LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/what comes out of the mouth that defiles
Matthew 15,10-20/Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For July 15/14
The significance of Izzat al-Douri and the Ba’ath Party/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 15/14
Taking hi-tech steps to root out the ISIS threat/By: Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya/July 15/14
Iran’s nuke deal: Don’t expect any last-minute game changers/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya/July 15/14
Arab Sunnis Must Confront ISIS/By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat/July 15/14
Reports From Miscellaneous
Sources For July 15/14
Lebanese Related News
Seven Hezbollah fighters dead after clash on Syria border
U.N.: Syrian refugees, sectarian tensions endanger Lebanon
New Rocket Fired at Israel as UNIFIL Slams 'Serious Violation of 1701'
Army launches app to report security threats
Rockets from south Lebanon fired towards Israel
Ministers: No intention to disrupt Cabinet
Brother of Hezbollah minister released on bail
Geagea Expresses Concern Presidential Deadlock Impeding Cabinet, Parliament
Jumblatt condemns Gaza attack, calls for unity
Death penalty sought for Azzam Brigades members
Lebanon to postpone gas auction yet again
Minister: Government to settle hospital bills
Kataeb Urges 'Utmost Firmness' in Dealing with Rocket Attacks from South
Paoli Says Paris Has Clear Message: Presidential Elections a Priority
Bassil Denounces Israeli Offensive against Gaza, Demands Arab Action
Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 15/14
Deadly war on Gaza continues despite calls for truce
The hidden intelligence agendas behind Hamas’ 1,000-rocket barrage and Israel’s 1,500 air strikes
Amidst talk of Gaza ceasefire, Liberman repeats call for Israel to topple Hamas
Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire for Tuesday morning
Hamas searching for a way out of conflict, Israeli security sources believe
Gaza rockets intercepted above Tel Aviv, as projectile from Syria lands in Golan
Erdogan accuses Israel of 'using terrorism' in its operations against Hamas in Gaza
Canadian Statement on Assisted Departure of Canadians from Gaza
Sad silence for Gaza
UN authorizes cross-border aid access in Syria
Iraq: Insurgents look towards Baghdad as Douri praises ISIS
Sanctions law poses obstacle in final diplomatic push with Iran
Qatar to buy Patriot missiles in $11 bln deal: US officials
New Rocket Fired at Israel as UNIFIL Slams 'Serious Violation of 1701'
Naharnet/In the fourth such attack in four days, at least one rocket was fired Monday night from southern Lebanon towards northern Israel. “Unknown individuals fired a rocket from the Ras al-Ain area, south of the city of Tyre, towards the occupied Palestinian territories (Israel),” Lebanon's National News Agency reported. Meanwhile, LBCI television said two rockets were launched from al-Qlayleh plain towards Israel.Al-Jazeera TV said “alarm sirens went off in Ras al-Naqoura on the Israeli-Lebanese border."Earlier on Monday, the Lebanese Army found two launchpads in the Tyre region from which rockets were fired Sunday night at northern Israel, as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) described the incident as a “serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701.”“After a search operation, an army force found this morning two rocket platforms in the aforementioned region,” an army statement said. The military said investigations were underway in coordination with UNIFIL to “identify the perpetrators and arrest them.” An earlier army statement had confirmed that “two rockets were fired from an area south of the city of Tyre towards the occupied Palestinian territories.” Troops immediately staged patrols in the region and imposed a security cordon, the statement added. In retaliation, the Israeli army fired “25 artillery shells at the outskirts of the southern towns of Majdal Zoun and al-Mansouri and the Jib Sweid area.”“Six flare bombs were launched over the towns of al-Hinniyeh and al-Amriyeh and no casualties were reported,” the Lebanese Army added. Meanwhile, UNIFIL announced Monday that Acting Force Commander Brig. Gen. Tarundeep Kumar immediately established contact with senior commanders of the Lebanese and Israeli armies after Sunday's attack, urging them to “exercise maximum restraint” and to “cooperate with UNIFIL in order to prevent further escalation.”“Israeli authorities informed UNIFIL that two rockets impacted at sea and one in Northern Israel, south of the Blue Line,” the U.N. peacekeeping force added in its statement. “This is the third incident in a week involving serious security breaches south of the Litani River. UNIFIL in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces is enhancing security control in the area and has intensified patrols to prevent any further incidents that endanger the safety of the local population and the security of southern Lebanon,” it said. UNIFIL added that it has launched an investigation into the incident “that amounted to a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.” Three rockets were fired Saturday at Israel from the same region and a rocket was launched early Friday from the southern region of Hasbaya. A man has been arrested over his involvement in Friday's attack, which he said was in solidarity with the Gaza Strip.Israel had filed a complaint to UNIFIL, which monitors the border between Lebanon and Israel, after Friday's attack. Israeli military officials said they believed Friday's attack was carried out by a small Palestinian group in retaliation to Israel's deadly assault on Gaza. At least 184 Palestinians have been killed and around 1,230 wounded in the Israeli operation dubbed Protective Edge, which started before dawn Tuesday in an attempt to halt rocket fire by Gaza-based groups.
Rockets from south Lebanon fired toward Israel
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Two rockets were fired at Israel from south Lebanon Monday night, in the fourth such attack in as many days, security sources said. The rockets were launched from an area near the southern port city of Tyre. Israeli media reported that the projectiles hit the Jewish state, prompting Israeli artillery to shell the launch site. The consecutive rocket attacks come as Israel continued its offensive against the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 180 people since it began last week. Israel has carried out over 1,000 airstrikes on the coastal enclave, while Palestinian militants in the strip have retaliated by firing salvos of rockets on cities across Israel including Occupied Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Seven Hezbollah fighters dead after clash on Syria border
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Seven Hezbollah fighters and 32 Syrian rebels died in fierce clashes on the Syria-Lebanon border, Lebanese security sources said Monday. The sources said there were around 50 wounded in the fighting, which began Saturday and continued into Sunday night around the Syrian village of Nahleh, just over the border from Lebanon’s Arsal. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 31 Hezbollah fighters were wounded, while the resistance party captured 14 fighters from the Nusra Front and Islamic Battalion. “It appears Hezbollah launched the attack in a bid to finish off the pockets of rebel resistance,” Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman said. Arsal and the area around it are largely Sunni, and locals sympathize with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hezbollah retook control of most of the Qalamoun region.But Syrian activists say hundreds of opposition fighters have taken refuge in the caves and hills in the border area, using it as a rear base from which to launch attacks inside Syria. Last month, Lebanese Army forces carried out raids in the area targeting militants with ties to “terrorist groups,” an army statement said at the time.
Geagea Expresses Concern Presidential
Deadlock Impeding Cabinet, Parliament
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader MP Samir Geagea voiced concern on Monday that the presidential vacuum is effecting the work of the cabinet and the parliament, describing it as a “crime” against the Lebanese. “Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's stance is righteous to press for a solution but things should be named as they are,” Geagea said, noting that parties should be held responsible for the delay in electing a new head of state. On Sunday, al-Rahi lamented the presidential impasse, stressing that he rejects the “tragic” situation that has reached its peak.
He called on officials, in particular lawmakers, to assume their constitutional duties. The Christian leader and presidential hopeful said in remarks published in al-Mustaqbal newspaper that all parliamentary blocs are attending sessions set to elect a new president except for the Change and Reform and Loyalty to the Resistance blocs. “Both blocs are impeding the polls for various reasons,” Geagea pointed out. He expressed concern that presidential vacuum is negatively impacting the government and the parliament. Lebanon has been plunged in vacuum in the presidency since the term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May. Eight presidential elections sessions have been held, seven of which were obstructed due to a lack of quorum at parliament caused by a boycott by the March 8 lawmakers of the Change and Reform and Loyalty to the Resistance blocs over differences on a presidential candidate. The next elections session is scheduled for July 23. Asked about the recent row among cabinet members over a dispute on the appointment of deans at the Lebanese University, Geagea said: “For this reason we refused to participate in this government... Differences between the ministers didn't surprise us.”
“Two teams with each having its own political plan can not agree,” he said. Geagea considered the “problem to be in the structure.”The cabinet members reached an agreement on Thursday on the full-time employment of LU's contract workers but failed to strike a deal on the appointment of deans over differences between Kataeb and the Progressive Socialist Party on their sects.
Cabinet decrees require the approval of its 24 ministers in accordance with an agreement reached last month in light of the vacuum at Baabda Palace.
Concerning the arrest of a suspect linked to the launching of rockets from South Lebanon towards Israel, Geagea wondered why those who fired thousands of rockets at Israel weren't also detained.
“No one has the right to set the country's military and defense strategies, which should concern all the Lebanese people,” the LF leader in hints to Hizbullah's intervention in Syria's raging war.
Security forces managed to arrest at a western Bekaa hospital one of the militants behind Friday's attack, after he was seriously injured while firing the rockets. Geagea said that those who launched over the weekend rockets at Israel should be detained but everyone violating the country's security should also be apprehended. Two rockets were fired Sunday night from southern Lebanon towards Israel, in the third such attack in four days, drawing an Israeli retaliation. Israel had filed a complaint to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the border between Lebanon and Israel, after Friday's attack.Israeli military officials said they believed the attack was carried out by a small Palestinian group in an act of solidarity with militants from Gaza's Hamas movement engaged in a deadly confrontation with the Israeli army which began on Tuesday.
Ministers: No intention to disrupt Cabinet
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Ministers reached out Monday to soothe Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s anger over disputes within the Cabinet, saying they were willing to facilitate the government’s work.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, Economy Minister Alain Hakim and Minister of State Nabil de Freij held separate talks with the Salam at the Grand Serail, days after reports said the premier was aggravated over disputes within his Cabinet. Salam had said he would refrain from calling for a Cabinet session due to lingering differences among ministers over key issues, such as extra-budgetary spending and the Lebanese University’s contract professors.“We have confidence in Salam's way in administering files in this difficult time, and we also have confidence that his wisdom that preserves stability. We have no intention to disrupt the Cabinet,” Bou Saab told reporters after meeting the prime minister. “What happened in last week’s session ... was that the prime minister had received assurances from the various groups that the Lebanese University decree will be passed. He discussed the item based on such assurances,” said the minister, who is a member of the Free Patriotic Movement.
The Cabinet postponed discussion on the long-awaited LU decree, which includes two vital items – employing contract professors as full-timers and appointing deans to the university council.
The Cabinet had initially approved giving full-time status to the LU contract professors. But several ministers refused to finalize the professors’ status without approving the appointment of new deans at the university, saying it was a package deal. The government has agreed on a governing mechanism in light of the presidential that requires the approval of all 24 ministers to pass decrees.
Some ministers traded blame, accusing each other of disrupting the work of the Cabinet and focusing on party interests rather than the fate of the university and its lecturers. De Freij, a Future lawmaker, said his party was “behind the prime minister all the way if no agreement was reached among the ministers.” “We need to remain in solidarity with one another and everyone should shoulder their own responsibility,” he told reporters. Meanwhile, the economy minister defended his party against claims that the Kataeb Party was behind the delay in passing the LU decree. “Kataeb does not want to disrupt the government's work. We had a candidate for the medical college dean and presented the name to the education minister and another name for the commissioner in the Lebanese University council. We insist on having a presence in the council just like everyone else,” Hakim said. “What I told the prime minister is that we are not against the government's work and we have no intention to paralyze it.”
Kataeb Urges 'Utmost Firmness' in
Dealing with Rocket Attacks from South
Naharnet/The Kataeb Party on Monday urged Lebanese authorities to show “utmost firmness” in dealing with the recurrent rocket attacks from south Lebanon against north Israel, warning that such activity might “quickly drag Lebanon into the region's conflict.”Moreover, the party cautioned that the firing of rockets could undermine U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 devastating war between Israel and Hizbullah. Several rockets were fired on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from southern Lebanon into northern Israel without causing any casualties, in an escalation apparently linked to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau, Kataeb also called for thwarting any attempts to undermine security in Tripoli, stressing that the northern city must not be used as “an arena for exchanging local and regional messages through plotting against the security plan” that got underway in April. The party underlined that the “impending threats posed by the bloody situation in Gaza and the events in the region, especially in Iraq and Syria … must represent a pressing factor to exit the (domestic) political crisis and prevent it from turning into a political system crisis.” It called on the rival political camps to immediately elect a new president, warning that “any additional delay would push Lebanon into a more dangerous situation at the existential level.”Turning to the issue of the constitutionality of legislative sessions amid the current presidential void, the party reiterated its “firm stance” that any session would be “unconstitutional” if it did not aim at electing a new president or drafting a new electoral law for parliamentary polls. “Any disregard for this norm would push the presidential elections to lowest level of priority,” Kataeb said. Separately, the party condemned “the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip, which is causing civilian casualties around the clock,” urging the international community to “halt this massacre against the Palestinian people.”
At least 172 Palestinians have been killed and around 1,230 wounded in the Israeli operation dubbed Protective Edge, which started Tuesday in an attempt to halt rocket fire by Gaza-based groups.
Jumblat: We Should Unite behind
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat condemned on Monday the Israeli assault against the Palestinian Gaza Strip, demanding that efforts be exerted to reach a ceasefire. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “Now is not the time to settle scores with Hamas and other Palestinian factions, but we should unite behind the Palestinian sacrifices.”
He lamented the international community's failure to take action to end the Israeli campaign, adding that a settlement to end the unrest requires a comprehensive ceasefire and opening all Arab and Israeli border crossings. Jumblat called for an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza and the release of tens of thousands of prisoners. He also urged an end to the “pointless” political negotiations with Israel.
“The negotiations have proven their futility because of Israel's refusal to reach a compromise,” said the MP, adding that the talks “are a series of charades conducted by American mediators.”
Furthermore, he remarked that launching the role of the Palestinian national unity government “remains the only choice at the moment that will help unite visions on the conflict in Gaza and permanently end internal divisions.”At least 172 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,230 wounded in the seventh day of the Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip.
Paoli Says Paris Has Clear Message:
Presidential Elections a Priority
Naharnet/French Ambassador Patrice Paoli expressed concern over the presidential vacuum in Lebanon, saying the Lebanese should find common ground on resolving their problems. In remarks to several newspapers on the occasion of France's National Day, Paoli said the formation of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet earlier this year and the implementation of security plans in unstable areas across the country were not enough to resolve Lebanon's crises. “This is just the start,” he said, calling for “finding a common ground among the Lebanese.” “We had hoped that the resumption of the institutional work would lead to the election of a president,” said the diplomat. “Our message today is that the election of a head of state is necessary to guarantee the work of (state) institutions. The Lebanese should not get used to not having a president,” Paoli added. He reiterated that Paris had no favorite candidate nor had a veto on anyone. “It is illusory to think that Lebanon’s institutions can function properly without a president,” he stressed. Lebanon plunged in a vacuum on May 25 after President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended amid a failure by rival lawmakers to elect a successor over their dispute on a compromise candidate. Several electoral rounds have been adjourned over lack of quorum caused by the boycott of various parliamentary blocs. While Paoli did not deny that external factors affect stability in Lebanon, he said the Lebanese are capable of taking matters in their hands the same way they formed a “made in Lebanon government.” “No one will object to them if they practice their sovereignty and independence” by electing a head of state, he said. He expressed readiness to contribute to the success of the elections through dialogue and stressed: “We are not here to replace the Lebanese.”
U.N.: Syrian refugees, sectarian
tensions endanger Lebanon
By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters | Geneva
Monday, 14 July 2014
Lebanon is at risk of crumbling as a state under the burden of 1.1 million Syrian refugees and foreign donors must make good on pledges of support to help it survive the crisis, the top U.N. official in the small coastal country warned on Monday. Political and religious leaders in Lebanon, both Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim, so far have kept a lid on growing tensions but donor nations have not honoured aid commitments, said Ross Mountain, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator. “This is no longer just a humanitarian emergency,” said Mountain. “It is what the former president (Michel Suleiman) described as an existential crisis for Lebanon. It’s about the security of the country, the stability of the country and I would suggest what happens in Lebanon will affect the region.”
Over 1.12 million refugees from Syria’s civil war next door have registered in Lebanon, accounting for one-quarter of its population and exacerbating a severe water shortage, Mountain said. The influx is expected to reach 1.5 million by year-end. “We fear (tensions) will expand even further and not only result in Syrian-Lebanese interactions but also unfortunately raise the spectre of Lebanese-Lebanese inter-sectarian problems,” Mountain told a news briefing in Geneva. Syria’s Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian divisions are largely mirrored in Lebanon, where civil war raged from 1975 to 1990.
Lebanese authorities have acknowledged the crisis, with the social affairs minister saying last week that the country faced political and economic collapse as the number of refugees threaten to exceed a third of the population.
“Not an early warning”
The Middle East, reeling from crises in Syria, Iraq and now Gaza, does not need Lebanon to be mired in another civil war, he said. “If in our business it’s important to talk about early warning, it’s not early but I’m warning.”Yet donors have only contributed $500 million towards a $1.6 billion appeal for aid progams in Lebanon this year, he said. “It certainly hinges on money but doesn’t only hinge on money. While there have been a number of security incidents linked to extremists, some bombings a couple of months ago and the rise of ISIS, the good news at the moment is that the Lebanese security forces have been effective in limiting that.” ISIS - Islamic State in Iraq and Syriat - is an Islamist militant force in control of wide tracts of eastern Syria and adjacent northern Iraq. It recently shortened its name to Islamic State and, seeking to rewrite the Middle East map, has declared a mediaeval-style caliphate in the region it holds. Islamic State’s success has emboldened like-minded militants in Lebanon who believe they can emulate it, Lebanon’s interior minister said last week, confirming the radical Sunni group had now appeared in Beirut for the first time. Mountain said another important factor was whether the Beirut government could maintain equilibrium between Lebanon’s myriad political and sectarian actors and move toward presidential and parliamentary elections.
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria was “obviously highly contentious domestically and that’s another dimension of the fragility of the political scene”, he said, referring to the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Islamist movement whose fighters have helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad contain Sunni rebels. Syrian refugees are scattered in 1,700 poor communities, mainly in the northern Lebanese provinces of Akkar and Bekaa, straining relations as some Lebanese have lost jobs to Syrians willing to be paid less, Mountain said. “The tensions that we witness are (increasing) discontent about the situation, the jobs, access to basic services, and the resentment of that,” he said. “Young people of working, studying age being left to their own devices and building resentment, I don’t think is very healthy not just for Lebanon but for the region.” The United Nations says tiny Lebanon has taken in 38 percent of all Syrian refugees in the Middle East, more than any other country. More than half of the Syrians in Lebanon are children, the vast majority not in school.
Bassil Denounces Israeli Offensive
against Gaza, Demands Arab Action
Naharnet/ed the Israeli aggression against the Gaza strip, demanding the Arabs to take a “unified” stance to end the Israeli hostility. “Israel is benefiting from the international silence and the Arab incompetency by continuing and increasing its attack,” Bassil warned. With the Israeli campaign in its seventh day, at least 172 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,230 wounded.
Bassil's statement came in light of a series of phone calls the minister carried out with Arab foreign ministers and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi. “The verbal condemnation is no longer enough as the serious situation requires actual measures by the Arab League to support the Palestinian people and to press the international community to end its support to Israel.” Bassil tasked Lebanon's permanent ambassador to the Arab League Khaled Ziadeh with attending a meeting for the Arab League foreign ministers instead of him. The minister is currently in Brazil and will not make it in time for the meeting, which will be held later Monday. The Arab League meeting comes amid intense international efforts to end the conflict, and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seeking U.N. intervention.
Death penalty sought for Azzam
Youssef Diab| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge Monday requested the death penalty for 23 suspects including two Abdullah Azzam Brigades members. Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan recommended the sentence for Palestinian national Naim Abbas, Lebanese nationals Jamal Daftardar and Joumana Hmeid, and the Azzam Brigades’ religious guide Sirajeddine Zorayqat, who is a fugitive along with 14 others named in the decision. Zorayqat is the spokesperson of the group, which has claimed responsibility for a number of car bombings in Lebanon, including two suicide attacks against Iranian interests.
The suspects are accused of belonging to an armed terrorist group with the aim of detonating explosive-rigged vehicles, as well as preparing explosive belts for suicide attacks in an attempt to kill civilians.
The charges against the group include forging documents and official identification cards. Abbas, arrested Feb. 12, was charged in connection to two bombings in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik earlier this year that were also linked to Daftardar. The latter is a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Azzam Brigades and was accused of having a role in the two bombings, as well as the recent foiled plot to assassinate General Security official Lt. Col. Khattar Nassereddine. Abbas is also linked to the Nusra Front in Lebanon, the offshoot of the radical group fighting in Syria. Hmeid was apprehended earlier this year when she was driving a vehicle, packed with explosives, from the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh to the northeastern town of Arsal. A judicial source told The Daily Star that the group were accused of having a role in several attacks - the suicide bombing in Shoueifat, Hmeid's explosive-rigged vehicle, the discovery of an explosive-laden vehicle in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa, firing rockets into Beirut's southern suburbs and an attempt to launch rockets into the same area from Aramoun. The detainees confessed to being involved in the attacks, which primarily targeted the capital's southern suburbs, in retaliation for Hezbollah fighting in Syria alongside regime troops.
Arab Sunnis Must Confront ISIS
By: Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat
Monday, 14 Jul, 2014
Putting aside the precise details of what is happening in the region—including the absurd establishment of an “Islamic State” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—it is clear that we are now facing a new stage in the “War on Terror.” Whoever wins this war, will win the region.
What is happening today in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, with terrorist acts being carried out in these countries by Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, the Al-Nusra Front, ISIS, and Hezbollah, demonstrates that the region as a whole is facing a new battle in this prolonged conflict. This new phase of the conflict is completely different from the initial phase that immediately followed 9/11.
However, this war is one that must be led by Sunnis, not by Iran or its allies—or indeed its fatwas. This new phase of the War on Terror can be said to have been caused by Iran’s absurd policies in the region, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq and Lebanon. These harmful policies have specifically targeted Sunni Arab states, not Iran, which for its own part has not been directly affected by either Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Today, capable Arab states and actors in the region—most prominently Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE—must take the initiative to form a new regional alliance based on reviving the idea of “Sunni Awakening Councils” (militias formed to fight Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups) in Yemen, Iraq and Libya. This is not to mention Syria, where these new Awakening Councils must work in coordination with the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting the Assad regime and ISIS at the same time. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE must work with the US and the EU to revive the idea of the Awakening Councils in order to break this new wave of terrorism that has beset the region, one that has been fueled—whether implicitly or explicitly—by Iran, Bashar Al-Assad and Nuri Al-Maliki, all seeking to gain international legitimacy by showing that they are also fighting terrorism.
It was Assad who was responsible for the release of the terrorist leadership who are now wreaking havoc across Syria and Iraq. Maliki is similarly responsible, but he committed an even greater crime when he disrupted the operations of the Awakening Councils in Iraq, which had previously driven Al-Qaeda elements out of the country. The government subsequently isolated and marginalized these Sunni groups, and this is a major factor in how Iraq has come to be in the position it finds itself in today. After all of this, Maliki’s ally Iran has come out and said it is fighting against terrorism, the same Iran that is helping Assad suppress and kill the Syrian people. Tehran is now offering a helping hand to Maliki, who has brought Iraq to the brink of division and collapse.
This is therefore a war that must be fought by Sunni Arabs, who with the help of the international community must unite to defeat this common enemy. We cannot allow this war to be fought by those who are responsible for it, whether we are talking about the Iranians, Assad or Maliki. This would only create further destruction and instability in our region. This is our war, and we are the ones who must fight it, not just through force of arms, but also by silencing the voices of extremism and incitement, whether we are talking about individual figures or entire media outlets.
Yes, this is our war, and we must fight it—from Yemen to Syria to Iraq and Lebanon.
The significance of Izzat al-Douri and the Ba’ath Party
Monday, 14 July 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
Izzat al-Douri was of no significance when he was the deputy of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein and he’s had no significance or value since the Ba’ath Party collapsed and since his president and other commanders were executed. What brought Douri back to life is the recent audio recording in which we heard his voice for the first time in over a decade. The recording has further strengthened our belief that the Ba’ath Party is history, despite allegations that Douri played a role in the recent fall of Mosul and Tikrit.
The Ba’ath Party died before Saddam did. It ended with Saddam’s struggle with its head Hassan al-Bakr and when Saddam seized leadership of the Ba’ath Party in the 1970s. The Ba’ath Party crumbled during that famous incident when Saddam convened an assembly of the party’s leaders, accused a number of members of conspiring with the Syrian Ba’ath Party against him and demanded they be taken out of the hall and executed. Saddam shed crocodile tears over them and sent a video of the assembly to a number of envoys in Baghdad.
Izzat al-Douri was of no significance when he was the deputy of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein and he’s had no significance or value since the Ba’ath Party collapsed
Iraq was thus governed by Saddam and his family members. All Ba’athist leaders who accompanied him for around a quarter of a century were mere political decoration in the famous republic of fear.
As to why Douri resurfaced this week, the reason doesn’t matter because we’ve noticed that no one voiced concern regarding him. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is more important than him. Also, why did Douri mention ISIS and praise it? This is strange because the organization considers Ba’athists to be infidels. This is at the core of its ideology and teachings. An expert said Douri was forced to praise ISIS due to the terrorist organization’s domination over Ba’athists and the abduction of its men from its ranks. He added that Douri wants to neutralize ISIS to avoid its evil.
Douri’s problem with ISIS
Douri’s problem with ISIS is bigger than his problem with Maliki’s regime because ISIS opposes Sunni Sufism, including the Naqshbandi sect to which he belongs, and accuses its followers of apostasy.
If Douri is a mere figure from the past, then what’s the role and significance of Ba’athists who surprised everyone in recent battles? There are Ba’athists but there’s no Ba’ath Party. Ba’athists are a mere old association of those who feel marginalized by the regime and who have been pushed out of their jobs and all aspects of public life. Academics, military and security figures, local partisans and others who belonged to the Ba’ath Party have one mutual aim: to work against the current regime in the name of any slogan. This is expected. However, they are not real Ba’athists like Douri tried to describe them in his recording. During the era of the Ba’ath Party, which ruled from 1963 until 2003, most Iraqis - Sunnis, Shiites and others - were forced to belong to the party. Just like any other fascist party, the Ba’athists ruled with an iron fist and Saddam was brutal and harsh. This is why when he invaded Kuwait, he was defeated within weeks despite his massive army. When the Americans invaded Iraq, the army did not confront them but dissipated instead. The party is no longer of any value and late President Saddam Hussein no longer has followers who believe in him.
But Nouri al-Maliki’s regime, which came in on an American tank, has not yet comprehended that after the American troops’ withdrawal, it will not be able to control all of Iraq, particularly the Arab Sunni and Kurdish areas. This is what happened last month when leaders of Maliki’s forces escaped during the confrontation with ISIS fighters, tribes and former Ba’athist military leaders. Maliki himself is not any better than Saddam Hussein when it comes to his practices and tyranny. What’s certain is that if he succeeds at remaining in power in Baghdad, Iraqis will revolt against him. He will then succeed at one thing: ensuring the collapse of the Iraqi state. His rivals are not the Ba’athists but all Iraqis, including a large number of Shiites.
Taking hi-tech steps to root out the ISIS threat
Monday, 14 July 2014
By: Jamal Khashoggi/Al Arabiya
I love life just like any moderate Muslim does. At the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, I took my family to a Turkish coffee shop in Jeddah following the evening prayers. It was a usual Ramadan evening. We exchanged conversation, consumed a lot of calories and Turkish tea.
The next day, I received the following tweet: “I saw you yesterday in (...) the restaurant. The state supporters are everywhere. Be careful.” Is this a threat, or advice? Or does the person who tweeted this want to tell me “we’re here?” I checked out the account of Abu Abed al-Mowahad, the man who made this tweet, and realized he’s a committed supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and not just a passerby joking with me. He’s been professionally active at distributing the ISIS publications and news and at calling for supporting it. He does not engage in debates and conversations exchanging threats and insults like most of this extremist movement’s supporters do. This is what led me to believe that he’s not an amateur but a committed working member.
There’s a massive window overlooking the world of the ISIS and extremism. That would be social media
I tried to remember whether I saw him at the coffee shop which had nothing to do with ISIS and its ideology - except for the absence of music which is common in all the world’s restaurants but absent in our restaurants whether it’s Ramadan or not. To the left of our table was the families’ section, and I don’t recall anyone who had ISIS characteristics. To the right side, there was the section of single men. There were ordinary youths enthusiastically talking about the World Cup. One of them attracted my attention after he lit a cigarette violating the law which the Jeddah municipality ordered few months ago. When I objected to his act, the waiter said that the restaurant’s owner got a permit from the municipality. I asked who the owner was and the name was “influential” enough.
Of course there wasn’t a masked man wearing black. What’s certain is that Abu Abed al-Mowahad was there. He was one of us. His tweet to me confirms that. It’s a strange feeling to know there’s a young man who believes in the ideas of the angry, takfirist and revolutionary ISIS and who argues for its sake while sitting a few meters away from you and observing you. Was he praying that God guides us? Or was he saying “we’ve come to slaughter you?” You can witness both from such people. You can sense mercy and be prayed for if you agree with them and you’d get slaughtered if you disagree with them.
Is the ISIS situation in Saudi Arabia more dangerous than in other countries? I think we can look at this question from a scientific perspective. We can look at economic standards like the per capita income and the rate of deaths among newborns. These standards indicate the good or bad circumstances in a certain country. What if researchers team up and try to figure out the rate of ISIS supporters to the population. This requires the transparency of the interior ministry which has its justified security calculations. But until then, we’ll remain hostages of numbers provided by Western research centers like the Soufan Group which in a report issued in mid-2014 estimated the number of Saudis in Syria was 3,000. According to the report, the Tunisians are a little more than that. If this is true, it means our ISIS situation is better than Tunisia’s regarding the ratio of ISIS supporters to the wider population. Analysts can also exonerate the Saudi educational curricula and say that although education in Tunisia is more modern and open than Saudi education and although it gives less religious sessions, it produced more ISIS supporters than the Saudi education system did.
These are certainly not scientific statements as numbers are not accurate but I am certain that the Saudi interior ministry has accurate numbers of the number of Saudis suspected to have ended up as ISIS fighters.
What’s more difficult is to estimate the “situation of the sympathizers” with ISIS. This is what can specify the power of sleeper cells - like my friend here Abu Abed al-Mowahad who might be a local leader tasked with recruiting others or who might be a mere young man tasked with delivering information. But this can only be estimated via intelligence information the media doesn’t have. However, there’s a massive window overlooking the world of the ISIS and extremism. That would be social media. The latter reveals that the organization enjoys respectable popularity. A specialized expert can track the IP addresses to draw a map of these sympathizers’ geographic presence. This is what analyst Noam Binshtok from the website Vocativ did. Binshtok noticed that most tweets in support of the ISIS came from the Saudi kingdom and that a popular hashtag in support of ISIS, #One_billion_Muslims_in_support_of_ISIS_, was launched from an IP address in Saudi Arabia. Most of the tweets first came from there but then the hashtag became global.
Meanwhile, Saudis in general reject ISIS and other extremist groups. This was clear following the terrorist operation against the border post south of the kingdom and following the incident at Sharurah which is 60 kilometers away from that border incident. A number of security officers and terrorists were killed. The terrorist operation angered Saudis a lot and reminded them of the threat al-Qaeda and ISIS pose. It cleared the vision of some following ISIS’ recent victories against the Iraqi government. Some Saudis think the Iraqi government is sectarian and close to Iran but this sympathy must not blind us to the fact that the presence of 3,000 or 4,000 Saudi fighters among ISIS’ ranks - according to more than one intelligence report - is very worrisome.
Until then, I am waiting to hear from Abu Abed al-Mowahad on why he sympathizes with ISIS - that is if he reads this article. I followed him on Twitter to have direct contact with him. If he does tell me, I will let readers know what he says.
Iran’s nuke deal: Don’t expect any last-minute game changers
Monday, 14 July 2014/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabiya
United States Secretary of State John Kerry clinched a deal in Kabul and then headed towards Vienna for another important deal. This time, however, the deal is not between two rival politicians as it was in Afghanistan. Kerry arrived in Vienna on Sunday to see if he can also clinch the deal between seven countries: the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) - who are negotiating with Iran as the interim agreement between them over Iran’s nuclear file expires on July 20.
“Obviously we have some very significant gaps still, so we need to see if we can make some progress,” Kerry said to the press ahead of meetings on Sunday in Vienna. In spite of the high possibilities of reaching the deal before the deadline approaching the parties, Iran and the U.S. are preparing the public for the probability of failure. Iran and the U.S. both like to keep expectations low in case the talks break down
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi - Iran’s second man in the negotiation team - made similar statements. He was quoted by al-Alam television as saying that “disputes over all major and important issues still remain. We have not been able to narrow the gaps on major issues and it is not clear whether we can do it.”Positive atmosphere
While the atmosphere is positive in Vienna, as the potential of reaching the comprehensive deal rises with Kerry’s arrival, still Iran and the U.S. both like to keep the expectations low in case the talks break down. But, if the negotiations fail and the parties don’t extend the interim deal for another six months, what could the consequences be?
The consequences of Iran not having a deal will be dire economically, but does it mean that Iran will turn into the next North Korea by walking away from the negotiations table?
Iran has demonstrated, particularly since Hassan Rowhani’s election, that it has the political will to re-enter into serious negotiations with the international community on its nuclear program. With all the noise Iran made during all these years and two sets of broken down talks in 2003 and 2005, it has long touted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Whether or not it’s true, it shows that Iran cares about its appearance on the world stage. North Korea, on the other hand, has long touted that its program will be for military purposes. North Korea does not seem to care about the international repercussions and affirming their desire, but for Iran the scenario is totally different and this shows, actually, Iran cares a lot.
Even the comparison between the two nations- Iran and North Korea- show different desires for each of them.
Young, energetic, social and fashionable – that is what a large chunk of Iran’s population is as compared with North Korea’s isolated population. Iran’s geography, its political dimensions and its geopolitical needs won’t allow this country to act in an unprecedented manner and tread North Korea’s path even if the regime is willing to take such steps. Also, North Korea does not have a “Rowhani” or a “Zarif,” or an outspoken population which demands that the economic conditions of their country improve. It’s obvious that Iran recognizes that to progress as a nation and avoid catastrophic economic decline, it must reach the deal, no matter if it happens by the end of the week or during the coming up extension.
The economy matters
All Iran’s talk about a “resistance economy,” still can’t be separated from its need to be interdependent of the global system and international marketing. Iran’s strong business relations with its neighbors have been effected by international sanctions and its restoration has high priority for Rowhani and his team as his part of plan to improve the economy in the short term. All these facts are strong evidences showing Iran is sincere about reaching the deal even if it doesn’t happen during this six month interim agreement. Both Barack Obama and Hassan Rowhani have trusted men in Vienna to clinch the deal; John Kerry the Secretary of State and Hussein Ferdion, special assistant to Rowhani. The future looks bright despite the stumbling blocks in the way.
Canadian Statement on Assisted Departure of Canadians from Gaza
July 13, 2014 - The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today issued the following statement regarding the assisted departure of 47 Canadian citizens and accompanying family members from Gaza:
“Over the past 24 hours, government officials in Ottawa and at Canada’s diplomatic missions in the region alerted Canadians in Gaza who had expressed interest in leaving about the relevant details of an operation to assist Canadians wishing to depart.
“Today our consular officials, assisted by members of our Standing Rapid Deployment Team, successfully assisted 47 Canadian citizens and accompanying family members in safely travelling from Gaza to Jordan.
“As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, Canadian consular officials in Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Amman worked to ensure that all necessary approvals for this operation were secured.
“The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is becoming increasingly limited.
“Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) has been advising against all travel to the Gaza Strip since May 31, 2005.
“On July 9, 2014, the government advised Canadians to leave Gaza.
“We continue to send regular updates to Canadians through DFATD’s Registration of Canadians Abroad service, as well as direct communications offering further assistance to those wishing to depart.
“We strongly recommend that Canadian citizens currently in Gaza register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive the latest advice from the Government of Canada.
“Canadians wishing to leave the Gaza Strip should contact DFATD’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre by phone, collect, at +1 613-996-8885 or by email at email@example.com.
“Canadian citizens in Gaza requiring consular assistance should contact the Representative Office of Canada in Ramallah at 972 (2) 297-8430 or contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre by phone, collect, at +1 613-996-8885 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For the latest advice and more information from the Government of Canada, Canadians should consult the travel advice and advisory for Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Twitter users may also
The hidden intelligence agendas behind Hamas’ 1,000-rocket barrage and Israel’s 1,500 air strikes
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 14, 2014/Speculation has been rife about the motivations behind Hamas’ more than 100-rocket-a-day barrage against the Israeli population, week after week. The most popular theory is that the Palestinian Islamists are aiming for a spectacular victory over Israel by hitting an important strategic target and/or causing a high number of fatalities. Until one or both those objectives is achieved, the Palestinian Islamists won’t stop shooting.
But, as the Israeli Operation Defends Edge ended its first week on July 14, another explanation was finding acceptance among well-informed military and intelligence observers: They don’t believe Hamas tacticians have squandered 1,000 rockets thus far on a whim or at random. They are most likely motivated by three goals, which are also important to Hamas’ future plans – and not just Hamas:
1. Why would Hamas keep on shooting when so many of its rockets miss their targets or are destined to be downed by Israel’s Iron Dome interception batteries? The answer is that its tacticians have a hidden agenda. The rocket crews and their masters are testing the strengths and weaknesses of Israel’s wonder weapon for future reference.
Hamas knew in advance of the massive rocket blitz it launched against Israel in the last week of June that the Iron Dome defensive shield was if not impermeable then a major impediment.
At the same time, by battering the very areas where this shield was deployed, Hamas planners sought to expose its weak points and provide the Palestinians terrorists and their allies, Iran and Hizballah, with valuable data about the linchpin of Israel’s defenses.
This explanation would account for the changing focus of the rocket barrage: After three days of concentrated fire on Israel’s three main cities, the Tel Aviv conurbation, Jerusalem and Haifa, Hamas turned Monday, July 14, to its familiar victims around the Gaza Strip’s borders. In those three days, data had been collected on Iron Dome’s performance and handed over to the analysts.
2. When the distribution of Hamas targets is examined, a premeditated program becomes visible: They were not randomly aimed at Dimona, Tel Aviv, Modiin and Hadera, but sought out the nuclear reactor (Dimona), Israel’s national and business heartland (Tel Aviv), the national power center (Hadera), Ben Gurion airport (Modiin), Israeli air bases near Negev towns, and military and port installations in Haifa, Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Hamas strategists noted that when the rocket fire intensified, so too did the Iron Dome interceptions.
While not averse to hitting Israel’s prime strategic sites directly, the Palestinians were their missed launches to develop data for guidance systems that would make their rockets and mortars more accurate in future conflicts.
The first Hamas drone from Gaza over Ashdod coast, shot down by a Patriot anti-missile early Monday, served this strategy,
The drone appears to have spent some time over the Mediterranean without approaching the Israeli coast before it was detected and downed. It may have been gathering information on the Israel coast and the strategic facilities located there.
Hamas later boasted that it had lofted not one but six unmanned aerial vehicles, whose range was 60 km and which were claimed capable of both surveillance and attack.
The IDF responded fast by declaring the southern coastal area a closed military zone.
Israel’s armed forces have been engaged in rocket-air combat for seven days, conducting a total of 1,470 air strikes, compared with more than 1,000 rockets fired by Hamas and its partner Jihad Islami.
Hamas still retains the bulk of its rocket stockpile. Some observers suggest that the Israeli Air Force will soon run out of worthwhile targets. The air force’s target bank is renewed almost hourly by incoming data. To replenish the dwindling stock, the military would have to expand its intelligence assets and resources, including surveillance and other means of monitoring the sites used by the enemy for control and command, as welll as informers.
Inserting a variety of sensitive intelligence resources at key points in the Gaza Strip is an essential requisite - not just for the current conflict, but for the long term. They would be there to have quality intelligence ready and available in real time, so providing a key factor for tipping the scales in the current and future rounds of violence.
Special forces working under cover to “label” targets for dedicated payloads to be delivered by air or “smart artillery” would provide such intelligence, just as Hamas uses rocket attacks and drones to suss out the secrets of Israel’s advanced defenses.
Above all, the clandestine insertion of special forces into the Gaza Strip could break the standoff between Israel and Hamas by cracking the control and surveillance communications systems linking commanders with the ranks and the politicians running the territory.
Ironically, the primitive nature of those communications makes them invulnerable to the IDF’s sophisticated Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) methods.
Iraq: Insurgents look towards Baghdad
as Douri praises ISIS
Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi forces repelled an attempt by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to capture a town on the road to Baghdad on Sunday, as a senior former Ba’athist admitted for the first time that he had allied with the organization.
Sources said that insurgents attacked the Al-Duloueyah area of the Salah Al-Din province, north of Baghdad, in an attempt to force open a route to the capital, but were repelled by police and local residents after fierce fighting.
A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said around 80 ISIS militants attacked the town from the north at dawn on Sunday, but were driven off after fighting their way to the town center.
The source added that up to 10 insurgents and four police officers were killed in the battle.
A senior security official in Tikrit, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The ISIS attack on Al-Duloueyah had a number of aims: first, to relieve the pressure caused by the advance of Iraqi forces towards the entrances of Tikrit . . . and try to open a new front to occupy the Iraqi forces, which has become a regular tactic used by ISIS.”
The source added: “The second reason is that controlling Al-Duloueyah is important to ISIS for the move on Baghdad, because the area is an open area, and it is 45 miles (70 kilometers) from the capital, even though they know the difficulty of the task due to the security and military cordons around Baghdad. However, they need the operation for media purposes to say they are getting closer to Baghdad.”
Meanwhile, in the first acknowledgment of the alliance between Ba’athists and ISIS, Izzat Al-Douri, a former deputy of late dictator Saddam Hussein, praised the armed groups, especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which took control of Mosul and Tikrit in June, in the first audio recording to be released since the start of hostilities.
Douri did not confirm or deny official Iraqi reports about the deaths of his sons Ahmad and Ibrahim in the fighting in Tikrit.
However, he said: “The successive victories in Anbar and Diyala and on the outskirts of Baghdad, and in Kirkuk, are a massive historic turning point in the nation’s jihadist course.”
Douri praised the roles of all armed groups, including the Naqshbandi Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and Jaysh Al-Mujahideen.
Douri, who has been in hiding since 2003, claimed: “The liberation of Baghdad is very near,” adding that “half of Iraq is no longer under the control of the government.”
Douri’s statement is the first since the announcement by tribal revolutionaries and other factions that their actions were a popular uprising against the policies of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
Deadly war on Gaza continues despite
calls for truce
Nidal al-Mughrabi/Jeffrey Heller| Reuters
GAZA/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Palestinian fighters resumed rocket attacks on Tel Aviv Monday after a 24-hour lull in strikes on the Israeli commercial capital, and Israel kept up its air and naval bombardments of the Gaza Strip despite growing international pressure for a cease-fire.
The military said it had shot down a drone from Gaza, the first reported deployment of an unmanned aircraft by Palestinian fighters whose rocket attacks have been regularly intercepted.
The use of a drone would mark a step up in the sophistication of the Palestinian arsenal, although it was not immediately clear whether it was armed.
Around half a dozen Israelis have been wounded since the start of the week-old offensive, which Gaza health officials say has killed at least 175 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
With international calls mounting for a ceasefire, Egyptian media said U.S. Secretary John Kerry was due in Cairo Tuesday for talks on the Gaza situation. There was no immediate U.S. confirmation of the report.
The worst flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence for almost two years was sparked by the murder of three Israeli teenagers and revenge killing of a Palestinian youth.
Israel has arrested three people, two of them minors, over the Palestinian's murder and officials said Monday they had confessed to burning him alive.
The European Union said it was in touch with "all parties in the region" to press for an immediate halt to the hostilities, a day after Kerry offered to help secure a Gaza truce.
Egypt and Qatar are seen as potential mediators but peace efforts were complicated by Hamas's rejection of a mere "calm for calm" in which both sides hold their fire in favor of wider conditions including prisoner release and an end to Israel's Gaza blockade.
The Israeli army said its aircraft and naval gunboats attacked dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and that Palestinian fighters fired more than 20 rockets into Israel, slightly wounding a boy in the town of Ashdod, where a home was damaged. Palestinian health officials said at least 20 people in Gaza were wounded.
But Israel did not carry out a threat to step up attacks against rocket-launching sites it said were hidden among civilian homes in the town of Beit Lahuiya after urging residents there to leave. A U.N. aid agency said around a quarter of the town's 70,000 residents had fled.
Hamas said its armed wing had sent several locally-made drones to carry out "special missions" deep inside Israel.
A military spokesman said the drone was shot down near the port of Ashdod, about 25 km north of Gaza, by a U.S.-built Patriot missile.
An Egyptian-brokered truce doused the last big Gaza flare-up in 2012, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Egyptian President Abel-Fattah al-Sisi in a phone call that his country is the most credible party capable of persuading both sides to stand down, an official Egyptian statement said.
But Cairo's government is at odds with Islamist Hamas, complicating a mediation bid with the group, an offshoot of the now-outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Asked if Egypt was mediating, Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty said only that Cairo was "in close contact with the Israelis and all Palestinian factions as well as with regional and international countries."
He said he did not want to predict whether those efforts were moving Israel and Hamas close to a cease-fire.
A Hamas politburo member said Kerry called the foreign minister of Qatar this week, asking him to mediate with the Palestinian movement. A Qatari government source said, however, that Hamas had unrealistic conditions for a ceasefire.
" Qatar is the only one that reached out to us," Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq said in Doha. "I wouldn't say its mediation - it's still too early - they have just opened a line of communication with us, but there is no clear plan on what form of mediation this will be."
Al-Mezan, a Gaza-based Palestinian human rights group, said 869 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or damaged in Israeli attacks over the past week.
Hamas leaders have said a cease-fire must include an end to Israel's Gaza blockade and a re-commitment to the 2012 truce agreement. In addition, Hamas wants Egypt to ease restrictions it imposed at its Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip since the military toppled Islamist president Mohammad Morsi last July.
Hamas has faced a cash crisis and Gaza's economic hardship has deepened as a result of Egypt's destruction of cross-border smuggling tunnels. Cairo accuses Hamas of aiding anti-government Islamist fighters in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, an allegation the Palestinian group denies.
For its part, Hamas leaders said, Israel would have to release hundreds of the group's activists it arrested in the occupied West Bank last month while searching for the three Jewish seminary students who it said were kidnapped by Hamas.
Israel's Gaza offensive, which began last Tuesday, has claimed the lives of at least 138 Palestinian civilians, including 30 children, health officials in the enclave said.
There have been no fatalities in Israel in the fighting. Iron Dome has intercepted many of the rocket salvos.
But the persistent rocket fire has disrupted life in major cities, paralyzed vulnerable southern towns and triggered Israeli mobilization of troops for a possible Gaza invasion if the Palestinian rockets persisted.