The Middle East Channel

Israel Resumes Gaza Strikes After Collapse of Cease-Fire

Israel has resumed strikes on the Gaza Strip after a cease-fire proposed by Egypt collapsed. Israel said the military struck 39 targets overnight. According to witnesses, the homes of several Hamas leaders were hit, and the headquarters of the interior ministry was destroyed. Additionally, the Israeli military sent out warnings to about 100,000 residents of northern and eastern Gaza to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. Wednesday before planned strikes. According to Gaza's health ministry, 205 Palestinians have been killed and 1,530 wounded in nine days of fighting. The Israeli military reported 150 rockets were fired into Israel on Tuesday and one civilian was killed after being hit by a mortar shell near the Erez border crossing. Additionally, four rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome Wednesday morning.

Iraq

Iraqi parliamentarians have broken a political deadlock to elect a new speaker, in the first step toward forming a new government. Moderate Sunni politician Salim al-Jubouri won 194 out of 272 votes to become speaker, and a Shiite and Kurd have been selected as the two deputy speakers. The parliament had failed in two other sessions to elect a speaker. According to the constitution, the speaker must nominate a president within two weeks, and then the president has four weeks to nominate a prime minister. Meanwhile, Iraqi troops and allied Shiite forces withdrew from Tikrit Tuesday as their offensive to retake the city met heavy resistance from militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  

Headlines  

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been sworn in for a third seven-year term in office after winning re-election in June amid the country's civil war.
  • Iran and six world powers are likely to extend nuclear talks though U.S. Secretary of State Kerry said there are still "very real gaps" insisting Tehran cut its capacity to produce nuclear fuel.
  • Militants from the Libyan town of Zintan are tightening control of Tripoli's airport after two days of fighting with rival militias.
  • Two days of clashes between and Houthi forces and tribesmen, backed by an army unit, in Yemen's northern Jouf province have killed at least 35 fighters.

Arguments and Analysis

'Expendable Egypt' (Benedetta Berti and Zack Gold, Foreign Affairs)

"The similarities between this month's hostilities between Hamas and Israel and those during their last major confrontation, in November 2012, are striking. Hamas and other Palestinian groups fire rockets deep into Israel, and the Iron Dome defense system knocks the projectiles out of the sky. Israel launches aerial strikes on densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip, and militants there shoot rockets back at Israeli civilians. 

Yet one thing has changed: the relationship between Hamas and Egypt. In the fall of 2012, Hamas was able to count on the political support of the Egyptian government of President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. The rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt earlier that year had simultaneously provided Hamas with a new regional ally and redefined relations between the group and Egypt, moving from the mutual deep-seated suspicion and antagonism of the Mubarak years to a relationship built on shared political ideals and respect." 

'New Poll: A Large Majority Of Americans Favor Making A Nuclear Deal With Iran' (Ben Armbruster, ThinkProgress)

"A new poll has found that a majority of Americans favor a final nuclear deal with Iran that provides sanctions relief and a limited civilian nuclear program coupled with a strict verification and monitoring component to assure that Iran does not produce nuclear weapons.

According to the survey - conducted by the Program for Public Consultation and the Center for International & Security Studies at the University of Maryland - 61 percent of respondents favor making the deal, including '62 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.'" 

-- Mary Casey

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Israel Accepts Cease-Fire as Rocket Fire from Gaza Continues

Israel's security cabinet accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning to end eight days of hostilities. The proposal outlined a "de-escalation" of fighting as of 9 a.m. and a cessation of hostilities within 12 hours, which would be followed by meetings between high-level delegations within 48 hours and Israel opening up a border crossing into Gaza. However, Hamas has not agreed to a truce, and Israel reported that since 9 a.m., over 20 rockets had been launched from Gaza. In Cairo, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said the movement was considering the cease-fire, although, the group's armed wing rejected it, saying it wasn't consulted on a truce and that the battle would "increase in ferocity and intensity." Additionally, other Palestinian militant groups said they had not agreed to the Egyptian proposal. Naval and air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed at least 192 people and wounded over 1,100 others since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, and more than 900 rockets and mortars have landed in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if Hamas does not accept the cease-fire, "Israel would have all international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve the required quiet."

Syria

The United Nations Security Council in a unanimous vote Monday passed a resolution that will allow humanitarian aid convoys to deliver assistance to rebel-held areas without the Syrian government's approval. Prior to the resolution, nearly 90 percent of U.N. humanitarian aid in Syria had been delivered to people in government-held regions. The United Nations estimates about half of Syria's population of 10.8 million people is in need of assistance due to the conflict, and about 4.7 million people are in hard-to-reach areas. The Syrian government has demanded all aid be routed through Damascus and has called the move an attack on its sovereignty. The deliveries could begin by the end of the week, and conveys will cross into Syria from Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.

Headlines  

  • Rockets have hit Tripoli's international airport in clashes that have destroyed 90 percent of the planes and, along with fighting in Benghazi, prompted the United Nations to pull its staff from Libya.
  • The Iraqi army has launched an offensive to retake the city of Tikrit from militants meanwhile parliamentarians met for a third session to vote on a new speaker.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif has offered a proposal for a nuclear deal, however a speech by the Supreme Leader could limit the Iranian delegation's ability to make concessions.
  • The United States has agreed to sell Qatar Apache attack helicopters and air defense systems in an $11 billion arms deal.

Arguments and Analysis

'Gaza and Israel: New Obstacles, New Solutions' (International Crisis Group)

"But the reconciliation agreement might also hold the key to squaring the ceasefire circle. Though opposed by Israel, the deal, if implemented, offers the best chance of alleviating Gaza's misery and lessening Hamas's incentives to fight. The Islamist movement long resisted admitting any PA presence, but now that it has renounced governance, a door has been opened, and with it, an opportunity to redesign the peace process and advance the well-being of Gaza's 1.7 million residents. Hamas for the foreseeable future will continue to be the de facto security authority on the ground, even if reconciliation moves forward; indeed, reconciliation will need to be implemented in a manner that does not wholly abandon or alienate the employees hired by Hamas and thereby trigger new civil strife. Continuing Gaza's isolation, however, would do nothing to loosen the movement's control. And should it, it would only be in the direction of jihadis."

'Still Between Iraq and a Hard Place' (Curtis Ryan, MERIP

"The old joke about Jordan's political geography -- that the country sits "between Iraq and a hard place" -- seems morbidly, and not at all amusingly, appropriate once again. Violent conflict is intensifying on three borders: Syria is aflame, in the third year of a horrific civil war; Iraq is racked with renewed internal strife; and now Israel is again bombarding Gaza, with Palestinian civilians suffering the bulk of the casualties and Hamas firing mostly useless rockets in response. Speculation has begun about a third intifada.

In the midst of all this turmoil, reports suggest that the United States is looking to expand its training of, and support for, Syrian rebels -- presumably with the Hashemite Kingdom as its main base. The Jordanian regime is said to be reluctant to highlight its precarious connection to this operation. The regime has previously been linked to rebel factions deemed moderate in Western capitals and has allowed some representatives of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to stay in Jordan, even as the kingdom maintains diplomatic ties with the Asad regime in Damascus. Even the row over Jordan's ouster of the Syrian ambassador did not lead to a formal break."

'Closing Window of Opportunity in Bahrain' (David Weinberg, Real Clear World)

"The continued stalemate in Bahrain is hurting all sides. This dispute has provided Iran with a convenient opportunity for violent interference, and it could threaten America's most important naval base in the Middle East. The regime has had to contend with constant acts of sabotage, such as road blockages, Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices. The Bahraini opposition -- already marginalized politically -- is also suffering, as more radical forces have pushed to outflank it.

Looking forward, there are three central questions that could determine the outcome of this crisis. First, are King Hamad and the royal family prepared to end the regime's oppressive practices for imposing public order? Second, is the opposition prepared to accept an accord that falls short of its full goals? Third, is the Obama administration prepared to apply serious American statecraft in order to facilitate such an accord?"

-- Mary Casey

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images