Baathists, and other opponents of the Iraqi government.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers will join Iran nuclear talks in Vienna this weekend, though Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will not attend.
- Bahrain interrogated opposition al-Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman over a meeting with senior U.S. diplomat Tom Malinowski who was ordered to leave the kingdom Monday.
- Hackers temporarily disrupted Tunisia's online voter registration for elections scheduled in October and November.
Arguments and Analysis
'Iraq Illusions' (Jessica T. Mathews, The New York Review of Books)
"The story, which has seemed to be all about religion and military developments, is actually mostly about politics: access to government revenue and services, a say in decision-making, and a modicum of social justice. True, one side is Sunni and the other Shia, but this is not a theological conflict rooted in the seventh century. ISISand its allies have triumphed because the Sunni populations of Mosul and Tikrit and Fallujah have welcomed and supported them-not because of ISIS's disgusting behavior, but in spite of it. The Sunnis in these towns are more afraid of what their government may do to them than of what the Sunni militia might. They have had enough of years of being marginalized while suffering vicious repression, lawlessness, and rampant corruption at the hands of Iraq's Shia-led government."
'Hot Heads' (P.S., The Economist)
"But since late 2013, the Houthis, with the backing of local tribes, have scored successive victories over tribal and Sunni Islamist militias in Amran, which separates the northern Houthi heartland of Sa'dah from the capital Sana'a. The Houthis' critics claim that, backed by Iran, the group is exploiting the security and political vacuum to seize control of north Yemen and reinstate the Shia imamate that ran the country for the better part of a millennium before being unseated in a 1962 revolution.
The Houthis counter that they are helping the tribes in Amran who want to end the dominance of the Hashid, the country's biggest tribal confederation, which is based in Amran, and Islah, Yemen's biggest Sunni Islamist party, which is part of the transitional government. They also claim to be helping to push terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) out of the province."
'Fifteen Years After the 18th of Tir: The Legacy of Student Protests That Shook Iran' (Suzanne Maloney, The Brookings Institution)
"This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of a violent crackdown on student protests at Tehran University. It was an event that shook Iran, rattling the nascent reform movement and reconfirming the utility of repression for the sentinels of the theocratic system. The forces that sparked the upheaval and shaped the regime's response continue to haunt Iran, whose current president - elected only a year ago with the fervent support of students and reformists - is the same man who advocated and helped authorize the violence against their ranks in 1999."
-- Mary Casey
DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images