The Middle East Channel

Soldier Captured as Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Collapses

The Israeli military is searching for a soldier who it believes was captured during an attack on forces as they were working to destroy a tunnel from Gaza into Israel. The seizure of the soldier came as a 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed shortly after it began on Friday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the cease-fire in a statement Thursday. It began at 8:00 a.m. local time Friday, and was to be followed by negotiations in Cairo. About 90 minutes after the truce went into effect, Israel shelled eastern Rafah in southern Gaza, killing an estimated 40 people. Spokesman for the Israeli military Lt. Col Peter Lerner said soldiers were trying to destroy a tunnel when several militants emerged from underground in an assault on the Israeli forces, and seemingly dragged an Israeli soldier back into the tunnel. Lerner said, "The cease-fire is over" and continued that the military is conducting ground operations to find the missing soldier, who was identified as Second Lt. Hadar Goldin. Additionally, the United Nations reported two Israeli soldiers were killed during the clashes.


U.S. officials said the Obama administration is working on a new strategy to prosecute Syrian war crimes after the army defector, known as Caesar, who served as a military police photographer, met with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Caesar brought 55,000 photos of bodies of people who had been tortured and starved. He said about 150,000 people remain in Syrian prisons and appealed to the United States to make sure that they get released. While international prosecution has been blocked by Russian, U.S. officials said they would work with their allies to focus on crimes where individual countries have jurisdiction, such as with their own nationals or in cases of dual citizenship.


  • Libyans protested against Islamist militias in Tripoli after Ansar al-Sharia declared Benghazi an "Islamic emirate" meanwhile an explosion Friday nearly destroyed Benghazi's police headquarters.
  • The Kurdistan Regional Government is pushing for the United States to supply weapons and military equipment to help repel advances from the Islamic State, which has overtaken territory in northern Iraq.

Arguments and Analysis

'The Consequences of Dreams' (Hisham Matar, The New Yorker)

"Those who regret the end of Qaddafi's regime ignore how the current chaos is the product of four decades of oppression. 'Wasn't Qaddafi better?' is the wrong question, because it doesn't illuminate the objective reality of post-revolutionary Libya. To understand today's events, one must remember what life was like under Qaddafi. The state was designed around an individual and his family; it resembled more a Mafia than a political structure. And so ending the dictatorship meant ending the state.

Without a fully functioning national army and police force, and other state institutions, building an accountable and democratic government is going to be immensely hard. Contributing to this is the legacy of Qaddafi's oppression of dissent. Modern Libya is sixty-five years old, dating from 1951. For almost two-thirds of that time, it was ruled by one voice. In light of this history, creating a political atmosphere that permits and encourages difference and plurality will be difficult."

'New requirement to register rattles Egyptian NGOs' (H. A. Hellyer, The National)

"The 'war on terror' narrative in Egypt, in place since the removal from office of Mr Morsi a year ago, has seen an emphasis on security measures to the near exclusion of other considerations. With that in mind, human rights organisations have become even more important - but their collective job has become more difficult.

For many years now, NGOs have been subjected to a restrictive legal regime that dates back to the Mubarak era. It remains quite difficult for them to register and undertake the activities that NGOs normally carry out in other countries. For this reason, many NGOs have registered as other types of legal entities, such as research companies or law firms.

They have engaged with the institutions of state for many years - at extremely senior levels - and have not been turned away on the basis that they aren't registered as NGOs. But now, they are essentially being provided with an ultimatum to register in this capacity, which could cripple their ability to function."

-- Mary Casey


The Middle East Channel

Israel Calls Up Reservists as Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels

The Israeli military announced it has called up 16,000 reservists and Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to complete the destruction of Hamas's tunnel network in Gaza. Netanyahu said, "We are determined to continue to complete this mission with or without a cease-fire." The military reported it has uncovered 32 tunnels, and that it would take "a few more days" to destroy that tunnels it has located. Additionally, a U.S. defense official said the United States has allowed Israel access to a weapons stockpile for a resupply of grenades and mortar rounds. In 24-days of fighting, an estimated 1,372 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, as well as 56 Israeli soldiers and three civilians. An Israeli strike on a busy market near Gaza City killed an estimated 17 people on Wednesday. Palestinians believed there was a temporary cease-fire in place, however Israel said that the area was a combat zone. The United Nations has accused Israel of violating international law for shelling a U.N. school on Wednesday that was being used to shelter refugees. U.N. officials said 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the attack. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has also accused Hamas militants of committing war crimes.


Fighting between Islamic State forces and Syrian Kurds in the northern Aleppo province has killed at least 49 people. Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) reportedly seized several Islamic State positions in Ain al-Arab, near the border with Turkey. Meanwhile, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a U.S. citizen who carried out a suicide truck bombing at a restaurant in northern Syria in May, returned to the United States for several months before the attack.


  • Rival Libyan militias fighting near Tripoli have agreed to a temporary truce for firefighters to contain a fuel depot blaze meanwhile at least 75 bodies were found after militias overran a Benghazi army base.
  • Yemen's army broke up protests Wednesday over fuel price increases killing one demonstrator and wounding another.
  • Hezbollah commander Ibrahim al-Haq has been killed during a mission in Iraq, suggesting the group, which is involved in fighting in Syria, is also participating in Iraq's conflict.
  • Turkish expats have begun voting in Turkey's first direct presidential election, in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the frontrunner.

Arguments and Analysis

'Americans still support Israel, but views vary by age and race, poll finds' (Gram Slattery, The Christian Science Monitor)

"How one views Israel in the recent Gaza conflict depends largely on race, age, and political affiliation, the poll indicates. While 40 percent of Americans overall see the Palestinian militant group as the prime instigator of the current violence versus 19 percent who blame the Israelis, this gap is smaller - and even nonexistent - within certain demographic groups.

Consider differences among age groups: Among Americans 65 or older, the fault lies with Hamas, as 53 percent of them blame the militant group for the current violence, while only 15 percent blame Israel. Among Americans ages 18 through 29, however, 29 percent put Israel at fault, versus 18 percent who put the blame on Hamas.

Why are Millennials less supportive of Israeli policy? According to Alec Tyson, a senior researcher at Pew, the answer may have to do with religion, as young people are less likely to be members of denominations that tend to support Israel."

'The Sana'a Illusion' (Farea Al-muslimi, Foreign Affairs)

"Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama suggested that Yemen could be an example for how to bring stability to Iraq. 'You look at a country like Yemen -- a very impoverished country and one that has its own sectarian or ethnic divisions,' he said. 'There, we do have a committed partner in President [Abdu Rabbu Mansour] Hadi and his government.' His comments came as a shock to most Yemenis. The contradiction between their country's political reality and its reputation as an Arab Spring success story has always been glaring, but now it had become absurd.

Just days before Obama spoke, demonstrations -- which were largely ignored by the international media, since few foreign journalists are allowed into country these days -- had broken out in the capital. Angry protesters shut down Sanaa's main streets, burning tires and shouting chants against the transitional government and against Hadi, the man who heads it. Yemenis, it seemed, had simply snapped under the strain of severe fuel shortages, kilometer-long lines at gas stations, and 20-hour electricity blackouts."

'The Man Who Haunts Israel' (Michael Crowley, TIME)

"Today, Khaled Mashaal and Benjamin Netanyahu are again adversaries in an international crisis, as Israel wages war with Hamas in what might be its bloodiest fight yet against the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. In the 58-year-old Palestinian, who is now Hamas's political leader and most visible spokesman, granting interviews to the likes of Charlie Rose and the BBC, Netanyahu faces an enemy who has only grown in stature since their existential encounter. Although he does not rule Hamas by fiat, Mashaal 'is one of the most influential figures in Palestinian politics,' says Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group. Thrall says Mashaal is even a plausible candidate to lead the larger Palestinian national movement once the presidency of moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is 79, has ended."

-- Mary Casey