Egyptian mediators have continued indirect talks with Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo as a 72-hour cease-fire nears its end. Israel has expressed willingness to extend the truce under its current terms passed the Friday morning deadline. However, one Hamas leader said there has been no agreement on an extension, while another said there would be no extension unless Israel meets some of its demands. The still appear to be wide gaps between the parties with the Palestinians calling for an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, while Israel is pushing for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian official said he did not expect Hamas to accept Israel's demand that it disarm. Meanwhile, business leaders are assessing the damage in Gaza caused by the four-week conflict, exacerbating already dire economic conditions.
Militants led by the Islamic State have continued an offensive in northern Iraq, expanding territorial gains Thursday near the Kurdish region. Kurdish pesh merga forces have been battling over control of towns west of the regional capital of Erbil. The Islamic State reported it had overtaken 15 towns, the Mosul dam, and a military base since the weekend. However, Kurdish officials claim their forces maintain control of the dam. Witnesses reported the predominantly Christian towns of Tilkaif and Al Kwair, as well as Iraq's largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, were seized by militants. The United Nations reported 200,000 people had fled fighting. Tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community were forced to leave the town of Sinjar as it was seized over the weekend and fled to the surrounding mountains. According to the United Nations, some have been rescued over the past 24 hours, though many are in urgent need of water, food, and medical care.
- A cease-fire between the Lebanese army and militants in the town of Arsal near the Syrian border has been extended, after fighters freed a number of soldiers, though 22 are believed to be missing.
- Senior U.S. and Iranian officials will hold nuclear talks in Geneva Thursday after six world powers and Tehran agreed to extend negotiations on a comprehensive agreement until Nov. 24.
- The Yemeni army has reported it has killed 25 suspected al Qaeda militants in two days of clashes in the city of Seiyoun in Hadramout province.
Arguments and Analysis
'Opposition backers strengthen jihadists by shunning moderate Islamists' (Hassan Hassan, The National)
"A series of events inside the country appears to have put the ball in the opposition backers' court, especially in the Gulf. Earlier this week, 18 of the rebels' major fighting groups issued a statement of unity, called wa'tasimo, or 'work in solidarity'. The signatories represent the rebels' different inclinations, from seculars to religious moderates, and exclude radical groups such as Ahrar Al Sham and Jabhat Al Nusra. What is particularly interesting is that the groups are supported by various backers - namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar - who often pit these groups against each other.
The rivalry among the opposition's backers has undermined the rebels' unity and led to catastrophic infighting. Support for certain moderate groups was conditioned on refusal to include or even work with certain Islamist groups. Some of these moderate groups have received advanced weapons, while other groups have suffered from a policy of financial blockade. This, along with the fighting with the Islamic State, is an important factor behind the flaking of large rebel alliances."
'Turkey wakes up to Islamic State threat' (Orhan Kemal Ceniz, Al Monitor)
"Turkey's serious troubles with IS are obviously not only about its citizens held hostage in Mosul but also the threat posed by the organization to the country's security. The impression that Turkey is tolerating IS militants endangers the peace process in Turkey as IS attacks against Syrian and Iraqi Kurds escalate. IS has become a major threat to Turkey's security and stability."
-- Mary Casey
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