News Roundup and Notes: July 16, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

Israel-Palestine

Following Hamas’ rejection of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Hamas will pay the price for its decision to continue [the] campaign,” and “[w]hen there is no cease-fire, our response is fire” [Haaretz].

On Tuesday, Israel suffered the first death on its side when an Israeli man was hit by shrapnel from a Palestinian rocket near the Ernez border cross, the military said [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy, Nicholas Casey & Joshua Mitnick]. Al Jazeera reports that over 200 Palestinians have now been killed in the conflict.

Reuters reports that Israel has targeted a top Hamas leader, as well as at least 20 of Hamas’ hidden rocket launchers, tunnels, and weapon storage facilities since strikes recommenced yesterday.

Israel has called for thousands of Palestinians in eastern and northern Gaza to evacuate their homes as air strikes increase. Hamas has reportedly urged Gazans to remain where they are and not to heed IDF calls for evacuation [Haaretz].

Haaretz reports that Israel hit three targets in the Syrian Golan early Tuesday, killing at least four, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday that the deaths of Palestinian civilians is a moral problem but that he does not have a moral answer to it. The Nobel Peace laureate defended the Israeli airstrikes saying: “If they are shooting at us, and don’t let our mothers and their children… have a full night’s sleep, what can we do?”

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Hamas’ continued rocket attacks on Israel, accusing the group of “play[ing] politics” with the “innocent lives of civilians” [U.S. State Department]. The UN agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees has described the level of human loss and destruction in Gaza as “immense” [UN News Centre].

Haaretz’s Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury provide a comprehensive analysis of events surrounding the short-lived ceasefire.

The Washington Post’s editorial board criticizes Hamas’ military campaign against Israel as a “dismal failure” and argues that the “right response of the international community is not to surrender to Hamas’s despicable tactics but to continue insisting that it unconditionally accept the cease-fire proposed by Egypt.”

Nimrod Nir [New York Times] warns Israelis to “remember to fight terror and not the Palestinians” and cautions Palestinians to fight for “national self-determination without backing a regime that promotes the annihilation of Israelis.”

Ishaan Tharoor [Washington Post] discusses what Hamas hopes to gain from the current crisis in Gaza and why they are reluctant to accept a ceasefire.

Be sure to follow Haaretz for live updates of the crisis in the region.

Surveillance

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone Tuesday, their first telephone conversation since last week’s revelations of U.S. spying activities and the expulsion of the CIA station chief from Berlin [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear]. White House officials said that the two leaders discussed “ways to improve cooperation” moving forward from the scandal.

The Washington Post has published a Q&A on NSA surveillance with reporter Barton Gellman.

Chinese hackers have reportedly turned their attention away from high-profile government targets and toward much more obscure federal agencies, such as the Government Printing Office, according to senior U.S. officials [New York Times’ Michael D. Schmidt].

The U.K. government’s electronic surveillance policies came under scrutiny Tuesday at two separate public hearings [Wall Street Journal’s Lisa Fletcher and Simon Zekaria].

The Australian Federal Government has detailed changes it intends to make to the law so as to give intelligence agencies greater power in response to increasing concern over jihadists returning to the country [ABC’s Melissa Clarke].

Iraq and Syria

The Iraqi parliament broke the recent deadlock and took the first step toward forming a new power-sharing government, by electing a moderate Sunni Islamist as the new speaker of parliament on Tuesday [Reuters’ Isra’ Al-Rubei’I and Ahmed Rasheed].

Witnesses have testified against their ex-Blackwater colleagues in the trial of the 2007 Iraqi killings [New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo].

Associated Press reports that the initial U.S. military assessment of the Iraqi security forces has been completed and is now under review by Pentagon leaders. It is expected that it will be some time before any decisions are made on what additional steps the U.S. will take to assist Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces withdrew from the militant-held city of Tikrit late Tuesday after being met with heavy resistance, failing in their attempt to retake the city [Reuters].

The BBC reports on the elite female unit of the Kurdish Peshmerga force, and their preparation for the front line against ISIS fighters.

John Knefel [VICE] writes on the different responses taken by the FBI to two would be jihadists, one a U.S. citizen and one a legal resident, both attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS and Al Nusra respectively.

The New York Times (Michael S. Schmidt) reports that a Canadian, who travelled to Syria to join in the fighting and was killed, is now being used in an ISIS recruitment video in an attempt to lure English-speaking North Americans to join their side.

Ukraine and Russia

Associated Press reports that an airstrike in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday killed at least 11 people and destroyed an apartment building. Pro-Russian separatists blamed the Ukrainian government, who denied blame but did not provide an alternative explanation.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged European leaders to take a stronger stance against Russia over their involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine when the EU meets at a summit in Brussels today [Reuters’ Richard Balmforth].

The Wall Street Journal (Paul Sonne) reports that Russia and Ukraine bolstered accusations against one another Tuesday, each attaching responsibility for cross-border attacks to the other.

Sabra Ayres [Al Jazeera America] writes on the crisis facing Donetsk orphans, many of which are being forced to flee to Russia.

Sabrina Tavernise [New York Times] discusses her experience of spending a day with pro-Russian separatists in Luhansk, Ukraine.

Pakistan

Associated Press reports that an American drone strike, in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan today, has killed at least 15 militants, according to two Pakistani officials. Pakistani security forces have captured a senior Taliban commander linked to the 2003 assassination attempt of former President Pervez Musharraf.

Activists in Pakistan have expressed concern over the Protection of Pakistan Act, a new security law which is said to shield excesses and violations carried out by the security forces [Al Jazeera’s Asad Hashim].

Saba Imtiaz and Declan Walsh [New York Times] discuss the rise and rapid spread of Sunni extremism into the southern province of Sindh, long heralded as Pakistan’s “bastion of tolerance and diversity.”

Afghanistan

At least 89 people have been killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktika, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country since 2001 [Al Jazeera]. The Taliban’s leader denied responsibility for the attack, saying the group does not target civilians. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack as a “despicable criminal act” [UN News Centre].

The deal brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry to end the Afghani election crisis has hit a hurdle as the two presidential candidates cannot agree on what institution should carry out the inspection of the 8.1 million votes cast in the June election [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham].

The U.S. military watchdog tasked with scrutinizing the provision of aid to the Afghani government has called for the delay of an additional delivery of cargo planes, questioning whether the military was making full use of the ones they currently possess [Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Hodge].

The Daily Beast (Josh Rogin) discusses the criticism President Obama is receiving from military leaders and members of the intelligence community for his counterterrorism policy, and plan to completely pull out of Afghanistan by 2016.

Other Developments

Members of the Zintan militia in Libya retain tight control of the capital’s airport in Tripoli, the airport having become a battle ground for the past two days and cutting the capital off from the outside world [Al Jazeera]. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. was working very hard through their special envoys to find “the glue that can bring people together… so that this violence can end” [U.S. Department of State].

Secretary of State John Kerry has cited “tangible progress” in the nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. However, he emphasized that “very real gaps” remain [U.S. Department of State]. Meanwhile, U.S. senators have sought support on demands that Iran accept tough conditions on their nuclear program, including long term international inspections [The Hill’s Rachel Huggins].

The French and British governments have agreed to further work on a next generation combat drone program, committing to spend £120 million ($205 million) on the cooperation over the next two years [Wall Street Journal’s Robert Wall]. The Associated Press reports on the prevalence of drone technology at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow.

The Miami Herald (Carol Rosenberg) has learned that a U.S. Navy medical officer recently refused to continue force-feeding a Guantánamo captive—the first known rebellion against the policy—has been reassigned to “alternative duties.”

ABC News (Lee Ferran and James Gordon Meek) reports that the U.S. State Department added a Norwegian citizen allegedly trained as a bomb maker by Al-Qaeda to its list of designated terrorists.

Associated Press reports that more than 200 suspects were arrested in a security sweep in Somalia, aimed at stunting the wave of recent militant attacks in and around the capital of Mogadishu, according to a senior police official. Reuters (Louis Charbonneau and Drazen Jorgic) reports that a UN panel, charged with monitoring compliance with sanctions on Somalia, has accused the Somali president, a former minister, and a U.S. law firm of conspiring to divert Somali assets recovered abroad.

Leaders of Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram this weekend sent a new video to AFP, boasting of the group’s recent successes and mocking the hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls [Long War Journal’s Laura Grossman]. Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has criticized the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, accusing activists of “playing politics” and manipulating “the victims of terrorism” [BBC].

The Nigerian police have said that they arrested one of the masterminds behind a Boko Haram bombing that killed 71 people in April [CNN’s Ed Payne and Radina Gigova].

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security