U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Israel in a surprise visit to work to establish a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza militants. Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a one-day visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah. Kerry said some progress was made in talks in Egypt, however he noted, "There is still work to be done." Kerry's trip came a day after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed a ban for at least 24 hours on flights to Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, after a rocket landed about a mile away from the airport. Many other international airlines have also suspended flights into Ben Gurion. Meanwhile, Israel has continued strikes on the Gaza Strip, where nearly 650 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians. Additionally, 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed in fighting, and there have been three civilian casualties in Israel. On Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Israel's military offensive in Gaza saying "There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes." Pillay also condemned Hamas for its "indiscriminate attacks" on Israel.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad overnight that killed 33 people and wounded up to 58 others. The attack hit a police checkpoint at the entrance to the predominantly Shiite district of Kadhimiya, which houses a prominent Shiite shrine. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several other bombings in Baghdad, including a series of explosions on Saturday that killed 27 people. Meanwhile, Iraqi parliamentarians postponed a vote Wednesday to elect a new president by a day, reportedly after the Kurds requested a delay so they could agree on a candidate. At least 95 candidates are in the running for the office.
- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce clashes between Syrian fighters and pro-government forces in eastern Damascus meanwhile regime airstrikes killed six children from one family in Aleppo province.
- According to Iranian state television, nuclear talks between Tehran and six world powers would resume in early September.
- A missile hit a fuel tanker close to Libya's international airport in Tripoli as heavy fighting, which has killed at least 47 people, has continued between rival militias.
Arguments and Analysis
'The war in Gaza threatens Egypt too' (Shibley Telhami, Reuters)
"Indeed, the fighting provides an opening for Sisi's opponents. At a minimum, it creates a distraction the Egyptian president does not need now - he has said his priorities are the economy and internal security. So Sisi has a strong interest in ending the war, particularly since Hamas and its allies are exhibiting far more military muscle than anyone expected.
But Sisi is facing a number of major complications triggered by the war.
First, though many Egyptians view Hamas as an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, most sympathize with the Palestinians and are angry at Israel. When they see the scale of casualties - for example, the death and destruction in the Shuja'iah neighborhood in Gaza - they overwhelmingly blame Israel. This is true even as their leaders express anger over Hamas' refusal to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal."
'Which Way Now For US Policy Toward Syria?' (Frederic C. Hof, Atlantic Council)
"If working with Assad is inadmissible, so is a policy rich in rhetoric and empty gestures. On July 16, The Wall Street Journal reported-in connection with the administration's $500 million request to Congress to train and equip Syrian rebels-that the Pentagon would train and equip 2,300 men over an eighteen-month period starting in 2015. If the US objective is to help the Syrian opposition fight ISIS and resist the regime, while at the same time changing the regime's calculation about serious political transition negotiations, then the Journal's report simply cannot and must not reflect the totality of the administration's plans. Two-thousand-three hundred men by 2016 would be someone's idea of a very bad joke, given the stakes. One hopes that such pitifully small numbers represent neither the projected output of planners nor the result of "vetting" concerns driven by a fear that weapons might end up in the hands of terrorists already armed to the teeth and flush with money.
If the administration's objective is ultimately to see Syria free of the Assad regime and ISIS and replaced by a national government reflecting pluralism, citizenship, and rule of law, then it must move with dispatch now on two military-related fronts."
'Foreign Fighters' for Israel (David Malet, The Washington Post)
"A better comparison is not today's 'Lone Soldiers' but the recruitment drive launched in 1945 by David Ben Gurion, later Israel's first prime minister, to obtain the assistance of diaspora Jews to rapidly build a regular military. Anticipating an invasion by the armies of Arab states in response to a declaration of statehood, Ben Gurion turned to North American donors to equip and field experienced World War II combat veterans in a movement later known by the Hebrew acronym MACHAL. Their pitch was not the opportunity for a Jewish state, but the inevitable resumption of the Holocaust without one. Over 5,000 volunteers came from over 40 countries and they, particularly the pilots, were subsequently credited by Israeli leaders from Benjamin Netanyahu to Yitzhak Rabin as having played a decisive role in the outcome of the war. The president of the MACHAL veterans told me that, had there been 20,000 of them, ‘there never would have been an East Jerusalem.'"
-- Mary Casey
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