The Middle East Channel

Israel and Militants in Gaza Agree to Humanitarian Cease-Fire

A temporary humanitarian cease-fire came into effect Thursday between Israel and militants in Gaza after a request from the United Nations for a break in 10 days of fighting. The truce was set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in order to allow residents in Gaza, who have been trapped in their homes for days, to obtain supplies and gain access to medical care. The temporary truce mostly held, however three mortar shells hit Israeli territory. Prior to the suspension of hostilities, the Israeli military reported it foiled an attempted incursion by 13 armed militants to enter Israel through a tunnel from Gaza. According to Gaza health officials, at least 224 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed by Israeli strikes, including four Palestinian boys on Wednesday who were playing on a beach in Gaza City. An Israeli official reported a comprehensive cease-fire has been reached and will take effect Friday at 6 a.m., however Hamas officials have not officially commented on a deal, and Egyptian officials said they were "unaware" of an agreement. 

Syria

Syrian government forces dropped barrel bombs on the central town of Morek Wednesday and overnight into Thursday. The town on the strategic highway linking central and northern Syria has been held for the past four months by mainly Islamist rebel groups. Meanwhile, a Pentagon plan to aid Syrian rebel groups committed by President Barack Obama in May is emerging to be more modest than advocates hoped. Military officials told congressional committees that the $500 million program could be used to train 2,300 fighters, though they said the number was evolving. The United Nations reported Wednesday that it has positioned supplies for the first cross-border aid convoys since a U.N. resolution adopted Saturday.

Headlines

  • Gunmen ambushed army checkpoints in Tunisia's Mount Chaambi region near the Algerian border killing 14 soldiers and wounding 20 others in attacks claimed by al Qaeda linked militants.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama said nuclear talks with Iran "have made real progress in several areas" and indicated he may push for an extension for negotiations past July 20.
  • Air controllers in western Libya have gone on strike to protest the shelling of Tripoli International Airport putting pressure on rival militias to end four days of clashes.
  • An Egyptian court has sentenced seven men to life in prison and two others to 20 years for sexually assaulting women during rallies in June following the election of President Sisi.

Arguments and Analysis

'Two political casualties of Gaza conflict: Netanyahu and Abbas' (Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor)

"The Palestinian death toll has topped 200 and Israel lost its first civilian in the Gaza conflict after Hamas rejected a cease-fire yesterday and Israel responded by stepping up airstrikes.

Two major casualties not included in that tally, however, are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Both leaders face rising political threats, in part due to the restraint they have exercised in recent weeks. Their opponents are arguing for tougher action, stances that are gaining traction on both sides and could further undermine any diplomatic initiatives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even after the skies are quiet again."

'The Violence of Climate Change in Egypt' (Mika Minio-Paluello, Jadaliyya)

"In the midst of the revolutionary battles of recent years, it is easy not to notice that climate change is fundamentally changing the Middle East and North Africa we live in. This gradual transformation, much of it already inevitable, threatens to displace millions, if not tens of millions, and change the region beyond recognition. Business as usual will allow elite classes to profit from the devastation of the majority-but a just future is possible, if we fight for it."

-- Mary Casey

MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

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