The Middle East Channel

Renewed Diplomatic Push for Gaza Cease-Fire as Israel Confirms Missing Soldier

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.  

Syria

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.

Headlines

  • 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

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

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