The Middle East Channel

Israel Bombards Gaza as Rockets Target Central Israel

Israel is continuing to hit the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and naval fire as Hamas rocket fire targets central Israel. The Israeli military said it hit about 160 targets in Gaza overnight, including rocket launchers and Hamas command and control centers. Israeli attacks have killed an estimated 27 Palestinians since Tuesday, including at least 18 ...

SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Israel is continuing to hit the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and naval fire as Hamas rocket fire targets central Israel. The Israeli military said it hit about 160 targets in Gaza overnight, including rocket launchers and Hamas command and control centers. Israeli attacks have killed an estimated 27 Palestinians since Tuesday, including at least 18 civilians. Another 150 people have been wounded. The Israeli military reported 117 rockets hit Israel Tuesday, and rocket fire continued Wednesday morning. Multiple rockets have landed near Jerusalem and the Iron Dome intercepted several over Tel Aviv. One rocket hit near the coastal city of Hadera, over 60 miles north of Gaza. According to the Israeli military, militants in Gaza have dozens of long-range rockets. In preparation for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, the Israeli government has authorized the call-up of up to 40,000 reservists.

Iraq

Iraqi security forces discovered 53 bodies, blindfolded and handcuffed, early Wednesday in the village of Khamissiya, south of Baghdad. The men, whose identity was not clear, had gunshot wounds to the head or chest. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has notified that United Nations that it lost control of a former chemical weapons facility, which was seized by "armed terrorist groups." The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations said the Muthanna site, northwest of Baghdad, was overtaken on June 11. The United States has said there were no intact chemical weapons at the facility, and that it would be hard to use the chemical remnants for military purposes.

Headlines

  • Houthi fighters have seized the northwestern Yemeni city of Amran after fierce clashes forced an estimated 15,000 families to flee the city.
  • Libya’s Sharara oil field has resumed production doubling the country’s oil flows after protesters ended a four-month strike.
  • At a meeting in Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition elected Hadi al-Bahra, lead negotiator at the Geneva peace talks, as president to replace Ahmad al-Jarba.
  • For the fifth day in a row, Kuwaiti security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters, following the release of opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak.

Arguments and Analysis

Hamas and Israel at the Brink‘ (Benedetta Berti, Sada)

"Hamas also needs to ensure internal cohesion and prevent intra-organizational feuds, which would have ensued had the group not reacted to the dramatic events following the kidnapping of the Israeli teens. The group has been under deep internal pressure from its armed wing to respond to Israel’s campaign against Hamas in the West Bank, such as the recent killing of seven Hamas members and the arrest of the former prisoners who were released in the Gilad Shalit deal.

Hamas seems to be making the assumption that its recent actions and defiance of ultimatums will not lead to another all-out war, banking on Israel’s reluctance to orchestrate another full-scale military campaign in Gaza. But the group’s strategy-to project strength, which improves its domestic reputation, and keep internal conflict at bay through a short-term escalation-is an extremely risky gambit as pressure mounts in Israel to show ‘determination’ against Hamas."

ISIL’s Bold Caliphate Roll-Out: Objectives and Risks‘ (Barak Mendelsohn, War on the Rocks)

"most importantly, the announcement is part of a plan to mobilize the Muslim masses. By announcing a caliphate, ISIL hopes to attract more volunteers, foot soldiers and professionals who are required to meet the demands of continued fighting alongside state building and governance. Indeed, in Baghdadi’s Ramadan message, he calls on Muslims around the world to join the Islamic State. This is not a request. Using his title as the ‘Emir of the Believers,’ Baghdadi declares immigration to the caliphate an individual duty, one that all able Muslims must obey. The roll-out of the caliphate was probably timed to take advantage of the holy month of Ramadan, which infuses ISIL’s measures with additional religious symbolism and is expected to enhance its appeal to jihadis and the broader Muslim community."

Taking Sides in Libya‘ (Frederic Wehrey, The New York Times)

"But there is a stark danger – for Libyans and their friends abroad – in backing a military strongman whose vague definition of terrorism includes nonviolent Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. General Hifter denies the right of peaceful Islamist groups to shape the future of the post-Qaddafi state, even though they fought in the revolution, too, and played a greater role than he did. Many Libyans draw a distinction between these groups and Ansar al-Sharia. The danger is that by lumping them all in the same basket the general will radicalize the moderates.

Even more worrisome for Libya is the general’s claim that he is defending democracy while threatening the country’s main elected body with military force. Whether he can be tamed by being ‘brought into the fold’ seems unlikely: History is littered with examples of such appeasement of strongmen gone horribly awry."

— Mary Casey

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