Palestinian Israeli Ceasefire , Russia and Ukraine Push Their Boundaries and the Islamic State Militia Continues to Expand Its Middle Eastern Territory

https://i0.wp.com/media.cagle.com/82/2014/07/18/151093_600.jpg

http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1824863!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/bill-bramhall-editorial-cartoon-obama-game.jpg

Israel withdrew most of its troops from Gaza on Sunday which could be a sign that Israel is winding down its month long offensive against Hamas leaving 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis dead. AOL reports, Israel withdraws most troops from Gaza, even though Israel is close to completing its mission, heavy fighting continued with 10 Palestinians being killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike near a U.N. school, according to U.N. and Palestinians officials. The U.S. and United Nations condemned the attack. It is uncertain whether Israel would unilaterally end the war since Hamas officials vowed to continue their fight. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed most of the ground troops have pulled out of Gaza after destroying a majority of the Hamas tunnel network. He said Israel detected 30 tunnels dug along the border for what he called a “synchronized attack” on Israel. However, Lerner said the operation was not over and Israel will continue to target Hamas’ rocket firing capabilities as well as its ability to infiltrate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voes to continue his assault against Hamas, but has come under international pressure to halt the fighting due to a high civilian death toll. U.N. officials say more than three quarters of the dead are civilians including the 10 killed on Sunday at a U.N. school in Rafah. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and demanded a quick investigation, while the U.S. State Department said Washington was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” attack. Israel Cabinet minister Amir Peretz told channel 10: “It’s not a withdrawal. It’s setting up a new line that is a more controlled line with the air force doing its work.” One senior officials, under conditions of anonymity because he was discussing internal Hamas deliberations, said: “If Israel stops unilaterally, Hamas will declare victory and will not grant any security or truce to Israel. In this case, we are going to live under a war of attrition until a political solution is found.”

Unfortunately, a seven hour truce went into effect Monday after Israel agreed it would unilaterally hold fire in Gaza, but Palestinians immediately accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire agreement by bombing a house in Gaza, Reuters reports, Palestinians accuse Israel of immediately breaking 7-hour ceasefire that began Monday at 3am EST. An Israel military spokeswoman said she was checking into it, while Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 15 people were wounded in the strike on a house in Shati camp of mostly women and children. An Israeli defense officials said the ceasefire would apply to all areas except Rafah where ground forces have intensified assaults after three soldiers died in a Hamas ambush Friday. While a Hamas envoy in Egypt negotiates a truce that Israel has shunned in anger, Sami Abu Zuhri, the group’s spokesman said: “The calm Israel declared is unilateral and aims to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres. We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution.” Meanwhile, Israeli Brigadier General Motti Almoz told Army Radio: “Redeployment lets us work on the tunnels, provides defense (of Israeli communities nearby) and lets the forces set up for further activity. There is no ending here, perhaps an interim phase.” According to Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav, Cease-fire slows Gaza war as Israeli bus attacked, while Israel declared the temporary ceasefire and troops withdrawals slowed violence on Monday in Gaza, an Israeli bus was attacked killing one person in Jerusalem which symbolizes the tensions simmering in the region. For the moment though, violence seems to be waning as Hamas rocket fire tapers off and Israel’s ground operation in Gaza winds down. According to the article: “Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed cellphone video of what it said was the attack, with the yellow excavator slamming its large shovel into the bus. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a police officer in the area opened fire and killed the attacker. A pedestrian also was killed, said Jerusalem district police chief Yossi Piranti.” Before the attacks, the seven hour Israeli ceasefire in Gaza was in effect , even though Israel continued to hit selected Palestinians target, the level of fighting was lower than previous days.

Fortunately, on Monday, as Josef Federman reports, Israel accepts Egyptian cease-fire plan, the Israeli government has finally accepted an Egyptian ceasefire deal to halt the month long war against Hamas militants in Gaza signaling the end of one of the bloodiest rounds of fighting, according to a senior Israeli official said. In addition, the official said a preliminary truce would begin at 8am Tuesday as the Israeli delegation would head to Egypt to work out a long term truce over the next three days. A delegation of Palestinian officials has negotiated with Egypt in recent days and representative have accept the proposal, while Hamas had no comment but has delegate presents at the time. Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said, “It’s clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a cease-fire. It’s going to be tough negotiations because Israel has demands too.” Under conditions of anonymity, the Israeli official said Israel will be watching the negotiation “with a certain amount of skepticism” given the previous failures.

Meanwhile, the Russian military is exercising their power as a show of their strength near the border with Ukraine, while Ukrainian troops cross over into Russia. Reuters reports, Russia Conducts Military Exercises With More Than 100 Aircraft Near Ukraine, Igor Kilmov quoted by Interfax news agency said it was the first session in a series to increase the unity of the air force this year as well as conduct missile practice with some of Russia’s newest frontline bombers and did not mention Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government. While, Laura Mills reports, Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia, a Russian border security official said 400 Ukrainian soldiers crossed into Russia, an Interfax news agency report said. There were conflicting reports on both sides of why the soldiers were there. The Russian official said the soldiers deserted the Kiev governments and the Russian side opened the corridor, however, a Ukrainian military official said the soldiers were forced into Russian territory by rebel fire after running out of ammunition. Vasily Malayev, head of the Federal Security Service’s border patrol in the Rostov region, told Interfax 438 soldiers on Monday were allowed to safely enter the country. A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the east, Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky, said the 72nd brigade army was pinned into their position due to a sustained barrage of fire from separatists forcing the brigade to split up into two sections. The battle in eastern Ukraine has been raging since April and claimed at least 1,129 civilians, according to a U.N. estimate. Though Russia denies any involvement, Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of providing the rebels with equipment and expertise.

On Sunday, Islamic State fighters claimed control of Iraq’s biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns on Sunday inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since moving across norther Iraq in June, Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman report, Islamic State Seizes Small Towns In Iraq’s North. Capturing the electricity generating Mosul Dam could allow Sunni militants to flood major Iraqi cities or withhold water in a bid to topple Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government. In addition, the Islamic state has seized the Ain Zalah pil field, adding to the four others it controls providing funding for their operation, and three towns. The group poses the biggest threat to OPEC member Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 as it has already declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over Muslims. On Sunday, the group also fought in a border town far away in Lebanon symbolizing its ambition to spread across the Middle East. So far, it controls cities in Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates valley s north and west of Baghdad and a large portion of Syria stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Aleppo in the northwest. In a statement, the Islamic State said, “Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas. The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey.” The Islamic State has tried to consolidate its gains by setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields as well as border crossing with Syria so it can move supplies back and forth. Maliki’s opponents say the prime minister, a Shi’ite Islamist who is trying to stat in power for a third term after an inconclusive parliamentary election in April, is to blame for the insurgency due to excluding Sunnis from power. Additionally, Kurdish leaders call for Maliki to step down to create a more inclusive government in Baghdad. After Sunday’s withdrawal of Kurdish troops, the Kurdish region is pressing Washington for sophisticated weapons to help their fighters to push back the Islamist militants, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials. The Islamic State’s ambitions have caused other Arab states to take notice and fear their success will embolden militants region wide. Meanwhile, in Lebanon on Monday, thousands of civilians and Syrian refugees fled in packed cars and pickup trucks from an eastern border town where militants from Syria have overrun, Bassem Mroue reports, Thousands flee as Lebanese battle Syrian militants. The fleeing comes as Lebanese troops struggle to rid Arsal of the Syrian extremists marking the most serious spillover of violence from Syria’s cavil war into Lebanon and increasing fears that Lebanon is becoming a new front for Syria;s conflict, now in its third year. In all, at least 11 Lebanese troops have been killed and 13 missing in the Arsal clashes that erupted Saturday after Syrian militants crossed the border and overran army positions in the area.

Growing Global Conflicts: Finding Peace in A Restless World

On Monday of this week, as the death toll in Gaza rises to 175 after a week long Israeli airstrike offensive, the Israeli military said it downed a drone launched by militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel began the campaign against Hamas controlled Gaza last Tuesday in response to rocket fire from the densely populated territory. In total, the military has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Palestinian militants have launched close to 1,000 rockets at Israel, Peter Enav reports (Israel Says It’s Downed Drone Along Southern Coast). The unmanned drone, which was shot down by Israel, represent a new level of sophistication for Hamas which has never admitted to having such a weapon. The Israeli military confirmed that the dsrone was shot down mid-flight by a Patriot surface to air missile along the southern Israeli coastline never Ashdod. Speaking under anonymity, a senior military official, said Israel was aware Hamas possessed drones and Israel has targets Hamas drone facilities in Gaza previously. In a media statement, Hamas alleges that three drones were launched into Israel on Monday with only one confirmed by Israel. According to Enav, drones refer to a range of unmanned aircraft from rudimentary to advanced with weapons or surveillance capabilities. Hamas said it has both intelligence and munitions drones. In addition, the group alleges that it lost contact with one drone and targets included the Israeli Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said,”Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness. The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defense system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible.”

On Monday fighting continued as two Israeli airstrikes struck the southern city of Khan Younis killing four Palestinians and raising the death toll to at least 175 people killed including dozens of civilians, according to officials at European Hospital and the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. No Israelis have been killed in Hamas rocket fire, however, several people have been wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday, said the current operation could last a long time and the military is prepared for all possibilities including a Gaza ground invasion. The outbreak of violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an alleged revenge attack, along with Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure in West Bank. Though the killers of the Palestinian teenagers have been caught, the killer of the three teenagers has yet to be caught. Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice. Israel accuses Hamas of the killing and cracked down on the Islamic militants in the West Bank after the abduction of the teens causing Gaza to respond with rocket fire that led to the current round of fighting.

However since the fighting began, Netanyahu has come under international pressure to end the operation. On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that America was ready to help restore calm. A key mediator between Israel and Hamas, Egypt continued to work to stop the conflict as Hamas has shown signs it would agree to a ceasefire if hundreds of arrested activist were freed as part of a truce. On the other hand, Netanyahu wants to show the Israeli public that he can succeed in degrading Hamas’s ability to strike Israeli targets before moving to a truce.

Unfortunately, Tuesday confirmed that Hamas has rejected Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire with Israel after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan squashing international efforts to end the fighting that’s killed 192 Palestinians and risking the lives of Israelis. The Associated Press reports, Israel accepts cease-fire to end Gaza conflict; Hamas calls proposal unacceptable,  that senior Israeli government officials now warn that Israeli will strike Gaza harder if Hamas does not accept the truce. The Egyptian proposal for a truce presented on late Monday called for a stop to the violence as of Tuesday morning followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza’s borders which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hams seized the territory in 2007. On conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official said, “As you know, the Cabinet has accepted the Egyptian proposal. If Hamas rejects it, Israel will continue and intensify its operations and Hamas will find itself totally isolated, including in the Arab world, which supports the proposal.” In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the proposal was not acceptable as Hamas officials are weary of promises from Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade since the promise was part of the 2012 truce, which was broken due to a violent flare up. Referring to the 2012 truce, he said,” It’s not logical to ask people who are under aggression to cease fire and then later to negotiate terms that were not respected in the past by the Israelis.” The ease of the blockade is crucial to Hamas’ survival because the outbreak of fighting has left the militant group in serious financial woes  as the closure by Egypt has prevented cash and goods from being smuggled in across the Gaza-Egypt border.

As of Tuesday afternoon, in Gaza, the death toll now stands at 194 people killed with 1,400 wounded so far making it the deadliest conflict between Israel and Hamas in over five years. Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza on Tuesday and warned that the Islamic militant group will pay the price for not accepting the Egyptian truce plan and unleashing rocket fire at the Jewish state killing one Israeli. According to Karin Laub and Aron Heller,  Israel: Hamas to pay price for its ‘no’ to truce, Hamas does not consider Egypt’s current ruler a fair broker, who ousted the Hamas friendly government in Cairo a year ago. Hamas will continue to fight as it has little to lose, while a truce on unfavorable terms could weaken the grip on the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Reaffirming this stance, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday with more than 40 rockets hitting in a few minutes and causing the first Israeli death since the beginning of the offensive. In a TV response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated,”Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision. When there is no cease-fire, our answer is fire.” After holding fire for six hours, the Israeli air force opened fired launching 33 strikes from midafternoon. In Washington, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said Israel had the right to defend itself, but would not want to see a ground invasion. Hamas officials rejected the plan on Tuesday noting they weren’t consulted by Cairo and see the truce as an ultimatum to Hamas from Israel and Egypt. A top Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen: “The siege on Gaza must be broken, and the people of Gaza should live freely like other people of the world. There should be a new equation so that we will not have a war on Gaza every two years.” In addition, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader in Gaza, had this to say: “Mediation to end this aggression needs to come from different countries, and the guarantees should be given by different countries in order to commit the occupation (Israel) to what any future agreement might say.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ main political rival, was to meet Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and then fly to Turkey for high-level talks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been under a lot of pressure from his Cabinet and the ruling Likud Party to launch a ground offensive to end the rocket fire. He faced intense criticism from the right over agreeing to the Egyptian truce plan.

On Monday, according to Barbara Surk’s article, Heavy Clashes Between Hezbollah And Syrian Rebels Leave Many Dead, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human right said militants from the Islamic State took over territory from a rival al-Qaida linked Nusra Front group near the border of Iraq. The march by militants of the IS on the city of Deir el-Zour brings them closer to a showdown with Bashar Assad’s forces. The group recently captured cities and towns in northern Iraq and merged them with territory under its control in eastern Syria. Assad’s forces still control half of Deir el-Zour city, however no fighting between his troops and the extremist group have been reported. The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 following peaceful protest against Assad’s rule that turned into armed revolts after opposition supporter took up weapons to fight a brutal government crackdown. The situation dissolved in to civil war in which Islamic extremists with hard line al-Qaida ideologies have played a prominent role among fighters leading to the dampening of support from the West. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution authorizing cross border delivery of food and aid to Syrians in rebel held areas without government approval. The article explains: ” The resolution expressed ‘grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria’ and deplored the fact that its previous demands for humanitarian access ‘have not been heeded’ by the Syrian government and opposition fighters.” The council adopted a resolution in February for aid, but monthly reports from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on its implementation paint a dire picture. According to Surk: “Just hours before the resolutions was adopted, 13 Syrian Red Crescent trucks loaded with 1,000 parcels crossed into the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh, which has been besieged by government troops for more than two years, causing widespread hunger-related illness and death among its residents. In Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus that has been under government siege for over a year, U.N. aid workers were not allowed to distribute aid on Monday, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement, adding that 18,000 civilians remain trapped there in desperate need of food and medicine. The interruption follows a week of sustained food distribution in Yarmouk during which the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees in the Middle East distributed food parcels to 3,316 families, Gunness said.”

While the Middle East deals with numerous conflicts between governments and militants with different ideologies, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday continues his verbal assault on Russia accusing military staff officers of fighting with separatists in eastern Ukraine and using a newly developed Russian missile system against government forces. According to Reuters’ article,  Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Says Russian Officers Fight Alongside Separatists, Poroshenko made his accusations as he was speaking to security chiefs at an emergency meeting after a weekend of Ukrainian air strikes on rebel position near the Russian border and charges by Moscow that Kiev killed a Russian man with cross border shell. After three months of fighting, several hundred Ukrainian servicemen, civilians and rebels have been killed as the fighting and war of words between Moscow and Kiev intensifies. As Poroshenko on Sunday accused Russia of movement of heavy military equipment into the country, he added: “Information has … been confirmed that Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces.” Accusing Russia of escalating fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions, National and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists: “In the past 24 hours, deployment of (Russian) units and military equipment across the border from the Sumy and Luhansk border points was noticed. The Russian Federation continues to build up troops on the border. The (rebel) fighters systematically fire mortar and shoot into Russian territory which killed a Russian citizen.”

As Ukraine and the Middle East struggle to find a common ground, top U.S. and Iranian diplomats came together Monday for nuclear talks. The talks of U.S. and Iran were further complicated as both sides are fighting proxy wars in Israel, Gaza and Syria. However, both are talking cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan, while negotiating the decrease in the Islamic republic’s uranium and plutonium programs.  According to Bradely Klapper and Goerge Jahn, Kerry And Top Iranian Diplomat To Hold In-Depth Nuclear Talks Days Before Deadline, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif talked for two hours Monday in a second day of talks in Vienna and again in the afternoon hoping to meet Sunday’s initial deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff in Vienna that: “We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran’s program. It is a really tough negotiation.” In addition, both men talked about Afghanistan which Kerry visited before Vienna to broker a power sharing agreement between rival presidential candidates and a full audit of election ballots. Both men were in agreement that the mediation was extremely important for the Afghan people and echoed thr need for unity. However the two countries remain divided when it comes to the current Israeli Palestine conflict with Iran being the main benefactor for Hamas and alleged source of its new drone capacity, while Washington provides billions in aid each year to Israel. Nonetheless, the talks focused on nuclear matters. Monday’s talk came a day after failed talks between Britain, France and Germany with Iran on uranium enrichment and other issues standing in the way of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of nuclear sanction on Tehran. Under a six month interim agreement in effect since January, world powers and Iran have until July 20 to conclude a final deal. The interim agreement does allow for an additional six month period for negotiation which seem likely. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Iran has defied the expectation of some, but has yet to make the necessary decisions to prove the world its intentions are peaceful. Iranian hardliners oppose any concession by President Hassan Rouhani’s government, while U.S. lawmakers threaten to shoot down any agreement that would allow Iran to keep some enrichment capacity.

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary Of State, Defends Americans’ Right To Be Stupid

John Kerry Syria

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary Of State, Defends Americans’ Right To Be Stupid.

Scary enough I actually agree with the logic here, hey here me out before you decide otherwise. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the freedom of speech, religion and thought on Tuesday by telling German Students that in America “you have the right to be stupid if you want to be”, according to Reuters. When you first read it I know sounds insulting but let him explain. Kerry continued to tell the students in Berlin that, ” As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.” He continued with “People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another.” Oh you want a reason then I suppose, well he gives that to”The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In American you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be.”  As the students laugh, he then said, “And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be….And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.” You know John Kerry I like you more now than I have in the pass purely because he is the first person to admit that. As a country, we are forced to tolerate everything regardless of whether we agree or not with what is being done or said to us it is a part of Americana. The reasoning has played out in our favor at times and sometime to our detriment but in the end I am glad we have the freedom to express ourselves and opinions even if it is not in the majority.

Kerry made the comment in Berlin his second stop on his inaugural trip as Secretary of State which began Feb.1 and will take in on one night stops to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Doha before returning to Washington March 6. Kerry also did a little reminiscing with the student talking about his 1950s adventures in Berlin being a son of a diplomat roaming through the streets of East Berlin with his bike. He said, “I used to have great adventures. My bicycle and I were best friends. And I biked all around this city. I remember biking down Kurfuerstendamm and seeing nothing but rubble. This was in 1954 … the war was very much still on people’s minds…One day, using my diplomatic passport, I biked through the checkpoint right into the east sector and noticed very quickly how dark and unpopulated (it was) and sort of unhappy people looked…that hit this 12-year-old kid…I kind of felt a foreboding about it and I didn’t spend much time. I kind of skedaddled and got back out of there and went home and proudly announced to my parents what I had done and was promptly grounded and had my passport pulled.” Time will tell if Kerry will be able to fill the shoes of his predecessor Hilary Clinton, but for now we will have to wait and see.