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Cease-Fire Holds After Israel’s Weekend Gaza Bombardment

A round of violence launched by Israel’s strikes on Islamic Jihad leadership killed dozens, including children.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A Palestinian man in his damaged home in the Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian man in his damaged home in the Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian man walks amid the rubble of his badly damaged home following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on Aug. 7. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at a weekend of violence in Gaza, Blinken in South Africa, and the world this week.

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A Cease-Fire in Gaza 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at a weekend of violence in Gaza, Blinken in South Africa, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


A Cease-Fire in Gaza 

Israel and Gaza have entered a period of calm following a weekend of fighting that began on Friday night when Israel bombed the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the bombings were necessary to counter “an immediate threat.” He also highlighted the links between the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad and Iran, reminding his audience that its leader was at that moment in Tehran.

Islamic Jihad’s response, to fire hundreds of rockets at major Israeli population centers, had little effect. The missiles either fell short or were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defenses.

It is unclear whether a cease-fire, arranged by Egyptian authorities on Sunday night between Islamic Jihad and the Israeli government, will hold.

At least 44 people were killed—all in Gaza—since the initial bombing in the largest round of fighting since May last year. Several children are believed to be among the dead.

Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, said the strikes were “not only are illegal but irresponsible,” and she called for a lifting of the blockade of the enclave, put in place by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

The U.S. response was muted, as U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby spoke of support for both Israel’s right to defense as well as the Biden administration’s support for a two-state solution.

The most recent exchange stands out from the last few rounds in that Hamas, the larger militant group and the governing authority in Gaza, was not involved.

Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Israel’s choice of a much weaker adversary this time around is a reflection not just of the strength of Hamas but of Israeli calculations that the two groups would not coordinate.

With part of the cease-fire agreement reportedly involving the release of Islamic Jihad prisoners, the group will likely lie low and assess its position, Miller said: “They’ve lost some significant military commanders in Gaza and a lot of infrastructure, and they’ve lost any sense that Hamas is willing, at least for the foreseeable future, to support their activities.”

With Hamas keeping its hands clean, the latest spark seems destined to fizzle out. Israeli bombs aren’t just destructive, however—they can also be converted into political capital: Lapid, the country’s caretaker prime minister, has already seized the opportunity to play wartime leader, hastily arranging a security briefing over the weekend (grudgingly attended by his nemesis and electoral challenger, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu).

“I think there’s probably less here than meets the eye in terms of any strategic shift. It may carry more consequences for Israeli politics, because Lapid—with no military [combat] experience, no high school diploma—needs between now and November 1 to demonstrate the fact that he can be prime ministerial, that he can show judgment in dealing with security issues,” Miller said.

But Miller cautioned against any further risk-taking on Lapid’s part between now and Nov. 1: “The last thing that Lapid needs is an open-ended confrontation in Gaza that gets out of control. That would be very bad for Lapid and would be a huge talking point for Netanyahu.”


The World This Week

Monday, Aug. 8: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits Nepal.

Tuesday, Aug. 9: Kenya holds its presidential and legislative elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Blinken travels to Rwanda for a three-day visit.


What We’re Following

Blinken in South Africa. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in South Africa today, where he will launch the Biden administration’s sub-Saharan Africa strategy and meet with South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor in Pretoria. On Friday, FP’s Robbie Gramer provided a preview of the new U.S. Africa strategy, which is expected to call for a shift away from a military approach and more of a focus on democracy and development.

Kenya’s election. Voters in Kenya have one more day to make up their minds ahead of Tuesday’s presidential and legislative elections. Official campaigning ended on Saturday, when front-runners Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, and Deputy President William Ruto made their final pitch to voters. The election is expected to be tight and could lead to a runoff vote if neither of the leading candidates receives more than 50 percent of overall votes and at least 25 percent of the vote in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties.


Keep an Eye On

Iran talks. Negotiators involved in talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal sounded upbeat on Sunday as negotiations continued in Vienna. European Union negotiator Enrique Mora told Iranian media that talks were advancing and “I expect we will close the negotiations soon,” while Russian negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov said that the talks “stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line,” but that “three or four issues” remain without resolution.

Chad’s future. Chad’s rebel groups are expected to sign an agreement today with the country’s interim military government to begin a national reconciliation dialogue later this month. Talks have been ongoing for the past five months in Qatar and were joined by President Mahamat Idriss Déby on Friday. Déby has said that the future dialogue would precede elections, although no date has yet been set.

Greek spygate. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is under pressure following revelations that intelligence services tapped the phone of one of his political opponents. The news has already led to the resignation of Panagiotis Kontoleon, the head of the national intelligence service, as well as Grigoris Dimitriadis, the prime minister’s closest aide. Mitsotakis is due to address the nation today over the incident.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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