Fleeing Civilians Surge from Fallujah as Troops Advance
Iraqi forces are continuing to retake remaining neighborhoods in Fallujah after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the city effectively liberated on Friday. Yesterday, the Iraqi military captured a hospital the Islamic State had been using as a command center and a bomb-making factory spread across a network of houses connected by tunnels. The troops are ...
Iraqi forces are continuing to retake remaining neighborhoods in Fallujah after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the city effectively liberated on Friday. Yesterday, the Iraqi military captured a hospital the Islamic State had been using as a command center and a bomb-making factory spread across a network of houses connected by tunnels. The troops are consolidating control of the areas they have captured but are encountering periodic resistance and sniper attacks. The number of civilians fleeing the city surged over the weekend, with 30,000 people escaping just since Friday. Between 62,000 and 83,000 people have fled the city since operations began there a month ago.
U.S. and Russia Feud after Russian Strikes on U.S.-backed Rebels
U.S. and Russian military officials trades accusations over the weekend after Russian airstrikes targeted U.S.-backed rebel forces in Syria last week. The airstrikes targeted the New Syrian Army in al-Tanf, near the point where the Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian borders meet, reportedly killing two people and wounding 18 others, which has left “at least half of the force” incapacitated, the Telegraph reported. U.S. and Russian officials held a videoconference to discuss the strikes. U.S. officials say the attack put U.S. personnel working closely with local forces at risk and violated a local ceasefire in effect in the area. Russian officials attributed the issue to miscommunication by the United States and said that the strikes took place more than 180 miles from the ceasefire area.
Number of Refugees Grew 5.8 Million from Last Year
There are more people displaced by conflict today than at any previous point, including after World War II, a new U.N. report states. The number of refugees rose 5.8 million over last year, now totaling 65.3 million. The largest affected population is Syria, from which 4.9 million people have fled. Turkish troops shot and killed eight civilians as they tried to cross the border and wounded eight others, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Turkish government denied the report, but reports suggest Turkish forces have killed “as many as 60” fleeing refugees this year.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.N. officials that Israel is ready to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, first adopted in 1996; Israel is one of eight countries that has not ratified the treaty.
- The Iranian government claims to have disrupted a plot to bomb religious events in Tehran and elsewhere during the month of Ramadan; the Iranian report identifies the plotters as Sunni extremists but does not specify a particular terrorist group.
- Israel is constructing a new wall around Gaza that will extend underground to block tunnel construction, according to a report by Ynet picked up by international media; it is unknown how deep the wall will extend, but the new defense is estimated to cost $570 million.
- Hamas has increased taxes dramatically over the past two years, especially on imported goods, at least partially to compensate from declining revenue from foreign backers, BBC reports.
- Local officials representing Houthi and pro-government forces near Taiz, Yemen, negotiated a prisoner swap in which the Houthis released 76 prisoners and pro-government forces in the city released 118.
- U.S. officials confirmed that the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered particles of uranium while inspecting the Parchin military facility in Iran last year; the findings are consistent with the theory that Iran worked on developing a nuclear weapon at Parchin but suspended most of its efforts in 2003.
- Algeria blocked access to Twitter and Facebook on Sunday and is expected to maintain the social media blackout through Thursday to prevent cheating on high school final exams after copies of the tests were leaked online.
Arguments and Analysis
“Arab regimes’ sympathy over the Orlando massacre may seem hypocritical. But it’s a start.” (Samar Habib, Monkey Cage)
“The tragic event has produced a unique response from states where homosexuality is potentially (with the exception of Turkey) prosecutable and gays sometimes are actively persecuted. Some critics have condemned the statements as hypocritical, especially in light of Turkey’s brutalization of pride parade marchers last year, Egypt’s ongoing entrapment of men who have sex with men, and Kuwait’s sudden institution of Penal Code Article 198 in 2007, which resulted in widespread persecution of individuals labeled as ‘imitating the opposite sex.’ The unprecedented statements have been made mostly by nation-states (and an Islamic authoritative body) that still legislatively condemn homosexuality, sometimes to death. These statements, however, simultaneously define the victims of the Orlando massacre as people deserving of life. The international community would do well to sustain pressure on these countries to decriminalize gay and/or gender nonconforming behavior after this moment of seeming sobriety.”
“Sectarianism and the Campaign to Retake Fallujah” (Marc Lynch, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
“The focus on Iran over ISIS in Fallujah is therefore just one especially revealing moment in a much deeper sectarian framing of the region. That the current Iraqi government, in which the United States has invested such great support, is a barely veiled Iranian protectorate is an article of faith among many Sunnis, while the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces are increasingly portrayed in Sunni Arab social media as even worse than the Islamic State. Those social media feeds have been swamped with conspiracy theories linking President Barack Obama to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic State in a complicated conspiracy designed to consolidate Iranian domination of Iraq and permanently subordinate or expel its Sunnis. The relentless barrage of anti-Shia cartoons, video clips, tweets and inflammatory statements by influential figures has mattered more than any appeals for calm.”
-J. Dana Stuster
HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images