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August 18, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Widens Air Campaign in Northern Iraq - Matt Bradley, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Felicia Schwartz (Wall Street Journal)
    The U.S. widened its air campaign against Sunni extremists in Iraq, sending bombers for the first time in support of a Kurdish ground offensive to retake the Mosul Dam.
    Kurdish forces on Sunday managed to push back the militants from some positions around the dam by the end of the day.
    Nearly two dozen U.S. airstrikes targeted insurgent positions over the weekend; since Aug. 8, the U.S. has conducted some 50 airstrikes in Iraq.

Hamas: We Deported Foreign Journalists for Filming Missile Launches (MEMRI)
    Isra Al-Mudallal, head of foreign relations in the Hamas Information Ministry, admitted in an interview with Mayadeen TV on Aug. 14 that journalists who filmed the places from where missiles were launched were deported from Gaza.
    "The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people," she said.

Iran Involved in Cyber Attacks During Gaza War - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli military and civilian websites were attacked by hackers throughout the Gaza war, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer said Sunday.
    The officer stressed that the military's internal computer systems used for its operations were not subject to any significant attack. The interfaces between the military software and the civilian Internet network were reduced to protect it from hacking.
    At the same time, there were a number of significant cyber attacks directed at Israel's Internet infrastructure, which the officer said were coordinated by Iran. "They made a very intense cyber effort during the operation unlike any we had seen before, in terms of its scope and the type of targets."

Voices of Dissent Surface in War-Torn Gaza - Hamza Hendawi (AP)
    "We do not want to be bombarded every two or three years," said Ziad Rizk, a 37-year-old father of two, as he stared at the damaged apartment building where he lived in Beit Lahiya in Gaza.
    The men who spoke with AP were all neighbors who live in Al-Nada Towers, a collection of apartment buildings that was hit hard. They have no love for Israel, though older members of the community fondly remembered the days when they commuted to Israel for day jobs that put food on the table.
    Hamas has ruled with an iron fist since it took over Gaza. It does not tolerate dissent, detains critics and carries out extrajudicial executions of alleged spies for Israel. It is particularly intolerant of any criticism of its handling of the conflict with Israel.
    In almost every square and major intersection in Gaza City, giant billboards extoll the battlefield valor of Hamas fighters, their quest for martyrdom and their locally manufactured rockets.

20,000 March in India in Support of Israel - Amanda Borschel-Dan (Times of Israel)
    An estimated 20,000 people gathered in Calcutta, India, on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Israel.
    Protesters held banners stating "Hindus and Jews - united against terrorism," while community heads delivered speeches proclaiming Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas. Sikhs and Buddhists participated in the rally as well.

Egypt's el-Sisi Avoids Turkish Airspace (Hurriyet-Turkey)
    Egyptian President el-Sisi's official plane used an unusual flight path on its way back from Russia to avoid flying over Turkish airspace, the website reported on Aug. 13.
    The pilot also had to avoid Ukrainian airspace due to the ongoing clashes, so he flew to Egypt via Poland, Hungary, and Greece.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel: A Gaza Seaport Would Be an Iranian Seaport - Dave Bender
    Allowing Hamas to open a Gaza seaport would allow Iran direct access to rearm the Islamic terror group, Vice Admiral (ret.) Eliezer Marom, former chief of the Israeli Navy, told Israeli Army radio Sunday. "Let's say an Iranian ship docked at Gaza Port for a visit. We know that Iranian military vessels smuggle munitions nearly every time they hoist anchor....The security challenge would be immense, and it would be very difficult for us to keep an eye on things."  (Algemeiner)
        See also EU Backs Mission to Monitor Gaza-Egypt Crossing
    The European Union on Friday said it was willing to reactivate an EU mission on the Egypt-Gaza border. At talks in Brussels, EU foreign ministers said they could relaunch the EU Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah crossing (EUBAM Rafah) and possibly expand its scope. EUBAM started to monitor the crossing in 2005 but halted two years later when Hamas seized control of Gaza. (Reuters)
  • Islamic State Militants Execute 700 People from Syrian Tribe - Oliver Holmes and Suleiman al-Khalidi
    The Islamic State militant group has executed 700 members of the al-Sheitaat tribe it has been battling in eastern Syria during the past two weeks, the majority of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. Reliable sources reported beheadings were used to execute many of the tribe. An activist in Deir al-Zor said that 300 men were executed in one day in the town of Ghraneij. (Reuters)
        See also Islamic State Fighters Kill 84 Yazidi Villagers - Liz Sly
    Islamic State militants in Iraq on Friday killed 84 men and detained more than 300 women in the Yazidi village of Kocho, Yazidis and Kurdish officials said Saturday, following a week-long siege in which the IS demanded that residents convert to Islam or face death. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Braces for War Crimes Inquiries on Gaza - Isabel Kershner
    Lt. Col. Eran Shamir-Borer, head of the strategic affairs branch in the international law department at the IDF Military Advocate General's Corps, said in an interview that a recently established military committee of fact-finding teams is already investigating certain cases involving civilian casualties in Gaza.
        He said that the planned bombing of homes used by Hamas operatives or other groups as "command and control centers" or for weapons storage was reviewed house by house, based on intelligence and other considerations. Guidelines were set for some of the attacks, for example, determining that they could be carried out only at night, or with a drone to check that the residents had evacuated.
        Col. Shamir-Borer said his department had invited nongovernment organizations to submit complaints and had also approached them. "You know the international community is going to raise allegations," he said. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Hamas Will Not Cover Up Its Military Loss with a Diplomatic Achievement
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "We are in the midst of a combined military and diplomatic campaign. From the first day, the Israeli delegation to Cairo has worked under clear instructions: Insist on the security needs of the State of Israel. Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings."
        "If Hamas thinks that it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement, it is mistaken. If Hamas thinks that continued sporadic firing will cause us to make concessions, it is mistaken."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu Calls for Patience in War of Nerves with Hamas - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    Diplomatic sources said that one of the key messages Netanyahu conveyed during the cabinet meeting is the need for patience in the war of nerves Hamas is waging with the Israeli public. The Gaza operation is not yet complete, more time is needed, and the greater the patience and resolve of the country, the greater the chance that Israel will be able to achieve its goal of long-term security for the south. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Seeking Extension of Gaza Cease-Fire - Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid
    With the current cease-fire due to end Monday at midnight, Israeli officials seemed doubtful that the talks in Cairo could achieve an agreement before the deadline, but stressed that if Hamas withheld its fire, negotiations could continue. Egypt is seeking a formula that will enable both Israel and Hamas and the other Palestinian factions to declare an extension of the temporary cease-fire so that talks can continue, Palestinian sources said Sunday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza: A Broader Offensive? - Yaakov Lappin
    Should Hamas resume rocket attacks on Israel when the truce ends at midnight on Monday, the chances of Israel agreeing to conduct a prolonged war of attrition are low. The more likely scenario is that the IDF will initiate the next phase of its operational plans, based on a deep ground offensive into Gaza to begin dismantling Hamas' military. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Demolishes West Bank Kidnappers' Homes - Gili Cohen
    Following three appeals to the Israeli High Court of Justice, the IDF demolished the homes of two West Bank Palestinians responsible for the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, while sealing off the residence of a third. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hundreds of Fatah Members under Hamas House Arrest in Gaza - Elhanan Miller
    On July 28, Fatah activist Sami Abu Lashin opened the door of his Gaza home to discover some 20 masked men armed with rifles. One gunman fired a shot at Lashin's right thigh, and then two more at his left thigh, shattering the bone. "They claimed he had broken the house arrest imposed on him," wrote Sami Fouda on the Fatah Voice website on Saturday. On Sunday, a photo of Lashin at Shifa hospital was posted on Fatah's official Facebook page.
        While Palestinian negotiators in Cairo strained to present a unified front in cease-fire talks, Fatah continues to showcase stories of intimidation and physical assault against its members in Gaza. One Fatah official said Sunday that as many as 250 Fatah members have been told by Hamas to stay home, and as many as 125 were shot at by Hamas operatives when they refused to comply. Ten victims of gunshots to the legs have been transferred to hospitals in the West Bank.
        In June 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza, at least 118 Fatah members were killed and 550 wounded. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Best Friends Don't Have to Ask - David Schenker
    Israel has one of two American ammunition depots pre-positioned abroad - the other is in South Korea - that allies can access on any emergency basis and later replace. Last month, during the height of military operations in Gaza, Israel withdrew tank and illumination rounds for grenade launchers and other materiel as part of a foreign military sale. The last time Israel accessed this cache was in 2006, during its 34-day war with Lebanese Hizbullah. At the most basic level, the depot was intended to prevent a repeat of the 1973 war, when the Nixon administration famously delayed a resupply airlift to Israel.
        According to both Israeli and American defense officials, this latest withdrawal from the depot was a matter of sourcing rather than an emergency requirement. Apparently, much of the equipment had impending expiration dates - "almost obsolete," one former senior Israeli defense official told me - making it a convenient and very inexpensive purchase for Israel to be used for training rather than operational purposes. Of course, Israel did not need the ammunition to defeat Hamas.
        The Obama administration, furious to learn of the depot transaction, subsequently delayed the transfer of Hellfire missiles and said it would better scrutinize future arms sales, according to the Wall Street Journal. The writer, who served as Levant director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Politico)
  • Iran and the ISIS Challenge - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Sunni jihadists (ISIS) now constitute a real threat to Iran's strategic assets in Syria and Lebanon and especially to its aspiration to restore Shiite supremacy. Nouri al-Maliki, the former Shiite prime minister of Iraq who has close ties with Iran, has now paid the price for his neglect and abuse of the Sunnis.
        One of the main dangers stemming from ISIS' expansion is the spread of global terror beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. The U.S. has lost almost all its traditional allies in the region. One open question is whether it will also give up the Iranian nuclear card for a (hollow) promise from Tehran to help stabilize Iraq. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Female IDF Paramedics in the Gaza War - Anat Meidan
    Three women in regular service and another in the reserves served in Gaza for several days straight during Operation Protective Edge. The many wounded who the women cared for still occupy their memories along with thoughts of the pain, the operations, and the rehabilitation still waiting for their patients. More than anything, the four paramedics think about those who they couldn't save.
        Staff Sgt. Yonat Daskal, 23, was released from service after 3 1/2 years as a paramedic and set out for a four-month trip to South America. In July, just after arriving in Mexico, she understood from the many messages left by friends and colleagues in the army that something big was happening. "Throughout my regular service I was trained in preparation for the real thing and there was no way that I would be abroad when it happened," said Daskal. "I was in Gaza for a week-and-a-half straight and then another 24 hours in and out." On one night she was the first on the scene to treat ten wounded soldiers.
        Sgt. Tamar Bar-Ilan, 21, an armored corps paramedic, entered Gaza and was with members of her battalion inside a tank for 12 days. "I was the only women among the men, but it didn't bother me. We've been serving together for two years and know each other well....But this time it was different. I'd never been in a tank that had anti-tank missiles fired at it and in enemy territory."  (Ynet News)

Don't Set a Double Standard for Israel on Norms of War - Natan Sharansky (Washington Post)

  • One would be hard-pressed to find an Israeli who does not sympathize with the suffering of Gaza's victims. Yet there are also few Israelis who feel we are responsible for this suffering.
  • For us, the tragedy of Gaza is inseparable from the tragedy of the entire Middle East. Over the past three years, in countries around our tiny state, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed in the most horrific ways. The only border at which the savagery stops is Israel's.
  • Hamas and Hizbullah are doing their best to change this. So what protects us? The UN or human rights groups? No. Only the military power of the Israel Defense Forces. In response to our enemies' relentless campaigns, the army is constantly developing new ways to defend us. One new weapon, Iron Dome, has in the past few weeks protected civilians from almost 3,000 missiles.
  • The sad irony, then, is that while the world can do so little to stop the terror in Syria or Sudan, it can do a lot to press Israel to stop defending itself. We ask ourselves, is this hypocrisy? Is this a betrayal by the free world whose values we are defending?
  • 12 years ago, during the Second Intifada, I was a member of the Israeli security cabinet when the army first decided to use aviation to target terrorist leaders. In nearly every cabinet meeting, Israel's attorney general insisted that our targets must be chosen not on the basis of crimes already committed, but solely in light of proof that they were planning new terrorist acts. In other words, no matter how much death and destruction someone had caused, a targeted killing could be justified only by documented intentions to carry out another attack.
  • Now that targeted killings are practically the norm - when the U.S. uses drones for this purpose all over the world - I would hope others are as scrupulous as Israel has been. Before the IDF bombs an area in Gaza, residents are alerted by radio, e-mail, phone and text message telling them to leave. The Israeli army also uses small warning missiles to let civilians know that a real missile will soon be fired. Do other free countries go to similar lengths?

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