New Truce Begins Between Israel and Hamas, the Kurds Fight ISIS, China Earthquake Aftermath and Pollution Problem, and Britain’s Tribute to WWI

On Tuesday, a three day long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas when into effect in Gaza ahead of talks in Cairo to find a deal to prevent future cross border violence, Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav reports, 72-hour cease-fire takes effect in hopes of bringing an end to nearly a month of fighting. The temporary ceasefire agreed to by both sided started at 8am and will last 72 hours while Israel and Hamas hold indirect talks in the Egyptian capital. The situation in Gaza is still unstable as minutes ahead of the truce shelling still occurred across Gaza and Israel said Hamas fired a heavy barrage of rockets at southern and central Israel. The fighting has claimed 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis dead, all but three soldiers. A unilateral withdrawal will allow Israel to end the conflict on its own terms without negotiating new border arrangements in Gaza, while Israel will be asked to make concessions it is unwilling to make such as opening Gaza borders. Early Tuesday, the Israeli military said it would have all its ground troops out of Gaza by the start of the truce. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the withdrawal was going forward after Israel destroyed Hamas tunnels build for Islamic attacks inside Israel. Meanwhile, in Washington, President Barack Obama signed a bill Monday giving $225 million in U.S. taxpayers dollars for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the Associated Press, Obama Signs Funding Package For Israel’s Iron Dome. Congress approved the money last week before lawmakers took their summer break. The funds are meant to replenish Israel’s capabilities. The defense system has been highly effective in current violence between Hamas and Israel allowing the Israeli military to shoot down incoming rockets or mortars head toward Israel with a success rate as high as 90 percent.

According to CNN’s Alan Duke and Hamdi Alkhshali, Official: Kurdish forces fend off ISIS fighters, hold Mosul Dam, the director of Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam dismissed reports Monday that it had been seized by the radical Islamic State saying Kurdish forces were able to fight them off. Abdul Khaliq al-Dabbagh, Mosul Dam director, confirmed that fighters for the Islamic State or ISIS were pushed back after gaining access to employee housing just north of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. On Sunday, however Kurdish commander told CNN that ISIS took control even though employees remained at the dam, while al-Dabbagh said the Kurds held their position until reinforcements arrived early Monday. The United Nations in Iraq warned 200,000 civilians were trapped in dire circumstances following the Islamic State and associated armed groups seizing “control of nearly all of Sinjar and Tal Afar districts” in the northern Ninevah province, including several small oil fields that border Iraq’s Kurdish region. In addition, the United Nations said most of the fleeing civilians in the districts are minority Kurdish Yezidis, an ancient religion with ties to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and took refuge in the Jabal Sinjar mountains. As fighting ranges on in these districts, according to the Kurdish commander, fighting has also been reported in the border town of Rabia with Syria based Kurds joining the fight against ISIS. Massoud Barzani, the Kurdistan Regional Government head, told a group of Yezidi leaders that his government will help to liberate Sinjar since the Kurds have been fighting without help from the Iraqi government or international community, according to a reports on the government’s website. The State Department said Sunday that it was monitoring the situation and supports the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS. In a statement, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said: “The assault over the past 48 hours on territories along the border of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and focusing on towns and villages populated by vulnerable minorities, demonstrates once again that this terrorist organization is a dire threat to all Iraqis, the entire region and the international community.”

Meanwhile China continues to deal with the devastation caused by an earthquake that killed 405 people, while dealing with the deadly pollution in its capital. On Tuesday, 10,000 troops used axes and backhoes to clear roads and rescue residents from collapsed homes after a quake in southwest China, the Associated Press reports, Troops, volunteers dig through China quake debris. Volunteers helped in the effort in Yunnan province’s Ludian county where Sunday’s 6.1 magnitude quake collapsed thousands of homes in the impoverished mountainous farmland. Hundred of volunteers converged on the nearby city of Zhaotong with some bringing their own relief aid to distribute thanks to company sponsored units, while the government provided thousands of tents, quilts, sleeping bags and cotton coats to the region, as well as folding beds, chairs and tables, and mobile toilets. Much of the damage was due to landslides following heavy rain Tuesday making it difficult to reach the affected area. Ambulances, bulldozers, and trucks filled with water, noodles and volunteers congested the main rode to the hardest hit town of Longtou. Helicopters lifted supplies as well to the most remote areas. In all, Yunnan Civil Affairs Bureau said Tuesday that 405 people were killed and 2,297 injured with 12 still missing 36 hours after the quake. In the capital, Beijing, China announced plans to ban coal use by 2020 as the country fights deadly pollution in its capital and major cities, the Associated Press reports, China to ban all coal use in Beijing by 2020. On Monday, Beijing’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau on its website said the city would prioritize electric and natural gas for heating. The official Xinhua News Agency said coal makes up a quarter of Beijing’s energy consumption in 2012 and 22 percent of the fine particles in the air with motor vehicles, industrial production and general dust contributing to pollution. Unfortunately, coal use is expected to soar causing coal fired power and heating is a major generator of greenhouse gases and helped China turn into the world’s largest emitter of carbon and other heat trapping gases. The central government listed environmental protection as a top priority which its leaders will be judged by due to pressure among the middle class to clean up the environment including smog, water and soil contamination. In September, the government announced a prohibition on new cold fired power plans around Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

In Britain on Monday night, Lights across the country went out for an hour in tribute to the dead of WWI inspired by Britain’s foreign minister on the eve of war 100 years ago, Tess Little reports, Lights go out across Britain, 100 years on from WW1. Edward Grey shortly before Britain declared war on Germany in Aug. 4, 1914, told an acquaintance: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” British landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral went dark at 10 p.m. local time and Prime Minister David Cameron asked Britons to do the same and leave a single light on in their homes for an hour. The “war to end all wars” spread across Europe especially in northern France and Belgium killing 17 million soldiers and civilians in 1914-18 with over one million dead British soldiers and its then empire. Gery’s prophecy was commemorated in London’s Westminster Abbey later on Monday where candles went out one by one until only a burning oil lamp remained at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. At 11p.m., the lamp was extinguished marking the exact time the British empire joined the war. Acting as a beacon for the capital, a pillar of light beamed into the clouds from Victoria Tower Gardens. In a statement, Boris Johnson, the London mayor, said, “The light that ‘spectra’ throws up into the night sky is a unifying point; it echoes how the First World War affected all Londoners, but also how they and the rest of the country came together, standing united during those dark days.” Prime Minister Cameron and Prince William attended the 100th anniversary ceremonies in Scotland and Belgium on Monday. Speaking at Liege, William alluded to Germany and its cohorts in the First and Second World War: “We were enemies more than once in the last century and today we are friends and allies.” He told Belgium’s King Phillipe and other state heads attending the Liege ceremony at the Allies’ Memorial near where German troops invaded Belgium on Aug. 4, 1914 and Britain entered the war: “We salute those who died to give us our freedom. We will remember them.” German ceremonies were understated, but Germans were encouraged to place flowers on soldiers’ graves and local small scale efforts marked the anniversary. According to Little: “Politicians and royalty from 83 countries, including presidents Francois Hollande of France and Joachim Gauck of Germany, were among those in Belgium. In Glasgow, Scotland, Cameron was joined by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles at a centenary service.” Poppies, a symbol of the war, were featured at the Tower of London with an art installation titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” by Paul Cummins included thousands of ceramic poppies flowing from the medieval monument wall into the dry moat. The artwork will grow through summer until 888,246 poppies have been added to represent British and colonial fatalities during the war which is more than double that of World War Two. Red poppies became a symbol of remembrance since the trench warfare in the poppy field of the Belgian region of Flanders during the war.

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

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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.