The Middle East Channel

Two Palestinians Kill Four People in a Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Two Palestinians Kill Four People in a Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Two Palestinian men, armed with a gun, knives, and axes, attacked a Jerusalem synagogue Tuesday morning killing four Israelis and wounding up to eight others, in the deadliest such incident since 2008. Israeli police shot and killed the attackers at the scene, in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood of West Jerusalem. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond to the attack "with a heavy hand" and blamed Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for "incitement." The office of Abbas issued a statement condemning the attack. Violence has recently escalated in Jerusalem, in part due to a dispute over the holy site known as Haram al-Sharif by Muslims or the Temple Mount by Jews, and following the summer Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants.


An Iraqi police colonel reported that Iraqi security forces have entered the country’s largest oil refinery for the first time since Islamic State militants seized the city of Baiji and surrounded the refinery in June. Iraqi officials said Islamic State fighters had begun withdrawing from the area in northern Iraq on Saturday. Meanwhile, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Kurdish fighters captured six buildings held by Islamic State militants and seized arms and ammunition on the edge of the Syrian town of Kobani, or Ayn al-Arab. In the northeastern city of Aleppo, Syrian opposition factions are joining forces against the Syrian regime in efforts to maintain control over what has been a rebel stronghold.


  • Negotiators from Iran and six world powers have begun arriving in Vienna for nuclear talks and a U.S. official said an extension past the Nov. 24 deadline has not been discussed.
  • Egypt’s military plans to double the size of a security zone bordering Gaza after discovering smuggling tunnels, following the demolition of hundreds of homes in Rafah in October.
  • Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency has reported that an Iranian-British woman who was detained when trying to attend a men’s volleyball match, has been charged for her links to the opposition.

Arguments and Analysis

What’s Happening with US Military Aid to Egypt, Part II‘ (Amy Hawthorne, Atlantic Council)

"Appropriations laws, which fund US federal government operations and programs such as foreign assistance, are byzantine documents to be sure.  But they matter a lot in US-Egypt ties because of the central role that aid, especially military aid, plays in the relationship.  The 2014 appropriations law includes democracy conditions on Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Egypt that, while much less stringent than what US human rights advocates had sought, still hold up some military aid and have led to an unprecedented disruption to the FMF program.  Nearly a year after the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (‘the 2014 law’), $728 million of the $1.3 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 FMF for Egypt has not been released. 

Congress passed this legislation in January 2014, in the wake of the Egyptian military’s ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013.  Neither Congress nor the Obama administration wanted to halt military aid completely after Morsi’s overthrow, as the ‘coup clause’ in US appropriations law seemed to require.  Thus the 2014 law included special language exempting Egypt (and only Egypt) from the provisions of this clause, which mandates the immediate suspension of nearly all assistance to a central government following a military coup d’état, until a democratically-elected government is restored."

Lebanon’s Druze, unhappily, are being dragged into Syria’s war‘ (Nicholas Blanford, The Christian Science Monitor)

"Deadly clashes pitting Syrian Sunni jihadis against Druze militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have exposed divisions within this small esoteric community that spans the SyriaLebanon border.

The bloody wars roiling the Middle East from Lebanon to Iraq‘s border with Iran are essentially political struggles for power and control. But the two main protagonists are adherents of the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam. That leaves the region’s religious minorities, like the Druze who only number around one million in the Middle East, facing the agonizing – and potentially existential – decision of who to support in order to ensure communal survival. But siding with one risks turning the other into an enemy."

Mary Casey-Baker