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.
A 72-hour ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, came into effect today at 8am local time between Israel and Hamas. The IDF pulled its ground troops out of Gaza as the truce began [Haaretz]. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken told CNN that the ceasefire was a “real opportunity” and that the U.S. “strongly support[s] the initiative.” The death toll now stands at 1,865 Palestinians and 69 Israelis [Reuters].
President Obama signed into law a $225 million emergency defense package yesterday, which will assist in funding the Israeli Iron Dome program. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said: “The United States is proud that the Iron Dome system developed in coordination with Israel and funded by the United States has saved countless Israeli lives” [The Hill’s Justin Sink].
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told CNN yesterday that the Obama administration has “absolutely no regrets” over its attempts to broker a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki met with prosecutors from the International Criminal Court today, amid his administration’s push to have Palestine become a member of the court. Following his meeting, Malki said that “there is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel amounting to crimes against humanity” [Haaretz]. The Associated Press writes that Israel is also accusing Hamas of violating the rules of war, pointing to indiscriminate firing and the use of civilians as human shields.
Mark Landler [New York Times] reports on the lack of diplomatic influence that the U.S. has had over Israel in the conflict in Gaza, suggesting that this has left the U.S. “seething” on the sidelines at what is regarded as “disrespectful treatment” by Israel.
David Ignatius [Washington Post] writes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to “show that he has the vision and leadership to build a durable cease-fire that could empower Palestinian moderates and begin building a pathway from the hell on earth that is Gaza.”
John Lloyd [Reuters] asks “what hope is left of [Israel] finding a lasting settlement with the Arabs,” but expresses optimism that “the cycle of violence may not be unbreakable.”
Sudarsan Raghavan [Washington Post] writes about his experience as a journalist trapped in the “Gaza propaganda war,” suggesting that for both sides “foreign news is as much a weapon of war as the rockets and the airstrikes.”
Jesse Rosenfeld [The Daily Beast] discusses U.S. assistance to the Israeli military and the indignation felt by Gazans at the “hypocrisy of Washington offering aid to their maimed society, crippled with the help of Washington’s weaponry.”
A number of retired military leaders have called on President Obama to back an “expansive declassification” of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA. In a letter last week, the former leaders said that the President must “set the direction for [the] administration that torture is unacceptable” [The Hill’s Kristina Wong].
Eugene Robinson [Washington Post] considers that the main issue now is whether the “vastly expanded and empowered U.S. intelligence establishment will be fully and properly brought under civilian control and oversight.”
Russia and Ukraine
The Ukrainian military warned civilians to leave the rebel stronghold of Donetsk yesterday, ahead of what appeared to be a major assault against the pro-Russian separatists in the region [Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Michael Birnbaum]. Kyiv Post’s Christopher J. Miller outlines the threat of “urban warfare” as Ukrainian troops move to fully encircle the rebel-held cities.
Meanwhile, Western officials have said that Russia has doubled the number of its troops along the Ukrainian border and hugely boosted its firepower, enabling it to launch a cross-border offensive with little to no warning [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt].
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board comments on Russia’s threat to NATO in light of the recent report from the U.K.’s House of Commons Defence Committee, which concludes that the alliance “is currently not well-prepared for a Russian threat against a NATO Member State.”
The German government has prevented a German company from conducting a military training center in Russia, in a move that goes beyond the current sanctions regime and one that is intended to send a message to France to suspend its planned warship delivery to Moscow [Wall Street Journal’s Harriet Torry and Natalia Drozdiak].
Russia is reportedly considering imposing restrictions on European airlines using trans-Siberian routes for flights to Asia, in retaliation against sanctions imposed by the European Union last week [Reuters].
The Dutch ambassador to the UN has informed the Security Council of the international investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, outlining that the current focus is on the recovery of the victims’ remains [Associated Press].
Iraq and Syria
The Iraqi government has ordered the country’s air force to support Kurdish forces fighting against Islamic State extremists in the north of the country, in a move said to represent a “thaw” in relations between the central government and Kurdish leaders [New York Times’ Tim Arango].
Members of the Iraqi Yazidi minority have been forced to flee the Sinjar province due to the Islamic State offensive that began on Saturday. The UN Special Representative for Iraq described the group’s displacement as a “humanitarian tragedy” [Al Jazeera].
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s military continued to battle Syrian rebels for control of a border town yesterday. The attack on Arsal is said to be the first large-scale incursion into Lebanon carried out by anti-Assad rebels [Associated Press]. The UN Security Council expressed its support for Lebanon’s military response, but warned against becoming embroiled in the conflict in neighboring Syria [Al Jazeera].
India is said to be shaken by the revelation that four of its citizens were recruited over the internet by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [New York Times’ Ellen Barry and Mansi Choksi]. And Yusuf Sayman [The Daily Beast] writes about a young Syrian boy who was “abducted, tortured, indoctrinated” and managed to escape from ISIS.
Several former senior defense and state department officials are saying that the administration needs to start delegating responsibility to professional diplomats and others, in order to adequately address the growing number of international conflicts [Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One].
Michael Pizzi [Al Jazeera America] notes the world’s rapture with the conflict in Gaza, and takes the opportunity to draw attention to the numerous other conflicts currently “raging” around the globe.
A federal judge has ruled that U.S. officials have an “apparent” legal duty to release Guantánamo detainees when the U.S. role in hostilities in Afghanistan ends. The judge declined the petitioner’s demand for an order for such a release, saying that at this time his request was “based entirely upon speculation” [Politico’s Josh Gerstein].
Carol Rosenberg [Miami Herald] writes that the new judge in the case of the suspected USS Cole bomber, al Nashiri, refused to step down yesterday following claims by the defense attorney that he was biased.
A newly elected parliament convened for its first session in Libya yesterday, amid an escalating conflict between rival militias in the capital, Tripoli, and fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick]. The UN Support Mission in Libya took the opportunity to call on all sides for “an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire,” stating that it was “hopeful” that the newly elected parliament would lead efforts “aimed at ending the security deterioration.”
The Associated Press writes that Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of committing war crimes as part of their fight against militant group Boko Haram, after graphic video footage was released showing extreme violence against civilians.
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