News Roundup and Notes: July 23, 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

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has backed Hamas demands for an end to the economic blockade of Gaza as a necessary ceasefire condition [BBC]. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Israel this morning and is meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon].  The death toll now has reached 650 Palestinians and 29 Israelis [Haaretz].

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on an end to the fighting in the region and a return to dialogue to addressunderlying issues “so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year” [UN News Centre].

The U.S. has barred flights into Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for at least 24 hours after a rocket hit one mile from the airport [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick et al]. A number of European airlines have also suspended flights. Meanwhile, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he planned to fly to Israel last night in protest of the FAA’s ban on flights into Tel Aviv, saying he wished to “show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel” [Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan].

The Israeli military has resumed a practice of punitive demolitions on the West Bank, intended to discourage support for Hamas [Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan].

The Wall Street Journal (Joshua Mitnick and Asa Fitch) reports on the sustained public support in Israel for the military operation in Gaza evidenced by the high attendance at funerals of Israeli soldiers in recent days.

The Washington Post (Adam Taylor) writes on the mounting anger against the Israeli Defense Forces because of their decisions to target certain buildings in Gaza, including a number of hospitals.

The New York Times discusses the details surrounding the Gazan tunnels, the destruction of which Israeli claims is the reason for their ground offensive in the region.

The Associated Press writes on the online battle over public opinion where both Israel and Palestine are “attempt[ing] to direct the tone of the fighting.”

Mohammed Omer [New York Times] explores the impact of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, suggesting “this cycle of violence, punitive and disproportionate as it is, can lead only to an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-type extremism among the Palestinians.”

Henry Siegman, writing for Politico Magazine, argues that Israel is responsible for sparking the recent conflict and that the responsibility lies with President Obama to sedate the situation.

Daniel W. Drezner [Washington Post] writes that the possibility of the two-state solution in the region may now be impossible, warning that the U.S. must now revise its policy accordingly.

Helena Cobban [Al Jazeera America] explores the correlation between Israeli wars of choice and increasingly right wing politics in the country.

The New York Times has published a debate on whether Israeli military action in Gaza is self-defense or a series of atrocities.

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

Ukraine and Russia

On Tuesday, the Obama administration released what it described as evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of the Malaysian airliner [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]. The material included satellite images and other sensitive intelligence that officials said demonstrated that Moscow had trained and equipped pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine responsible for the attack.

The recovered bodies from the MH17 crash have left Ukraine and are being flown to the Netherlands for identification [BBC].

Reuters reports that the Australian Prime Minister has said that it is unclear exactly how many bodies from downed Flight MH17 had arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. “It’s quite possible that many bodies are still out there in the open, in the European summer, subject to interference.”

The European Union on Tuesday increased sanctions against Russia following the disaster but avoided adopting an immediate full arms embargo [Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid and Matthew Dalton].

British Members of Parliament have said that the their  government retains licenses to export millions of pounds sterling worth of arms to Russia [BBC].

President Obama visited the Dutch Embassy in Washington yesterday, where he remarked that the U.S. would work to ensure “that a proper investigation is conducted, and that ultimately justice is done.”

The Washington Post (Ernesto Londoño) explores the complexities and challenges facing any prosecution arising out of the airplane crash, as “determining motive and proving their guilt would pose evidentiary and legal challenges for which there is little precedent.”

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley [Washington Post] suggests steps the U.S. must take in response to Putin’s involvement in Ukraine, arguing that stopping Putin “requires not just sanctions but all the elements of a comprehensive strategy.”

The Wall Street Journal (Anton Troianovski and William Mauldin) writes on the light approach of Obama and Merkel in response to the Malaysia Airlines disaster, suggesting the importance of keeping open lines of communication with Russian President Vladamir Putin.

Bernard-Henri Lévy [New York Times] expresses dismay over the “pusillanimous” response of Europe to Russia actions in Ukraine, describing it as a “disgrace.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel [Washington Post] argues against an escalation of military operations in Ukraine, saying “it is time to lower voices and halt the bellicose posturing.”

The New York Times publishes letters to the editor on various topics relating to the crisis surrounding the downed plane.

Surveillance, Privacy & Technology

The Hill (Kate Tummarello) reports that the Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is apparently “within inches” of agreeing on legislation with the Obama administration to rein in government surveillance. Leahy said Tuesday that the planned bill will create “clear cut guidelines of what [intelligence agencies] can and cannot do” and “let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected.”

David Ignatius [Washington Post] discusses the “long-standing” and “extensive” intelligence partnership between the U.S. and Germany and suggests that following German outrage at U.S. spying, the two are “now attempting to rebuild the partnership so that it is more transparent.”

Al Jazeera (Michael Penn) reports on the much criticized, vaguely worded secrecy laws in Japan, which are said to lack proper safeguards and oversight bodies and give the government expansive surveillance powers.

Iraq and Syria

A suicide bomber in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has killed at least 21 people, in an attack on a police checkpoint [Associated Press].

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is losing support from core backers, including Iraq’s Shiite religious leaders and Iran, further dampening his chances of pursuing a third term [Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas].

Reuters (Ahmed Rasheed) reports that Islamic State militants seized a number of oilfields as they “swept through northern Iraq” last month and are now selling the crude resources to fund their outfit.

The European Union will expand sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria.  The sanctions lists will now include additional  three individuals and nine companies “due to their involvement in the violent repressing of the civilian population or their support to the regime” [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman].

The Washington Post’s editorial board writes on the swelling death toll and increasing threat of extremism in Syria. Noting the lack of concrete action by the Obama administration, the board argues “continued passivity will only make it worse.”

Other Developments

Japan is set to extend its maritime cooperation with the U.S. as it plans to participate in joint exercises with the U.S. and India in the Pacific Ocean [Wall Street Journal’s Niharika Mandhana].

The Guardian (Patrick Wintour) reports on planned reforms in the UK to tackle the mounting concern over Muslim extremist infiltration of schools in the city of Birmingham.

A number of Indian citizens who disappeared from their hometown outside of Mumbai resurfaced in Iraq, provoking fears of rising extremism among young Muslims in India [Wall Street Journal’s Jesse Pesta and Kenan Machado].

Peter Baker [New York Times] discusses the current array of global crises and the resulting pressure on President Obama. “Rarely has a president been confronted with so many seemingly disparate foreign policy crises all at once.”

Jacob Silverman, in an op-ed for Politico Magazine, writes on the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication (CSCC), a division of the State Department that is attempting to utilize social media to monitor and deter extremist internet users.

The Daily Beast (Nico Hines) reports that the U.K. government has announced it intends to open a public inquiry into the death of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former KGB officer turned whistle-blower, including an investigation into whether Russian leaders ordered the killing.

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security