The Middle East Channel

Israel Announces Seven-Hour Cease-Fire Following Strike on U.N. School

Israel announced a seven-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza following an airstrike near a U.N. school that killed 10 Palestinians and wounded an estimated 35 others. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the United States was "appalled" by the shelling of the school, which was being used as a shelter for around 3,000 displaced persons, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Sunday's strike "a moral outrage and a criminal act." The Israeli military said it was targeting three militants riding past the school on a motorcycle. Following the strike, Israel announced a "temporary humanitarian window" which would begin at 10:00 a.m. local time on Monday to allow for the entry of aid into Gaza. An Israeli defense official said it would apply everywhere except the southern town of Rafah, where three Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush Friday while they were destroying tunnels, including Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who was originally believed to have been seized by militants. Palestinians have accused Israel of breaking its own cease-fire after the military bombed the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, killing a young girl and wounding 29 others. Prior to the cease-fire, an Israeli airstrike reportedly killed senior commander of Islamic Jihad Danyal Mansour. In nearly four weeks of fighting, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported 1,822 Palestinians, mostly civilians have been killed and 9,370 others have been wounded. Additionally, Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians. Israel reported 55 rockets were fired from Gaza on Sunday.


The United Nations has warned that about 200,000 people, mostly from the minority Yazidi community, have been forced to flee as militants led by the Islamic State seized three Kurdish-majority towns in northern Iraq. Sunni militants overtook Sinjar, Zuma, and Wana, as well as an oil field and the Mosul Dam, the country's largest dam, which provides most of Mosul's electricity. Fighters from the Islamic State were reportedly also involved in clashes with the Lebanese army in and around the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria. Fighting erupted Saturday between the Lebanese army and fighters from the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front after soldiers detained a suspected Syrian Islamist rebel commander. Meanwhile, tribesmen forced Islamic State fighters out of three villages in Syria's oil rich Ashara region.


  • An estimated 22 people were killed Sunday as clashes between rival militias continued over control of the international airport in Libya's capital of Tripoli.
  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan staged his last major rally in an Istanbul suburb Sunday one week before presidential elections, which he is widely expected to win.

Arguments and Analysis

'Hamas's Chances' (Nathan Thrall, London Review of Books)

"The current war in Gaza was not one Israel or Hamas sought. But both had no doubt that a new confrontation would come. The 21 November 2012 ceasefire that ended an eight-day-long exchange of Gazan rocket fire and Israeli aerial bombardment was never implemented. It stipulated that all Palestinian factions in Gaza would stop hostilities against Israel, that Israel would end attacks against Gaza by land, sea and air - including the 'targeting of individuals' (assassinations, typically by drone-fired missile) - and that the closure of Gaza would essentially end as a result of Israel's 'opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents' free movements and targeting residents in border areas'. An additional clause noted that 'other matters as may be requested shall be addressed,' a reference to private commitments by Egypt and the US to help thwart weapons smuggling into Gaza, though Hamas has denied this interpretation of the clause."

-- Mary Casey


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