Israel Launches Ground Offensive in Gaza

Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip Thursday night with thousands of troops backed by several tanks and artillery fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military is targeting the Hamas tunnel network and he has ordered the military to prepare to "significantly widen" the ground offensive. According to Gaza’s health ministry ...

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip Thursday night with thousands of troops backed by several tanks and artillery fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military is targeting the Hamas tunnel network and he has ordered the military to prepare to "significantly widen" the ground offensive. According to Gaza's health ministry at least 23 Palestinians have been killed since the ground offensive began. The Israeli military reported "several exchanges of fire" with Hamas, in which 14 militants were killed as well as one Israeli soldier. In all, since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge on July 8, an estimated 251 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and one Israeli civilian was killed in a rocket attack. According to the Israeli military, 20 rockets have been fired into Israel Friday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to end the ground operation saying it would only add to the bloodshed and complicate the situation, meanwhile the United States urged Israel to conduct a "precise operation." The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the developments.

Syria

The Syrian army clashed with fighters from the Islamic State Friday near the government-held Deir al-Zour airport, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Islamic State has made recent gains in Syria, mainly seizing territory from rival rebel groups, forcing fighters out of the city of Deir al-Zour Monday. However, there have been more frequent clashes recently between the group and government forces. On Thursday, Islamic State fighters overtook the Shaera gas field in the central Syrian desert region of Palmyra. The fighters killed up to 90 guards in the attack. The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, said the operation was the Islamic State's "most important so far against the government."

Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip Thursday night with thousands of troops backed by several tanks and artillery fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military is targeting the Hamas tunnel network and he has ordered the military to prepare to "significantly widen" the ground offensive. According to Gaza’s health ministry at least 23 Palestinians have been killed since the ground offensive began. The Israeli military reported "several exchanges of fire" with Hamas, in which 14 militants were killed as well as one Israeli soldier. In all, since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on July 8, an estimated 251 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and one Israeli civilian was killed in a rocket attack. According to the Israeli military, 20 rockets have been fired into Israel Friday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to end the ground operation saying it would only add to the bloodshed and complicate the situation, meanwhile the United States urged Israel to conduct a "precise operation." The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the developments.

Syria

The Syrian army clashed with fighters from the Islamic State Friday near the government-held Deir al-Zour airport, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Islamic State has made recent gains in Syria, mainly seizing territory from rival rebel groups, forcing fighters out of the city of Deir al-Zour Monday. However, there have been more frequent clashes recently between the group and government forces. On Thursday, Islamic State fighters overtook the Shaera gas field in the central Syrian desert region of Palmyra. The fighters killed up to 90 guards in the attack. The director of the Observatory, Rami Abdul Rahman, said the operation was the Islamic State’s "most important so far against the government."

Headlines  

  • The United Nations reported 5,576 civilians have been killed and 11,665 others wounded in violence in Iraq this year and fighting has forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes.
  • Israel has charged an adult and two minors, who have not been publicly named, for the kidnapping and revenge killing of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
  • A spokesman for Zintani fighters who have clashed for five days over control of Libya’s airport in Tripoli said the parties had reached a cease-fire, however this has not been confirmed by the Misrata brigades.
  • Iraqi bankers have said that the reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant robbed financial institutions as it seized control of Mosul in June are false. 

Arguments and Analysis

The Humanitarian Situation in Gaza‘ (Pia Wanek, Middle East Institute)

"Between July 7 and 16, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed 214 Palestinians (164 of whom were civilians) and injured 1,585 (including 435 children and 282 women). To date, 22,600 people have been displaced and are living in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, because their homes have been destroyed or damaged or their neighborhoods are unsafe. Since the start of the emergency, 79 schools and 23 health care facilities in Gaza have sustained damage, at least 25,000 children are estimated to be in need of specialized psychosocial support, and 900,000 people are currently without water supply.

These daunting numbers, from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), are a snapshot of the effects of the most recent escalation of open conflict. To fully understand the significance of these numbers, one must remember that these losses occur within a protracted humanitarian crisis that has intensified since Israel imposed an illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, there have been three major escalations of hostilities:  in December 2008 to January 2009, in November 2012, and the current (and ongoing) crisis. From a humanitarian perspective, there is no return to ‘normal’ in Gaza, even when ceasefires hold."

How Islam mattered in the Arab uprisings‘ (Michael Hoffman and Amaney Jamal, The Washington Post)

"Some observers have argued that the Arab Spring was a fundamentally secular movement, arising as a rejection of not only the existing regimes, but the religious status quo as well. On the other extreme, some have suggested that the ‘Arab Spring’ may in fact have been an ‘Islamist Spring,’ in which individuals sympathetic to political Islam took to the streets in order to call for a greater role for religion in public life. Between these two poles lies a wide variety of accounts of exactly how religious the Arab Spring was. We set out to test competing assessments about the role of religion in Arab protest movements by using data from the Arab Barometer Project collected in Egypt and Tunisia shortly after the fall of their respective regimes. The findings are not what many might have expected. The link between religion and protest behavior is primarily found in personal piety and behavior rather than communal or mosque practice."

The Syrian Refugees Problem (Alex Rowell, Sada

"A combination of security, economic, and above all political considerations has the Lebanese government seeking for the first time to limit, and ultimately reduce, its Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian refugee population. Human rights groups have criticized these new restrictions on Syrian refugees, saying the denial of refuge to those in need violates fundamental principles of international law. But Lebanon’s political power brokers are fearful of more than just the economic and social burdens of Syrian refugees."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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