News Roundup and Notes: July 24, 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.

Counter-terrorism cases

In the cases of two Guantánamo detainees, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland violated, among others, the substantive and procedural aspects of the detainees’ right to be free from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The cases were brought against Poland in relation to its complicity in the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, by allowing the operation of a CIA “black site” on its territory.

Israel-Palestine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has returned to Cairo following a one-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, and is now reportedly “ramping up efforts” to reach a ceasefire agreement [Haaretz]. However, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said that Hamas “reject today… and will reject in the future” any ceasefire proposal unless their demands to lift the blockade against the Palestinian enclave are considered [Al Jazeera]. The death toll currently stands at 718 Palestinians and 32 Israelis, with over half killed since the Israeli ground incursion began [Haaretz].

Yesterday, President Obama spoke with John Kerry to discuss the ongoing crisis, noting that Kerry “has been engaged with the Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Europeans, the UN, the Arab League, Qatar, Jordon, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates” to determine how to bring an end to the conflict [The Hill’s Amie Parnes].

The U.S. FAA has lifted the temporary ban on flights into Israel that was imposed after a rocket landed close to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday [Reuters’ Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams].

The UN Human Rights Council has decided to launch an investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian laws in Palestine, condemning the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” arising out of Israeli military operations since the conflict began on June 13 [UN News Centre].

Brazil has recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv today, in protest against what it described as “disproportionate use of force by Israel” in Gaza [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid].

The Associated Press reports that in a statement yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he was “alarmed” to hear that rockets placed in a UN school in Gaza last week have now “gone missing”.

Anne Bernard and Jodi Rudoren [New York Times] report on the ongoing debate surrounding the use of civilians as human shields in Gaza, and the obligations on both sides to do the utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has condemned what it described as “deliberate official and unofficial incitement against journalists” reporting on Gaza, following a number of recent hostile events involving foreign journalists [New York Times’ Robert Mackay].

The New York Times (Helene Cooper and Somini Sengupta) reports on the sustained support of the United States for Israel’s incursion in Gaza, despite Israel losing the “public relations war” outside of the U.S.

The Washington Post’s editorial board argues for the disarmament of Hamas and the election of a new government as part of any ceasefire proposal, stating that such conditions would “likely have the quiet support of most of Gaza’s population.”

Jamie Dettmer [The Daily Beast] explores the different landscape of the current conflict and the absence of concrete support for Hamas from Hezbollah this time round.

Benjamin Kulakofsky [Al Jazeera America] discusses why Qatar should step in as mediator between Hamas and Israel, arguing that the “right mediator can end this conflict and make it harder for others to arise.”

Yael Even Or [Washington Post] writes on behalf of a group of Israeli reservists, refusing to fight in the conflict, and who “oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law.”

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

Russia and Ukraine

Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down yesterday, close to the Russian border in eastern Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry has denied allegations that the jets were fired upon from Russian territory [Wall Street Journal’s Lukas I. Alpert].

The bodies of those killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands yesterday, as the country observed a national day of mourning [Washington Post’s Todd C. Frankel and Carol Morello].

The Associated Press reports that two further planes left Ukraine this morning, holding remains of victims of the crash, as part of the second day of the airlift to the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will send 50 police officers to support a proposed international team under UN authority to assist in securing the crash site and ensuring that all the remains are recovered.

The international team tasked with investigating the downing of the airplane began sketching out the details of their probe yesterday, as they await access to the crash site [Wall Street Journal’s Robert Wall et al].

In a Reuters exclusive, Anton Zverev reports that a top Ukrainian rebel commander has confirmed that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine possessed anti-aircraft missiles of the type the U.S. claims was used to down Flight MH17 and has admitted that it could have originated in Russia.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that his government would look into reports of arms exports licenses to Russia [Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Winning].

The New York Times (Keith Brasher et al) discusses the unique role that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak played in convincing the pro-Russian rebels to release the remains and “black boxes” from the wreckage.

Sabra Ayres [Al Jazeera America] writes about the Azov Battalion, a pro-Kiev battalion driven by far right ideology.

Timothy Garton Ash [New York Times] discusses “Putin’s resentment-fueled protector state doctrine” that threatens “the whole post-1945 international order.”

Iraq and Syria

The Associated Press covers the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Iraq yesterday, where lawmakers questioned the adequacy of the administration’s response to the crisis in Iraq. Officials said that the U.S. has deployed additional military advisers to Iraq, while also increasing surveillance flights, in an effort to better support Iraqi forces in countering the expanding insurgency in the country [Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz]. Administration officials also said that there is “an ongoing process” to form a new Iraqi government, with a developing consensus on introducing a federalist system [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung].

Meanwhile, the top UN official in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, has told the Security Council that Iraq “cannot afford a protracted Government formation process” [UN News Centre]. Mladenov also said that the answer to Iraq’s crisis could not be found “in the toolbox of military operations.”

Earlier today, a bombing attack on a bus transporting prisoners from a military base to Baghdad killed 51 prisoners and nine policemen [Reuters].

A Canadian man has been charged with joining extremist fighters in Syria [Associated Press]. The police are still trying to locate the individual, who left Canada in January.

Ben Hubbard [New York Times] covers the situation in the Syrian town of Raqaa, the “de facto capital of the world’s fastest growing jihadist force,” ISIS. The organization has begun implementing its state vision in Raqaa, reportedly combining “its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance.”

In a piece for the New York Times, Matt Pelak reflects on his experience of working in Iraq as a Blackwater employee and notes that the “often reviled contractors, the ones who protect our interests abroad but are rarely mentioned except when they get in trouble, will almost certainly be among the last people out of Baghdad if the situation deteriorates.”

Surveillance, Privacy, and Technology

German officials say that questions regarding American spying allegations have not been answered by the U.S, even one year after the surveillance revelations, reports the Washington Post (Karen DeYoung and Anthony Faiola).

Scott Higham [Washington Post] reports that intelligence security initiatives, introduced after the leaks of classified information by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, have been criticized by some as undermining federal whistleblower protections.

Other Developments

The Intercept (Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux) reports on the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” which reveals that the administration has authorized a significant expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, involving “a secret process that requires neither ‘concrete facts’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence’ to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist.”

The Associated Press reports that the bombing of a market in northern Afghanistan today killed six people and wounded a further 26, according to officials. The election audit of last month’s presidential runoff has come to a halt after a dispute over what criteria to use to determine a fraudulent ballot [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham].

Heavy clashes in Benghazi have killed at least nine people and wounded another 19, mostly civilians, according to Libyan medical sources. Yesterday, the UN Security Council condemned the continued violence in Libya, including the clashes around Tripoli International Airport [UN News Centre]. Al Jazeera America (Michael Pizzi) writes about Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s “rogue ex-general”, and his efforts to rid Libya of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Reuters (Garba Muhammed) reports that at least 82 people were killed in the north Nigerian city of Kaduna in two suicide bombings on Wednesday, one of which was aimed at opposition leader and ex-president Muhammadu Buhari. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, although it is suspected that Boko Haram is involved. In a press statement, a spokesperson for the Department of State said that the U.S. “deplores” the twin bombings and called on the Nigerian authorities to “fully investigate these attacks.”

Al Jazeera America reports that a female Somali lawmaker was shot dead in Mogadishu yesterday, with the militant group al-Shabaab claiming responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, five people, including two women in the U.S., were charged with financially assisting the terrorist group.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).