The Middle East Channel

U.N. Calls for Cease-Fire As Violence Escalates Between Israel and militants in Gaza

The United Nations Security Council has called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The Security Council's late night emergency session came Sunday after the deadliest day in Gaza in the nearly two-week conflict. Up to 96 Palestinians were killed Sunday, an estimated 67 of whom were killed in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya, where 13 Israeli soldiers were also killed in clashes with Hamas militants. On Monday, Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinian militants as they entered Israel through tunnels from Gaza. Additionally, an Israeli bomb hit a home in southern Gaza killing 28 members of one family. Nearly 500 Palestinians have been killed since July 8. In comments captured by an open microphone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to be expressing frustration over the number of civilians killed in Israel's offensive in Gaza. Kerry is traveling to Cairo Monday to meet with Egyptian and international officials to push for a cease-fire. 

Iraq

Mortar strikes and a roadside bomb in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Mahmoudiya killed at least 16 people Sunday night. The attacks came after five car bombs exploded in Bagdad killing at least 26 people. Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul Saturday after militants from the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to the community to either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution. Meanwhile, tensions are increasing between Iraq and Jordan after 11 Iraqi Sunni groups met in Amman and issued a statement urging other countries not to side with the Iraqi government in its conflict with Sunni militants.

Headlines

  • The IAEA reported Iran has converted its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium in accordance with an interim nuclear deal after Iran and world powers agreed on an extension to negotiations.
  • Over 700 people were killed in Syria on Thursday and Friday, the highest number of casualties in the span of two days since the beginning of the conflict, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
  • At least 47 people have been killed since fighting resumed between rival militias Sunday at Libya's international airport in Tripoli.
  • An attack on a checkpoint post in Egypt's western desert killed at least 21 soldiers Saturday.

Arguments and Analysis

'Five myths about Hamas' (Nathan J. Brown, The Washington Post)

"Hamas presents itself as the un-Fatah: Rather than grow fat and comfortable in government or become distracted by international diplomacy, it keeps its eye on the prize of the liberation of Palestine.

But the secret it does not want to share is that it has no idea how to get there. The movement is resilient, cagey and, in a perverse way, principled in its dedication to armed resistance. But it has no map, and all its actions to date - targeting civilians, capturing Israeli soldiers, running in elections, passing laws and caring for the sick - have brought Palestinians no closer to any kind of national goal."

'Violent Conflict Ongoing: Humanitarian Crisis Enfolds in Northern Yemen' (Mareike Transfeld, Muftah)

"The Houthi expansion shows that the NDC, which was mandated by the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative as part of the transition period, has failed to achieve its most important goal: to reconcile conflicting groups within Yemeni society. While the Houthis, officially named Ansar Allah, participated in the NDC, they rejected the conference's outcome and continue to be skeptical that the elite will effect real and meaningful political change."

-- Mary Casey

MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

The Middle East Channel

Israel Launches Ground Offensive in Gaza

Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip Thursday night with thousands of troops backed by several tanks and artillery fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military is targeting the Hamas tunnel network and he has ordered the military to prepare to "significantly widen" the ground offensive. According to Gaza's health ministry at least 23 Palestinians have been killed since the ground offensive began. The Israeli military reported "several exchanges of fire" with Hamas, in which 14 militants were killed as well as one Israeli soldier. In all, since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge on July 8, an estimated 251 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and one Israeli civilian was killed in a rocket attack. According to the Israeli military, 20 rockets have been fired into Israel Friday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to end the ground operation saying it would only add to the bloodshed and complicate the situation, meanwhile the United States urged Israel to conduct a "precise operation." The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the developments.

Syria

The Syrian army clashed with fighters from the Islamic State Friday near the government-held Deir al-Zour airport, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Islamic State has made recent gains in Syria, mainly seizing territory from rival rebel groups, forcing fighters out of the city of Deir al-Zour Monday. However, there have been more frequent clashes recently between the group and government forces. On Thursday, Islamic State fighters overtook the Shaera gas field in the central Syrian desert region of Palmyra. The fighters killed up to 90 guards in the attack. The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, said the operation was the Islamic State's "most important so far against the government."

Headlines  

  • The United Nations reported 5,576 civilians have been killed and 11,665 others wounded in violence in Iraq this year and fighting has forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes.
  • Israel has charged an adult and two minors, who have not been publicly named, for the kidnapping and revenge killing of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
  • A spokesman for Zintani fighters who have clashed for five days over control of Libya's airport in Tripoli said the parties had reached a cease-fire, however this has not been confirmed by the Misrata brigades.
  • Iraqi bankers have said that the reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant robbed financial institutions as it seized control of Mosul in June are false. 

Arguments and Analysis

The Humanitarian Situation in Gaza' (Pia Wanek, Middle East Institute)

"Between July 7 and 16, Israel's bombardment of Gaza killed 214 Palestinians (164 of whom were civilians) and injured 1,585 (including 435 children and 282 women). To date, 22,600 people have been displaced and are living in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, because their homes have been destroyed or damaged or their neighborhoods are unsafe. Since the start of the emergency, 79 schools and 23 health care facilities in Gaza have sustained damage, at least 25,000 children are estimated to be in need of specialized psychosocial support, and 900,000 people are currently without water supply.

These daunting numbers, from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), are a snapshot of the effects of the most recent escalation of open conflict. To fully understand the significance of these numbers, one must remember that these losses occur within a protracted humanitarian crisis that has intensified since Israel imposed an illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, there have been three major escalations of hostilities:  in December 2008 to January 2009, in November 2012, and the current (and ongoing) crisis. From a humanitarian perspective, there is no return to 'normal' in Gaza, even when ceasefires hold."

'How Islam mattered in the Arab uprisings' (Michael Hoffman and Amaney Jamal, The Washington Post)

"Some observers have argued that the Arab Spring was a fundamentally secular movement, arising as a rejection of not only the existing regimes, but the religious status quo as well. On the other extreme, some have suggested that the 'Arab Spring' may in fact have been an 'Islamist Spring,' in which individuals sympathetic to political Islam took to the streets in order to call for a greater role for religion in public life. Between these two poles lies a wide variety of accounts of exactly how religious the Arab Spring was. We set out to test competing assessments about the role of religion in Arab protest movements by using data from the Arab Barometer Project collected in Egypt and Tunisia shortly after the fall of their respective regimes. The findings are not what many might have expected. The link between religion and protest behavior is primarily found in personal piety and behavior rather than communal or mosque practice."

'The Syrian Refugees Problem' (Alex Rowell, Sada

"A combination of security, economic, and above all political considerations has the Lebanese government seeking for the first time to limit, and ultimately reduce, its Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian refugee population. Human rights groups have criticized these new restrictions on Syrian refugees, saying the denial of refuge to those in need violates fundamental principles of international law. But Lebanon's political power brokers are fearful of more than just the economic and social burdens of Syrian refugees."

-- Mary Casey

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images