U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding talks in Egypt and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is traveling to Israel and the West Bank to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials in efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip. However, Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livini said, "There is no real option for a ceasefire now." The Israeli military said it has hit over 187 targets since Tuesday morning, including at least 100 in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. Al Jazeera reported gunshots fired at its Gaza bureau, however a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said there was no direct attack on the offices of Al Jazeera or other press in Gaza, however there could have been indirect damage. In 15 days of fighting, over 600 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza's health ministry. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza said nearly 102,000 people have taken shelter in 69 of its schools, and Kerry has pledged $47 million from the United States in humanitarian aid. Additionally, 27 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza, according to the IDF. The Israeli military has named one missing soldier, Sergeant Oren Shaul, whom Hamas claimed to have taken captive on Sunday after an attack on an armored vehicle killed six Israeli soldiers. Shaul had been presumed dead.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said Syrian rebels, including al-Nusra Front fighters, have expelled Islamic State militants from four areas in the Damascus suburbs. Additionally, the Observatory reported the Islamic State has begun selling oil, from fields under its control in Syria, to Iraqi businessman. Meanwhile, two Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed after clashes with suspected smugglers broke out on the border with Syria, near the town of Ceylanpinar.
- Islamic State militants have reportedly seized the ancient Christian Mar Behnam monastery in Mosul as they continue to crush resistance in northern Iraq.
- Turkey has detained dozens of police officers, most of whom were in prominent positions during a December 2013 graft investigation, on accusations of spying and illegal wire-tapping.
- Saudi Arabia announced it will open its $530 billion stock market to foreign investors, though it has not released a timeline.
Arguments and Analysis
'Europe must give Syrian refugees a home' (António Guterres, The Guardian)
"While the world's eyes are now firmly fixed on Gaza, the Syrian maelstrom of death, destruction and displacement rages on, and shows no signs of abating.
When histories are written about the humanitarian cost of Syria's civil war, Europe's response to the crisis of a generation might be summed up in a single phrase: never was so little done by so many for so few."
'Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War' (F. Gregory Gause, III, The Brookings Institution)
"The current confrontation has an important sectarian element, but it cannot be accurately understood simply as a ‘Sunni versus Shia' fight. Applying such a framework can distort analytical focus, oversimplify regional dynamics, and cause Iran and Saudi Arabia's motives to be misunderstood. Riyadh and Tehran are playing a balance of power game. They are using sectarianism in that game, but both have crossed the sectarian fault line in seeking regional allies. The regional cold war can only be understood by appreciating the links between domestic conflicts, transnational affinities, and regional state ambitions. It is the weakening of Arab states, more than sectarianism or the rise of Islamist ideologies, that has created the battlefields of the new Middle East cold war. Indeed, it is the arc of state weakness and state failure running from Lebanon through Syria to Iraq that explains the current salience of sectarianism. Given how difficult it will be to reconstruct stable political orders in these and other weak states, the likelihood is that the new cold war will be as protracted as the Arab cold war was."
'Meanwhile, in Hebron' (Yassmine Saleh, MERIP)
"The Israeli campaign in the Hebron area did not halt after the missing settlers were found dead. Instead, the Israelis behaved as they did before the advent of the PA and its control of Area A, with systematic incursions. No home, no sort of building, was safe. Many employees of the PA civil service and security forces reside in the village of Tafouh. Their homes were violated and the inhabitants subjected to full-body inspections.
Israeli occupation forces were acting under the watchful and approving eyes of the settlers, who since the missing teens were found dead have been marching daily, taunting Palestinians and demanding full-scale reinvasion of Hebron. Usually, during Ramadan, people go to pray in the Ibrahimi mosque, but the high-strung settler gangs have scared people off, and the mosque is empty."
-- Mary Casey
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