News Roundup and Notes: July 25, 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

A UN-protected school functioning as a shelter for Palestinian evacuees came under attack yesterday, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expressed outrage, stating that Israel was aware of the exact coordinates of the school and its use. However, the Israeli army said it does not know if it was Israel or Hamas shelling which hit the facility, saying that it had warned the UN agency of potential firing from the Israeli forces in the past days [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen, and AP].

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “appalled” by the attack, which killed women, children, and UN staff, adding that “[yesterdays]’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now” [UN News Centre].

The New York Times [Michael R. Gordon] reports that Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a weeklong halt to hostilities in the Gaza Strip, according to an official involved in negotiations.

At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank following protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza [BBC]. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have called today for a “day of anger.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said the Republicans would introduce legislation to assist Israel with emergency funding for its Iron Dome defense system [The Hill’s Ramsey Cox].

The New York Times’ editorial board argues that the “war is terrorizing innocent people on both sides of the border,” scrutinizing the actions of both Israel and Hamas.

Eugene Robinson [Washington Post] suggests that Israel is acting as though “free of moral responsibilities” and that “for Israeli military action to be justifiable, it must be proportionate … [but] what we’re witnessing is not.”

Roger Cohen [New York Times] discusses the “shared destiny” of Israel and Gaza, arguing: “The peoples of the Holy Land are condemned to each other. Without that realization, any truce … will only be a way station to the next round of slaughter.”

Russia and Ukraine

U.S. defense officials said yesterday that Russia is firing artillery across the border into Ukraine, indicating that Russia is now directly engaged in conflict against the Ukrainian government [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and William Maudlin].

Kyiv Post (Christopher J. Miller and Oksana Grytsenko) reports that Ukrainian troops are regaining territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, amid continued fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk and his government resigned on Thursday, following the collapse of the parliamentary coalition [Kyiv Post].

President Obama said that the Malaysia Airlines disaster “may stiffen the spine of our European partners moving forward” [CNBC’s Steve Liesman]. European Union diplomats also said that the bloc will place tougher sanctions on Russia, in a significant expansion of the efforts to isolate Moscow for its role in the Ukrainian crisis [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton and Laurence Norman].

Reuters reports that a German business leader has expressed support for tougher action on Russia if President Vladimir Putin fails to assist in stabilizing the situation in Ukraine, saying “business will implement what the … EU decide.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he will send a further 100 police and some defense personnel to assist in the Dutch-led effort to secure the crash site [Reuters]. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told CNN that the Netherlands will step up efforts to ensure that all the remains from the crash of Flight MH17 return from Ukraine.

The New York Times (Sabrina Tavernise and Thomas Erdbrink) reports on the aftermath of the disaster and rescue efforts, stating that “for all the diplomatic frenzy that has followed the disaster, there is no sign of an investigation here.”

In a Reuters exclusive, Allison Lampert reports that the UN civil aviation agency will hold an international meeting in Montréal next week to discuss airline safety in the wake of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines planes.

The Washington Post’s editorial board argues that Obama’s vague response to the situation in Ukraine, followed by three days of fundraising, meant that the “message to Mr. Putin – not to mention the Israelis, Palestinians, and Iraqis fighting their own wars – was that the president was not engaged enough by the crises to set aside the purely political activity of collecting checks from donors.”

The New York Times (Alan Cowell) writes on the challenge facing the U.K. Prime Minister in handling the situation with Russia, saying David Cameron has “tumble[d] over Russia’s tripwire.”

The Washington Post (Marc Fisher et al) discusses the global impact of the downing of Flight MH17 last week, as “grief and outrage ripple worldwide.”

Iraq and Syria

The Iraqi parliament elected veteran Kurdish politician Fuad Masoum as the new president yesterday, but made no progress on selecting a prime minister, in what Hamza Mustafa [Asharq Al-Awsat] describes as “one step forward and two steps back for Iraq.”

Speaking in Iraq, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of “a thoroughly inclusive government” in order to overcome the “existential threat” facing the country [UN News Centre].

The holy site of the tomb of Jonah in Mosul has been blown up by ISIS fighters, according to officials [CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq].

In neighboring Syria, the United Nations has sent its first humanitarian aid convoy into the country without the consent of the Syrian government, across the Turkish border, following the recent Security Council resolution authorizing such delivery [BBC].

ISIS militants launched multiple assaults on Syrian forces across three provinces yesterday, killing two brigadier generals, in “a rare confrontation between the two sides” [Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib].

Reuters (Sylvia Westall) reports that the increasing influence of ISIS is making the Syrian army rethink its strategy. Until recently, the Syrian government was hesitant to counter ISIS as, among other reasons, the organization’s attacks on the moderate rebel forces helped to divide the opposition, making it easier for the Syrian forces to recapture lost territory.

Ishaan Tharoor [Washington Post] covers ISIS’ continuing violence in Iraq and Syria this past week, while the world shifted its attention to Gaza. According to some accounts, this last week may have been the deadliest in the Syrian conflict’s history.

The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegel explores why ISIS may be “doomed,” noting that the extremist organization is “no longer a juggernaut, it’s a motley alliance of factions just waiting to betray each other.”

The Norwegian intelligence service said yesterday that it has received “reliable information” regarding a “credible threat” against Norway from individuals linked to Islamic fighters in Syria [Associated Press].

Other Developments

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy said that he would file a new version of the NSA reform bill next week, aimed at ending the agency’s bulk records collection program [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]. The draft bill has reportedly made several changes to the House version, passed in May, following negotiations with the Obama administration and privacy advocates.

One of the five defendants in the 9/11 Guantanamo trial has been severed from the proceedings, following an order by military judge Col. James L. Pohl [Washington Post’s Adam Goldman]. According to the decision, the court needs to establish whether the defendant, Ramzi Binalshibh, has the mental capacity to stand trial and whether a previous possible conflict of interest requires he be provided with another lawyer.

In an op-ed for Al Jazeera America, Crofton Black writes that the European Court of Human Right’s decisions in the Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri cases are “remarkable and unprecedented, but the facts underlying it have long been in the public domain.” While the decision faults Poland, Black notes that the rulings also implicate other countries.

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, along with his wife, and two other U.S. citizens have been detained this week in Tehran, according to U.S. officials and the newspaper.

Reuters (Fredrik Dhal) reports that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency said it needs extra funding in order to support the agency’s monitoring of the four-month extension on nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers.

Daniel Henninger [Wall Street Journal] criticizes President Obama as “the most provincial U.S. president in at least a century,” arguing that he has focused this week on fundraising rather than tackling any of the current global crises.

Al Jazeera reports that suspected Taliban members killed 15 civilians in central Afghanistan today. Meanwhile, two Finnish aid workers, who worked for the International Assistance Mission, were shot dead Thursday morning in the western city of Herat [New York Times’ Carlotta Gall].

The United Nations has put forward a proposal to Afghanistan’s main electoral body, setting out criteria to separate valid and fraudulent ballots in the presidential election audit [UN News Centre].

In Nigeria, 17 people have been killed in two separate attacks by suspected members of Boko Haram [Wall Street Journal’s Gbenga Akingbule].

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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