News Roundup and Notes: January 5, 2015

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

Palestine formally submitted its application to join the International Criminal Court on Friday, the latest move in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) efforts to bring charges against Israel for alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory. [Al Jazeera]

Israel responds to the ICC request. Israel decided to freeze the transfer of around $127.6 million in tax revenues to the PA. Jerusalem will reportedly ask pro-Israel lawmakers in the U.S. to ensure the enforcement of legislation requiring the State Department to halt aid to the PA, in the event of Palestine initiating action against Israel at the ICC. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]  And Israel is also “weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere” of senior Palestinian officials, according to an Israeli official. [Reuters’ Allyn Fisher-Ilan]

European leaders need to “stop giving Palestinians a pass,” according to Dennis B. Ross, who argues that recent symbolic moves simply put pressure on Israel while requiring “nothing of the Palestinians.” [New York Times]

Israeli authorities say they have arrested three Palestinian militants sympathetic to the Islamic State, who were allegedly planning attacks on Israeli soldiers. [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick]

PAKISTAN

The first drone strike of the year in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region killed eight people and wounded two others on Sunday. [Dawn’s Zahir Shah Sherazi]  The suspected U.S. strike reportedly targeted the base of an Uzbek commander. [New York Times’ Ismail Khan]

Pakistani airstrikes killed 31 suspected militants and destroyed militant hideouts in tribal regions along the Afghan border on late Saturday, according to officials. [AP]

Military courts “are not the answer” to fight militancy in Pakistan. The Dawn editorial board argues that the political leadership has failed to uphold the “constitutional and democratic roots of the system” by reinstating a system of military courts.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces recaptured a key village in northern Iraq from the Islamic State on Friday, some 50 miles from the regional capital of Erbil. [Al Jazeera America]

The Pentagon has denied attempting a Special Operations raid in Syria, following claims by a Syrian activist group in the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa. [Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. The U.S. and partner nations conducted six airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 3. Separately, the U.S. and partner nations carried out a further strike in Iraq. [Central Command]

Over 200 Sunni tribesmen have joined the Iraqi Security Forces to assist in the fight against the Islamic State, reports the U.S. Central Command.

An increasing number of foreigners are travelling to Syria to fight against the Islamic State. Reuters’ Benedetta Argentieri explores “who and why?”

Lebanon brought into force new restrictions on Syrian refugees entering the country today, further hindering the flow of asylum seekers trying to escape the conflict. [BBC]

The number of Iraqis killed in conflict has not been as high as current levels since 2007, with rates roughly doubling from 2013 to 2014, reports Swati Sharma for the Washington Post.

Western-backed Syrian political opposition group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, has appointed a new president and presidential committee. [Reuters]

NORTH KOREA

President Obama authorized a new set of sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to the Sony hack—the first time sanctions have been imposed as a direct consequence of a cyberattack on an American business, according to senior administration officials. [Politico’s Tal Kopan]

North Korea denounced the latest sanctions and restated its denial of involvement in the Sony cyberattack. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]

The Sony hack could be a “game changer” for cybersecurity reform, with a number of lawmakers promising to tackle the issue in the new Congress, reports Cory Bennett. [The Hill]  And Neal Pollard explores what is needed to win a cyber-war. [Politico Magazine]

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the deadline for foreign troop withdrawal from the country may need to be “re-examined” during an interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Support for the Afghanistan war has risen since 2013, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds that the majority of Americans support a plan to keep thousands of U.S. troops in the country in the coming year, reports Scott Clement. [Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The U.S. drone fleet is at “breaking point,” according to senior officials and an internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast, with too few pilots facing an excessive number of missions, reports Dave Majumdar.

Abu Anas al-Libi has died of liver disease in New York; the Libyan man charged in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania was due to face trial starting next week. [AP’s Maggie Michael]

A prosecution request to set out the trial schedule of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed has been refused by the case judge on the basis that there are too many outstanding issues. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Russia and the U.S. could return to an age of nuclear rivalry. Julian Borger explores the “widening rift” between the two countries, including over Moscow’s development of a new cruise missile. [The Guardian]

New York Review contributor Mark Danner discusses “our new politics of torture” with Hugh Eakin at NYR Blog, focusing on the findings of the recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA torture program.

An explosion damaged premises belonging to Yemen’s Houthi militia in western Sana’a today; no fatalities were reported. [Reuters]  The attack comes one day after a bomb in the main Shi’ite district of Sana’a killed four people and wounded 25 others. Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for that attack. [Al Jazeera]

A suicide bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killed five people yesterday; terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. [Al Jazeera]

Boko Haram seized control of a multinational military base in the northeastern town of Baga, Nigeria, on Saturday. [BBC]  On Friday the militant group kidnapped 40 males from the remote village of Malari. [AP]

Lawmakers may increase sanctions against Iran if nuclear negotiations fail to reach an accord, says Sen. Bob Corker, the incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [The Hill’s Kevin Cirilli]

Renewed UN-brokered peace talks over the political crisis in Libya have been delayed once again; the repeated delays are due to difficulties in getting parties to meet. [Reuters]

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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