News Roundup and Notes: November 18, 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 and PALESTINE

A terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem has killed four people and wounded eight others this morning. Two Palestinian suspects, who were armed with axes, knives and a pistol, were killed in a shootout with police at the scene. [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson et al]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond with a “heavy hand” and blamed Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting violence that led to the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strong condemnation of the attack and called on Palestinian leadership at all levels to condemn the attack. President Abbas has since offered a statement of condemnation, although Hamas praised the attack as a response to the death of the Palestinian bus driver earlier this week. Violent clashes in East Jerusalem have been reported in the aftermath of the attack. [The Guardian’s Matthew Weaver]

The Palestinian pathologist who participated in the autopsy of the hanged Palestinian bus driver disputes the forensic report of suicide and asserts foul play, contrary to the official standpoint of Israeli police. [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson]

Anshel Pfeffer suggests why the recent upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian violence is not the third intifada and is “far from a paradigm-changing uprising.” [Haaretz]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Iraqi security forces have entered the Baiji oil refinery, following five months of intense battling with Islamic State militants, according to local sources. [Reuters’ Raheem Salman]

Syrian rebel groups are “slowly” gaining control of the Daraa province, where fighters under the Free Syrian Army banner have a large presence, reports Mustafa al-Haj. [Al-Monitor]

The U.S.-led coalition continued to attack the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq Friday through Monday, carrying out 11 airstrikes in Syria and a further 20 airstrikes in Iraq. [Central Command]

There is a “shortage” of drones and other surveillance planes, required to monitor the Islamic State, because Afghanistan continues to receive preferential treatment in the distribution of resources, senior military officials have told Dave Majumdar at The Daily Beast.

More than 1,000 Syrian defectors have set up camp in Turkey, “a monument to missed opportunities” in the civil war, as Western countries failed to agree on a strategy for assisting the military defectors. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson]

French authorities confirmed that French national Maxime Hauchard appeared in the execution video of American aid worker Peter Kassig. A second French citizen may also be among the militants in the Islamic State video, but this could not yet be confirmed. [France 24]  Meanwhile, a British man denied earlier reports that his son featured in the beheading video. [Reuters]

Intelligence agencies across Britain, France, Australia, and south-east Asia are trying to identify the suspected foreign jihadists in the Islamic State’s latest video. [The Guardian’s Steven Morris et al]

The Obama administration is conducting a top-to-bottom review of the U.S. policy governing efforts to secure the release of American hostages held by militant groups overseas. [The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris]

A UN panel is pushing the Security Council to call on states to seize oil trucks crossing in and out of territory controlled by militant groups in Iraq and Syria. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The EU imposed new sanctions on individual separatists in eastern Ukraine yesterday, but refrained from expanding sanctions against Russia. [New York Times’ James Kanter]

Five Ukrainian troops have been killed in the country’s east in the past 24 hours, as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier prepares to hold crisis talks in Kiev and Moscow. [Reuters]

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg denounced the “serious military buildup” both on the Russian side of the border and inside Ukraine, calling on Moscow to pull back its troops. [Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that two rounds of NATO expansion since 2001 have been “significant geopolitical game changers,” suggesting that Moscow has been forced to respond. The Guardian’s Alec Luhn provides more details of the interview, which follows Russia’s “tit-for-tat” expulsions of Polish and German ambassadors.

“The Ukraine crisis is most likely not just a regional problem … [but] affects us all,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday. [New York Times’ Alison Smale]

There has been “a significant increase in threatening nuclear talk from Russia,” writes Gideon Rachman, who outlines why this is dangerous. [Financial Times]

Putin is “becoming increasingly isolated, which could make him more aggressive,” warns Christoph Hasselbach, calling on the EU “to stick to a common line.” [Deutsche Welle]

Eastern Ukraine is on the brink of a “full-scale war,” with Russian troops and tanks crossing the border into Ukraine, writes Jamie Dettmer [The Daily Beast]

AFGHANISTAN

A suicide attack in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed at least two Afghan guards this morning. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted a base for foreign forces. [Reuters]

About 1,000 U.S. security personnel will be based at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul following the formal end of the military mission in the country, according to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe]

Germany will keep up to 850 soldiers in Afghanistan next year to assist in the training of local forces, according to a Defense Ministry spokesperson speaking today. [Reuters]

The Washington Post editorial board calls on Congress to renew the program of special visas for Afghan interpreters, writing that roughly 9,000 people will be left stranded if it is not extended.

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will “loosen his grip” on procedure if the Senate votes to advance the USA Freedom Act today. Reid will not use a procedural move to prevent consideration of amendments to the bill, allowing critics an opportunity to stage their opposition. [Politico’s Burgess Everett]

The “misnamed USA Freedom Act is exquisitely crafted to hobble the gathering of electronic intelligence,” argue Michael V. Hayden and Michael B. Mukasey. In an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, they write that reform of national security procedures “is not something to be rushed through in a lame-duck session.”

The New York Times editorial board stresses the need to pass the USA Freedom Act “before a new Senate can water it down.”

The Washington Post editorial board calls on the Senate to approve the USA Freedom Act and “preserve [the] delicate and authentic compromise” contained in the NSA reform bill.

Following reports of a suspected cyberattack targeting the State Department, Democrats on the House Government Oversight Committee have requested details about the security breach. [AP]

IRAN

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that a nuclear deal with Iran can be reached by the Nov. 24 deadline, but Iran needs to show more flexibility in negotiations. [Reuters]

Laurence Norman reports on indications from Western officials that an extension on the deadline will likely be necessary as it is unclear whether Iran’s negotiating team “has the political space to make further compromises on outstanding issues.” [Wall Street Journal]

“[T]he ghosts of previous failed attempts at American-Iranian rapprochement loom large” in the run up to the Nov. 24 deadline. [AP]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

There was a 61% increase in deaths from terrorist attacks between 2012 and 2013, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2014 report. There were nearly 10,000 attacks in 2013, a 44% increase from the previous year, and 80% of attacks took place in five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. [BBC’s Helier Cheung]

Sen. Joe Manchin said that “Congress must debate” the status quo at Guantanamo Bay, emphasizing that the detention center does not make Americans safer and is “wildly expensive.” [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]  Carol Rosenberg explores the status quo, as “Guantanamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year … with no end in sight.” [Miami Herald]

Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, AQIM, has released a video purporting to show a French and a Dutch hostage; the two have been held in the Sahara since 2011 when they were captured separately in Mali. [France 24 and AFP]

Egypt plans to double the size of the secured buffer zone along the Gaza Strip; the decision follows the discovery of smuggling tunnels along the frontier which were longer than expected. [New York Times’ Kareem Fahim and Merna Thomas]

A number of Gulf States will reinstate their ambassadors to Qatar. The diplomats were withdrawn eight months ago due to a rift in relations largely attributed to what was seen as Qatar’s support for Islamist groups. [AP]

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan intends to extend the state of emergency in three northeastern states suffering from Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency in the region. [Al Jazeera]

Kenyan police conducted raids on two mosques in Mombasa yesterday, a move described as a “breakthrough” for police intelligence on radicalized Muslims, some of whom are suspected to have links to Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. [AP]  In apparent armed reprisals, a group of ten youths killed three people following the raids. [Reuters]

A former British citizen and Muslim convert is appealing to the U.K. Supreme Court that he has been left stateless, after he was stripped of his citizenship on suspicion of alleged extremism. [BBC]

The U.A.E has designated two American organizations which represent Muslims as terrorist groups; neither group is designated by the U.S. and the listing is thought to be prompted by U.A.E.’s strong stance on the Muslim Brotherhood. [Washington Post’s Adam Taylor]

Peace talks between Sudan and rebels adjourned yesterday in Ethiopia, to be reconvened at a date as yet undecided. [New York Times’ Isma’il Kushkush]

The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee votes today on a resolution that demands North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court; the vote follows a UN commission of inquiry report on the country earlier this year. [AP]

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).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security