The Middle East Channel

U.N. Reports Israeli Shells Hit Gaza School

U.N. officials have reported multiple Israeli shells hit a U.N. school in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, killing at least 15 people Wednesday morning. The Israeli military said, from its initial inquiry, it appeared as if soldiers responded to militant fire "from the vicinity of the [UN] school." Around 3,300 Palestinians had taken refuge in the school, fleeing fighting and Israeli strikes in other areas of the Gaza Strip. UNRWA says more than 200,000 Palestinians have sought shelter in 85 of its schools. On July 24, a strike on a U.N. school, which was also being used as a shelter, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killed 15 Palestinians and injured 200 others. On Tuesday, the United Nations reported it had discovered a cache of rockets at a U.N. school in Gaza, for the third time since recent hostilities began. An estimated 1,250 Palestinians, mostly civilians, as well as 53 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in over three weeks of fighting.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported opposition fighters detonated bombs in tunnels under the northern city of Aleppo killing at least 13 pro-government forces. The bombs were placed in two or three tunnels under historic parts of the city. The coalition of rebel brigades, the Islamic Front, claimed responsibility for the attack, which was not reported in Syrian state media. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a statement saying the Syrian government has continued using barrel bombs against civilians, despite a February U.N. Security Council resolution. The group documented 650 new damage sites that appeared to be hit by barrel bombs since the resolution was passed. The Security Council is scheduled to meet Wednesday for its fifth report on the resolution.


  • Militias have seized a Libyan army special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi that had been held by forces allied with the former general, Khalifa Heftar.
  • A U.S. judge, who had ordered marshals to seize the cargo of a tanker holding $100 million worth of Kurdish oil, said the order could not be enforced because the vessel, at 60 miles offshore of Texas, was outside her jurisdiction.
  • Hundreds of people protested in several Yemeni cities Wednesday after the government raised fuel prices.

Arguments and Analysis

'Did Libya Prove War Hawks Right or Wrong?' (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic)

"I am struck by the willingness of prominent interventionists to have publicly declared their instincts in Libya vindicated when the country's future remained very much in doubt, as if they couldn't conceive of an intervention that would result in more lives lost than the alternative even as the possibility of that outcome was extremely plausible. As in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Washington, D.C. foreign-policy establishment seemed to perform no better at foreseeing how events would unfold than non-expert commentators who simply applied Murphy's Law. At the very most charitable, the common interventionist claim that Libya vindicated them in their dispute with non-interventionists was wildly premature. Perhaps the lesson to take from the NATO campaign is that even the most thoughtful interventionists have no idea how geopolitical events will unfold."

'The regime's new clothes' (Ursula Lindsey, Mada Masr)

"The new regime has its accomplices and plenty of supporters, relieved to see the state reassert its authority, and 'the people' back to a state of appropriate passivity and silence. But the authorities' hypersensitivity to dissent reveals a deep unease. Otherwise, how to explain the need to criminalize hand gestures, hunt down flyers, investigate telephone ads, and treat comedy shows as threats to national security?

The government is rightly paranoid, because it is a regime, like the Emperor of Hans Christian Anderson's tale, with no clothes. A castle of cards built on fake confessions, fake miracle cures, fake trials, fake crack-downs and clean-ups."

'Rouhani Goes to College' (Reza H. Akbari, The Majalla)

"Rouhani continues to promise more academic freedom in Iran, but the opposition to his plans has been strong. The ultimate acceptance or rejection of the Science Minister's proposed changes by the SCRC will certainly be an indicator of the fate of attempts to grant more independence to the country's universities in the future.

Thus far, the administration's opponents are doing what they can to hinder the reform process by delaying the nomination of candidates, threatening to impeach the Science Minister, and accusing the administration of breaking laws. The outcome of the conflict is not certain, but a rejection of the Science Minister's proposed changes would decrease any hope for short-term improvements in academic freedom in Iran."

-- Mary Casey


The Middle East Channel

Israel Bombards Gaza Knocking Out Sole Power Plant

Israel has intensified strikes on the Gaza Strip after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis there would be a long conflict ahead. In a televised address Monday, Netanyahu said "We will not complete the operation without neutralizing the tunnels." Ten Israeli soldiers were killed Monday, including up to five who died in clashes with militants who emerged from a tunnel running from Gaza into Israeli territory. The Israeli military said it hit 70 targets in one of the heaviest nights of bombardment Gaza has seen in three weeks of conflict. One of the strikes destroyed the unoccupied house of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniya. Additionally, Israeli shelling knocked out Gaza's only power plant, which supplies up to two-thirds of the area's energy needs. According to Gaza health officials, 1,156 Palestinians have been killed since July 8, mostly civilians, while 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed as well as three civilians.


Australian police have issued arrest warrants for two citizens believed to be fighting with the Islamic State in Syria after photos allegedly of them holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers were posted on Twitter. An estimated 150 Australian citizens and residents are believed to have joined militant Islamist groups, and the country is reportedly the largest per capita source of foreign fighters for the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Syrian government barrel bombings overnight killed at least 15 civilians, including six children, in the northern city of Aleppo, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Six additional civilians were killed in mortar shelling by rebel forces.


  • Italy has offered to help Libya contain a massive fire at a fuel depot near Tripoli as clashes continue between rival militias over control of the capital's international airport.
  • A U.S. court has ordered the seizure of a cargo of Kurdish oil worth $100 million, claimed by the Iraqi government, aboard a tanker off the coast of Texas.
  • FIFA's vice president has ordered the payment of migrant laborers who worked on offices in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup who reportedly are owed 13 months' wages.

Arguments and Analysis

'Isolating Gaza' (Ilana Feldman, Stanford University Press blog)

"Palestinians living in Gaza's 'open air prison' are not only targeted for attack, but also victimized by enforced immobility. Through years of policies of increasing control, closure, and blockade, Israel has created this vulnerability and is now deploying immobility as a lethal weapon. There is frequent reference in the media to the blockade imposed on Gaza in 2006 after Hamas won parliamentary elections, but the process of isolating Gaza began long before that. Understanding how immobility was imposed and then weaponized requires looking at the history of borders, movements, and constraints on motion that have defined this place since 1948."

'What's behind Libya's spiraling violence?' (Frederic Wehrey, The Washington Post)

"One of Libya's conundrums is that nearly all the militias claim legitimacy from their affiliation with competing organs of the weak and fractured government. Government subsidization of militia power arose from the enfeebled state of the formal army and police, which Moammar Gaddafi had marginalized in favor of elite units commanded by his sons and which had largely evaporated during the revolution. Bereft of a way to project its authority and police the country's periphery and towns, Libya's transitional authorities, the National Transitional Council (NTC), put the militias under its payroll. The chief of staff, minister of defense, minister of interior, and president of the outgoing General National Congress (GNC) have all at one time "registered" or "deputized" militia coalitions. One result of these subsidies has been a mushrooming of militias, well beyond the number that actually fought against Gaddafi."

'A war in search of an objective' (Gregg Carlstrom, Medium)

"The three-week-old Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has killed nearly 1,100 Palestinians and wounded more than 6,500, is a war in search of an objective. Perhaps more accurately: it is an open-ended military campaign yoked to the ever-more-difficult political objective of sustaining an unsustainable status quo."

-- Mary Casey