Conflicts Intensify Around the World

As Huff Post’s Catherine Taibi put it: “Covering the violent scene in Gaza has proven difficult for even the most season reporter.” The above video shows Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh walked off camera on Sunday during a report on the dozens of people killed and thousands of Shijaiyah residents fleeing their home while Israeli aircraft bombed the area. Taibi reports in her article Al Jazeera Reporter Breaks Down On The Air In Gaza that Al-Dahdouh is an award winning journalist who has covered the conflicts in his hometown for years, but could not hide his emotions while reporting on the 87 Palestinians killed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made another trip to the Middle East hoping to jump start a deal for a renewed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a weekend where the civilian death toll increased dramatically, Lara Jakes reports Kerry returns to Mideast to push for cease-fire. Kerry left for Cairo on Monday from Washington to join dimplomatic efforts to resume a truce that was agreed upon in November 2012. The goal is to urge Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement offered by Egypt halting the two weeks of fighting which has resulted in 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis being killed. The Obama administration and Kerry have criticized Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel and other provocations such as tunneling under the border. In addition, it has also back peddled on its earlier criticisms of Israel for attacks on Gaza that resulted in civilian and child deaths. On Sunday night, the State Department confirmed that two Americans, Max Steinberg of California and Nissim Carmeli of Texas, who fought for Israel were killed in fighting in Gaza. While on Sunday talk shows, Kerry said Hamas needs to take their own responsibility for the conflict, telling ABC’s “This Week”: “It’s ugly. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen.” Both Obama and Kerry said Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, while Kerry accused Hamas of attempting to kidnap and sedate Israelis through a network of tunnels. On CNN’s “State of the Union”, Kerry said that Hams must “step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire.” The two week conflict has escalated in recent days as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon continues to try and revive ceasefire efforts in the region. Obama via phone Sunday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Kerry was coming to the Mideast and condemned Hamas’ attacks, according to a White House statement. The U.N. relief agency in Gaza estimates 70,000 Palestinians have fled from the fighting and seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the U.N. has set up. According to Jakes: “The prime minister said his top goal is to restore a sustainable peace, but he then will ask the international community to consider demilitarizing Gaza to rid Hamas of its rockets and shut down the tunnels leading into Israel.”

On Monday, the death toll among Palestinians reached 508 with the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two week campaign, according to Gaza heath officials, while diplomats continue to try to reach a ceasefire deal. Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Palestinian death toll in Gaza fighting at 508, that the U.N. Security Council has expressed serious concern about the increase in civilian deaths and demanded an immediate end to fighting following the emergency session in New York. Meanwhile, Israeli military foiled a Hamas infiltration attempt Monday through two tunnels into southern Israel from northern Gaza. The military said 10 infiltrators were killed after being detected and targeted by Israel aircraft, Laub and Enav report. On Sunday, the first major ground battle killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and caused thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in an area where alleged rocket launches took place and now devastated by fighting. The 13 Israeli soldiers died in clashed with militants in Shiyajiah, a Gaza City neighborhood, bring the Israeli death toll to 20. Among all the carnage, the Associated Press reports that Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Gaza on Monday killing four people and wounding 60 according to Palestinian officials. Despite the new diplomatic efforts to renew a ceasefire, Israel continues to attack targets in the densely populated coastal strip by air and tanks, while Hamas fires more rockets and utilizes its network of tunnels under the border. A dozen shells hit the Al Aqsa hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah on Monday hitting the administrative building, the intensive care unit and the surgery department. A doctor at the hospital, Fayez Zidane, told Al Aqsa TV station that shells hit the third and fourth floor and the reception area. The Israeli military said it was looking into it. On Monday, one family member Sabri Abu Jamea, who witness their home in Khan Younis be destroyed by one airstrike burying 25 people including 24 from the same family, said: “Twenty-five people! Doesn’t this indicate that Israel is ruthless? Are we the liars? The evidence is here in the morgue refrigerators. The evidence is in the refrigerators.” Hamas fired 50 more rockets into Israel with two pointed at Tel Aviv, but caused no injuries or damage. Addressing a parliamentary committee, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “If needed we will recruit more reservists in order to continue the operation as long as necessary until the completion of the task and the return of the quiet in the whole of Israel especially from the threat of the Gaza Strip.”

While Israel and Hamas continue to fight it seems an un-winnable battle, Ukraine and the rest of the world try to piece together the tragedy of Malaysian Flight 17. On Monday, a refrigerated train carrying the victims of flight 17 finally left a rebel held town in Eastern Ukraine, according to Dmitry Lovetsky and David McHugh Hrabove, Train with plane crash bodies leaves rebel town. Hours earlier, Dutch experts called for a full forensic sweep of the Flight 17 crash site telling the armed separatists controlling the area that the train needs to leave as soon as possible. It has been four days since the Boeing 777 was shot down killing 298 people. The U.S., Ukraine and others have accused Moscow of supplying rebels with the arms used to shoot down the plan. Russia has denied the allegations. In Washington, President Barack Obama insisted that international investigators be given full access to the crash site and accused the separatists of removing evidence and blocking investigators. Obama asked, “What exactly are they trying to hide?” This came after the U.S. presented evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface to air missile. At the U.N. in New York, the Security Council voted Monday on an Australia proposed resolution demanding access to the site and a ceasefire in the area. According to the article, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a veto vote from Russia would be viewed very badly adding that no reasonable person could object. Fighting continued between separatists and government troops in Donetsk about 30 miles west of the crash site on Monday near the town’s airport, according to city authorities. After the bodies left Torez, two military jets flew overhead and black smoke could be seen rising in the distance. The Netherlands are concerned about the bodies since 192 of the victims were Dutch. Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte said Monday that repatriating the bodies was his no.1 priority. Meanwhile, workers recovered 21 bodies from the site bring the total to 272 bodies found, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk confirmed. At the Torez station, the Dutch investigators stood for a moment with their heads bowed and hands clasped before climbing aboard to inspect. In Kharkiv, another team of international experts arrived including three Australians, 23 Dutch, two Germans, two Americans and one person from the U.K. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s prime minister said the rebels will hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Ukraine late Monday. Putin criticized the Ukrainian government in Kiev, saying: “If fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened. Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives.” To counter the U.S. claims, Russian officials offered evidence that proves Ukrainian surface to air systems were operating in the area before the crash. In addition, they also had evidence that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet flew between 2 to 3 miles from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

While fighting continues to escalate in the previously mentioned conflicts, some decades long battles seem to be flaring up again. Officials on Monday confirmed that attack overnight in two Iraqi cities killed at least 16 people as authorities struggle to stop a Sunni offensive that has taken large areas of northern and western Iraq. As Sinan Salaheddin reports, Overnight attacks in Iraq kill at least 16 people, one attack on a Shiite neighborhood in Mahmoudiya on Sunday night left 11 civilians dead and 31 wounded according to police. In Bagdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol killing two soldiers and three volunteer soldiers while wounding eight people. In January, al-Qaida breakaway, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. In June, the Islamic State launched a massive blitz offensive that ended with the group controlling large parts of northern and western Iraq. On Friday, the U.S. mission in Iraq said at least 5,576 civilians have died and another 11,665 were wounded in the first six months of the year with 1.2 million people uprooted due to violence. According to the U.N., the civilian deaths so far this year are a dramatic increase from the previous year with 7,800 civilian deaths. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber targeted a police convoy in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province Monday killing two people, one civilian and one police, according to a local official. The Associate Press reports, Afghan official: Suicide bombing kills 2 in south, the attack happened in Lashkar Gah wounding an additional 15 people including eight policemen and seven civilians according to Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban frequently used roadside bombs and suicide attacks against Afghan and NATO forces and government offices in their country. Last month, hundreds of Taliban insurgents attacked several Afghan security checkpoints in Sangin district of Helmand killing more than 100 people and displacing dozens from their homes in a week long intensive battle. The government in response deployed 2,000 reinforcements there. The attacks and fighting are continually testing the Afghan government’s ability to maintain security in the volatile areas after foreign combat troops leave at the end of this year.

International Conflicts: Bridging the Divide

https://i1.wp.com/www.iiss.org/-/media/Images/Publications/The%20Military%20Balance/MilBal%202014/Conflict-Map-2014-crop-798x449.jpg

Conflict Map 2014 Courtesy of the International Institute of Strategic Studies

The recent advancement of the Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria has led both countries into violent chaos and instability, while Israel and Afghanistan are experiencing similar situations with various militant factions. Similarly Russia and Ukraine are undergoing a different type of exclusion policy orchestrated by their own governments causing unrest between its own people. While the wars or conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained prolonged as the problems within their governments have never been addressed, the larger global cause of these conflicts seems to be the policies of exclusion that create an environment which allows radical organizations like ISIS to gain ground. According to Marwan Muasher, How the Iraq Crisis Highlights a Need for Inclusion Policies Across the Middle East, the Iraqi crisis highlights how sectarian conflicts are tearing the Arab country apart with Syria serving as an extreme example. During the Arab Spring, many of its leaders have used the religious and ethnic divides to gain or stay in power while taking away the rights of the non-ruling sectors of society. Muasher explains:

“Governments that have risen to power during the Arab Spring claiming visions of building pluralistic societies have, once in power, embraced exclusionary policies that only benefit certain sectors of society. Inclusionary policies in Iraq and throughout the region must be embraced in order to achieve political pluralism. The Arab world must accept and pride itself on the diversity of its people and allow all voices to be heard. The Arab uprisings demand that all regimes reconsider their policies to allow for differences of views, ethnicities, and beliefs, so they treat every citizen as equal.”

The focus in Iraq and with many of these exclusionary governments should be to build a pluralistic society rather than living in the past. The process itself will be painful and take some time, but each country must take action and responsibility for their own destiny. For democracy to take hold, each country must build a national identity stronger than any individual allegiance by embracing all people regardless of political, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, and gender equity. Muasher brilliantly and simply points out that the U.S. and international community needs to look at these conflicts not just as military actions to secure the region, but as a transition period for each. The transition period may take years to see progress, however inclusion not exclusion must be embraced in order to having a functioning society as a commitment to pluralism will lead to a sustainable political and economic renewal. In addition, Muasher points out that inclusion in the political process for all parties will allow everyone to feel they have a stake in the system:

“What is worse than the Skyes-Picot agreement, which produced artificial boundaries in the Eastern part of the Arab world, is its dissolution. Ethnically or religiously pure states are not the answer to achieving productive societies. Rather, it will lead to non-viable entities at war with each other. A separated Iraq will only result in more war and strife for years to come.”

If inclusion doesn’t become a standard policy, then not only the Middle East but Afghanistan and Ukraine will also become victims of their own exclusionary policies that so far has caused devastation, death and destruction. Here is a summary of the numerous news stories this week about what exclusion policies can do:

Israeli military masses troops along Gaza border
Jul 8th 2014 4:53PM
JOSEF FEDERMAN AND NAJIB JOBAINJERUSALEM (AP)

On Tuesday, Israel launched its largest offensive in Gaza in nearly two years aiming at numerous targets and killing 19 people in order to end weeks of heavy rocket fire. While Gaza militants unleashed rockets onto Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel mobilized its troops along the Gaza border for a possible invasion making this offensive the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since the 8 day battle in November 2012. In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the rocket attacks on Israeli communities would not be tolerated. Israel and Hamas have remained bitter enemies over the years with numerous rounds of fighting, however, a truce had ended the conflict in 2012. The fighting continued throughout the day with many Palestinian residents of Gaza running from their homes as Israel continued its airstrikes leaving some with bloody faces and many to pick up the motionless bodies of fellow Palestinians. In addition, many residents, fearing an Israeli ground operation, moved deeper into Gaza to stay with relatives. In southern Israel, hundreds of thousands of citizens were ordered to stay indoors due to the rocket fire from Gaza leaving the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem deserted. According to military Israeli military officials, when asked by Channel 2 TV if a cease fire is possible, the military spokesman replied “Not now.” The U.S. State Department condemned the rocket fire on Israel and hoped Israel’s strong message would deter further attacks, according to spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The escalation on Tuesday has led many world leaders to condemn the actions of Hamas and call for restraint. According to the article:

” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the indiscriminate multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and demanded an immediate halt to the attacks, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to take necessary measures to stop the violence.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attacks and urged calm. ‘The people of Israel have the right to live without constant fear for their security; the people of Gaza also have the right to live in peace,’ he said.”

Afghanistan Suicide Attack Near Clinic Claims At Least 16 Lives, Including 4 Foreign Troops
By AMIR SHAH and RAHIM FAIEZ
Posted: 07/08/2014 3:22 am EDT Updated: 07/08/2014 2:59 pm EDT

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah told his supporters on Tuesday that he will claim victory in the country’s election claiming massive fraud caused his rival to take the lead in the preliminary results. In response, the United States warned both camps against seizing power as it would put international financial and security support at stake. According to the article, violence has escalated once again across the country as a suicide bomber struck Afghan and foreign forces near a eastern province clinic in Parwan that killed 16 people. Abdullah will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday at the Afghan capital on Friday in a bid to defuse the situation. The Afghan Independent Election Commission on Monday said that June 14 preliminary results put former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the lead for the presidency however no winner has been declared due to millions of ballots being audited for fraud. The article states: “According to the preliminary results, Ahmadzai had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent. Turnout was more than 50 percent.” In the first round of voting on April 5, Abdullah had more votes with46 percent to Ahmadzai’s 31.6 percent but did not get the majority need to avoid a runoff. While Abdullah refused to recognize this second round of voting, Ahmadzai, a U.S. educated former finance minister and World Bank official, had this to say:

“‘We welcome him (Kerry) coming here, but the real responsibility is up to us and we are hopeful that we will fulfill all our responsibilities,’ he said at a news conference at his home in Kabul. ‘We are prepared to engage in political discussion in order to make sure that we move to insure the legitimacy of the process, its fairness and the acceptance of its results.'”

The election commission does admit that vote rigging had occurred and will audit ballots from 7,000 of the 23,000 polling stations. Abdullah claims that the President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadzai and the election commission were colluding against him. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan called for both candidates to show restraint and take steps to control their supporters in order to prevent civil disorder and instability.

Ukraine takes aggressive stance toward separatists
Jul 9th 2014 2:31AM
By YURAS KARMANAU and PETER LEONARD

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian government announced it would remove  pro-Russia separatists from their reduced area of control and impose new condition before peace talks happen. However, the government will not use air and artillery strikes to regain control of rebel held territories in eastern Ukraine in order to avoid terrorizing civilians. After losing Slovyansk, the militants regrouped in Donetsk where they occupy government building and move around the city. Adrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self proclaimed independent Donetsk People’s Republic, said the rebels have 15,000 fighters and will defend the city a major industrial hub of 1 million. More than 400 people have died and tens of thousands have fled during the three month long standoff between the government in Kiev who took power after the ousting of the Russia friendly president in February and rebels. Rebels in Ukraine and nationalists in Russia want the Kremlin to protect insurgents, however Russian President Vladimir Putin remains wary of further sanctions by the West which has already banned visas and asset freezes on Russian officials and members of Putin’s inner circle after Crimea was annexed in March. According to the article, Defense Minister Valery Heletey on Tuesday said the cease fire negotiations will not continue until the rebels lay down their arms which is something the rebels refuse to do.