July 18/14


Bible Quotation for today/Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’

Matthew 16,5-12/"When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They said to one another, ‘It is because we have brought no bread.’ And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!’ Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

A Tweet By Pope Francis
The Church, by her nature, is missionary. She exists so that every man and woman may encounter Jesus.
Pape François
L’Église est, par sa nature, missionnaire : elle existe pour que chaque homme et que chaque femme puisse rencontrer Jésus.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For July 18/14

Reading the Situation in Gaza/By: Eyad Abu Shakra /Asharq AlAwsat/July 18/14

How will Lebanon treat the man who fired on Israel/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 18/14

What is Hamas trying to achieve/By: Dr. Azeem Ibrahim /Al Arabiya/July 18/14

Saving Iraqi Turkmens Is a Win-Win-Win/By: Michael Knights/Washington Institute/18/14

Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For July 18/14
Lebanese Related News

Hezbollah, Nusra clash near Lebanon border

Lebanon files UN complaint over Israeli actions

Bou Saab to schools: respect religious freedom

Siniora holds talks with Sisi in Cairo

EDL proposes gradual tariff increase to boost production

Report: Franjieh Says Local Situation Linked to Foreign Affairs, Justifies Boycott of Presidential Polls

European Report Tackles Need for Lebanon to Improve Roumieh Jail, Combat Terrorism

Lebanese TV Stations to Air Unified Newscast in Solidarity with Gaza
Al-Labweh Engineer Kidnapped, Taken to Arsal Plains

Germany Vows to Resume Support to Lebanon over Refugees Crisis

Army Detains Suspect Linked to Abduction of Palestinian in Baalbek

Nissan Chief Ghosn Shrugs off Lebanon Politics Career
Berri Says Salam Cornered by Cabinet's Followed Mechanism

 Miscellaneous Reports And News For July 18/14

Obama: Israel has right to defend against

IDF starts Gaza ground offensive

IDF ground forces attack Gaza amid air, sea and artillery pounding. Half a million Gazans told to leave. Israelis around Gaza sent to shelters

Operation Protective Edge in Gaza

Egypt: Hamas 'could have saved dozens of lives' with truce
Gaza drone downed by IAF

Egypt blames Hamas for IDF's ground offensive

West may ease Iran sanctions to salvage talks

Iran nuke talks likely to extend past deadline

Iranian president backs extension of nuclear talks

Malaysian airliner downed in Ukraine war zone, 295 dead


Hezbollah, Nusra Front clash near Lebanon border
The Daily Star/HERMEL, Lebanon: Hezbollah fighters clashed once again with members of the Nusra Front on the border with Syria Wednesday evening, a security source said Thursday. The fierce fighting took place along the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal and the Bekaa Valley town of Al-Fakiha, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star. Media reports said the clashes killed two Hezbollah members and dozens of fighters from the radical group fighting in Syria, adding that the Lebanese group took seven militants hostage. Earlier this week, seven Hezbollah fighters and 32 Syrian rebels died in clashes around the Syrian village of Nahleh, just over the border from Lebanon’s Arsal. Arsal and the area around it are largely Sunni, and locals sympathize with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Earlier this year, clashes between Hezbollah-backed Syrian regime troops and rebel groups relatively subsided after the former regained control of the Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon. Rebels battling Assad forces have in recent weeks attempted to retake several areas along the porous border between Lebanon and Syria particularly that Qalamoun was seen as a strategic region for smuggling weapons and fighters. The Lebanese Army has also launched a crackdown and tightened the noose on rebels along the border to prevent the infiltration of armed men into Lebanon, following months of car bombings targeting

predominantly Shiite areas in retaliation to Hezbollah’s role in Syria.


Report: Franjieh Says Local Situation Linked to Foreign Affairs, Justifies Boycott of Presidential Polls
Naharnet/Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh stated that the local situation in Lebanon is linked to foreign developments, while justifying the boycott of March 8 camp lawmakers of presidential elections sessions, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Thursday. Bishop Samir Mazloum told the daily that the MP believes that the boycott is a constitutional right. Mazloum made his remarks in light of a meeting on Wednesday between Franjieh and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi. “The lawmakers will head to parliament to elect a president when the conditions are ripe,” said Franjieh according to Mazloum. “The conditions so far are not ripe yet,” he added. The bishop also denied that al-Rahi had asked Franjieh to act as mediator with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun to convince him to attend the elections or abandon his nomination. Aoun has yet to announce his candidacy, but he has repeatedly stated that he is willing to run in the elections if there is consensus over his nomination. Moreover, Mazloum stated that at the moment, Bkirki has no initiatives to hold a meeting between Aoun and his rival Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. “There are no new developments regarding the presidential elections. Local affairs are linked to a breakthrough in regional events,” he explained to al-Joumhouria. Franjieh and al-Rahi had held a meeting on Wednesday during which they discussed the presidential elections and other pending issues. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. Several elections sessions have been staged, but the majority of them were not held due to lack of quorum caused by a boycott by the Loyalty to the Resistance and Change and Reform blocs of the March 8 alliance. The MPs defended the boycott by saying that they are awaiting for consensus to be reached over a presidential candidate.
The next elections session is scheduled for July 23.

Germany Vows to Resume Support to Lebanon over Refugees Crisis
Naharnet/Germany is keen to continue supporting Lebanon to help it confront the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, visiting Christoph Strasser, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, said on Thursday. “Germany wants to sense the real situation in Lebanon in the presence of more than one million Syrian refugees,” Strasser told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the Bustros Palace. He pointed out that the two officials discussed new forms of solidarity offered by the international community in an attempt to share the refugees burden with Lebanon.
“It was an open discussion in which the Lebanese side briefed us on valuable information that should be conveyed to the German government and the European Union.” In May, German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a two-day visit that included talks with Lebanese officials on the Syrian refugee crisis. Strasser hailed the efforts exerted by the Lebanese authority to aid the Syrian people during the past two years.“Germany granted Lebanon during this period around 130 million euros and will resume its support,” Strasser said. He revealed that his country will also host several conferences on the matter. Asked about a possible Lebanese decision to establish camps for Syrian refugees outside Lebanese territories or in buffer zones along the border with Syria, the German official said that he didn't discuss the proposal with Bassil. “I've heard about such a suggestion, which will be the center point of upcoming meetings during the next few months.” Lebanon currently hosts 1.1 million refugees, the highest number at 38 percent of Syrian refugees fleeing the war-torn country for other countries in the region. The U.N. says the country needs $1.6 billion (1.2 billion euros) for 2014 to be able to cope with the refugee crisis, but that only 23 percent of this has been gathered. According to Central Bank of Lebanon statistics, the country faces a financial burden of $4.5 billion because of the refugee crisis. In May, the Lebanese authorities took a decision to ban Syrian refugees from heading to their country or lose their status.


EDL proposes gradual tariff increase to boost production
Elias Sakr| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: State-owned Electricite du Liban has proposed an increase in tariffs to boost power supply by two hours across Lebanon without increasing an annual deficit hovering around $2 billion, showed a study filed by the company to both the Energy and Finance ministries. According to a copy of the study obtained by The Daily Star, the tariffs for households and commercial institutions would see at least a two- to three-fold increase, depending on monthly power consumption.
For example, the price per kilowatt-hour would increase by around 185 percent from LL35 ($0.023) to LL100 ($0.066) for households that consume up to 100 kWh per month. For households that consume between 101 and 300 kWh per month, the cost would increase by some 85 percent from LL55 ($0.036) per kWh to LL100 ($0.066) per kWh.
Accounting for the proposed increase in the fixed monthly subscription fees from LL1,200 ($0.8) per 5 amps to LL3,000 ($2) per 5 amps, households that consume up to a 100 kWh and 300 kWh each month would see their electricity bills increase by almost 100 and 200 percent, respectively.
The study, however, proposes the abolition of monthly rehabilitation fees of LL5,000 ($3.3) per 45 amps or lower and LL10,000 ($6.67) per 45 amps and higher.
According to the EDL study, the projected additional revenues owing to the increase in tariffs would amount to $450 million but the actual forecast proceeds would only reach $350 million. The remaining $100 million would consist of uncollected revenues. Electricity theft, technical losses and uncollected bills account for almost 15 percent of EDL’s deficit, according to experts ,while tariffs as low as LL35 per kWh compared to an average production cost of LL255 per kWh in line with international oil prices, accounts for the remaining 85 percent of the annual deficit of around $2 billion.
An industry source told The Daily Star that the average cost per kWh incurred by EDL reaches LL255 ($0.17), while it is charged at LL35 ($0.023) for households that consume less than 100 kWh each month. The proposed increase in tariffs would lead to a two-hour increase in electricity supply across Lebanon, provided that the government channels the same amount of funds to EDL as in 2013, according to the study. According to EDL, the state-owned company was instructed by the Finance Ministry not to exceed an annual deficit of $1.8 billion.
Under the proposed increase in tariffs, areas outside the capital would receive up to 13 hours of electricity during seasons that see a peak in demand, such as winter and summer, while power supply could increase up to 14-15 hours on average during autumn and spring, the source said. The above estimates, however, don’t take into consideration any potential power rationing due to technical failures at Lebanon’s aging power plants, the source added. Power supply should reach an average of 10 to 11 hours outside the capital this July, according to the source, who said that EDL was supplying between 12 to 13 hours of electricity every day during June. Beirut, which is considered the administrative center, will continue to receive 21 hours of electricity each day.
The projected increase of two hours in power supply should cut the monthly 10 amp household subscription fee to private generators by LL31,638 ($21), the study said.
The study stressed that the revision of electricity tariffs should take place gradually in line with the production cost on the one hand and the reduction of the government’s contribution in the cost of purchasing oil on the other. EDL argued that it isn’t possible to raise the tariffs to fully cover the deficit before ensuring 24 hours of daily electricity supply.
To become effective, the proposed hike in tariffs would require the approval of the Cabinet. According to the EDL proposal, the Finance Ministry said in a memo that it doesn’t object to an increase in tariffs based on a decision by the EDL board. “The Finance Ministry sees no reason to object to an increase in electricity tariffs in light of a decision to be taken by the board of directors of the institution [EDL] that represents the concerned party involved in securing its own resources and proposing it to both the Finance and Energy and Water ministries,” the EDL proposal read, citing a memo sent by the Finance Ministry to EDL on Dec. 7, 2013.

Army Detains Suspect Linked to Abduction of Palestinian in Baalbek
Naharnet /The Lebanese army apprehended on Thursday a man over the abduction of a Palestinian national in the town Khreibe in the eastern city of Baalbek.An army unit raided the town of Brital and detained a man identified as Aa. Q. T. on the suspicion of being linked to the abduction of Palestinian Mohammed Jaber, the state-run National News Agency reported. Jaber was kidnapped on Tuesday in the Qob Elias town while he was inspecting a land in the town of Khreibe. Speculations indicated that the abductors wanted to demand a ransom in exchange for Jaber's freedom.


Lebanese TV Stations to Air Unified Newscast in Solidarity with Gaza

Naharnet /Local Lebanese television networks decided on Thursday to air a unified newscast in solidarity with the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, a step that was endorsed by Information Minister Ramzi Jreij.The initiative was launched by As Safir newspaper's Editor in Chief Talal Salman in coordination with prominent Lebanese and Palestinian figures, and it is scheduled to take place on Monday.
"I was informed about the initiative, and I asked (the state-run) Tele Liban to participate in this step that aims at showing solidarity with the Palestinian people against the inhumane crime committed by the Israeli army,” Jreij said in a statement. He deplored the killing of children, women and elderly in Palestine, calling on the international community to interfere and "stop the crime."
Meanwhile, Talal Maqdessi, the general director and the chief of the board of directors at TL announced that the “national TV station is ready to take part in the unified newscast alongside fellow Lebanese channels.”Maqdessi stressed TL's “solidarity with the Palestinian people who have suffered greatly the crimes against them in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
"TL has followed up on the Palestinian cause since the 1950s, and is now performing its duties towards the Arab world in highlighting the humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people,” he explained.
"Together with our fellow TV stations, we will take a unified step to underscore the crimes committed against Palestinian citizens and children,” Maqdessi said, praising Salman's initiative.
In a telephone call with Salman, As Safir's Editor in Chief revealed to Naharnet that local TV stations' executives will convene on Saturday to decide on the final format of the unified newscast.
"The introduction and the timing of the newscast will of course be the same (on all TV stations),” he told Naharnet, without detailing on whether the entire newscast will be identical on all channels.
What matters is agreeing together on the same cause, Salman pointed out. "If they (TV networks) don't agree on Gaza, then on what can they have a unified stance?” he asked.
"We hope TV channels would agree on local matters,” he said. For the tenth day in a row, Israel has continued bombarding Gaza on Thursday as the death toll of the military operation has exceeded 230 while more than 1550 others were wounded.

Nissan Chief Ghosn Shrugs off Lebanon Politics Career
Naharnet/Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese chief of Nissan-Renault, on Thursday shrugged off any chance of vying for the Middle Eastern nation's presidency, saying he has "too many jobs already".
The 60-year-old, widely credited with saving a near-bankrupt Nissan more than a decade ago, was born to Lebanese parents in Brazil. "I've been accused of accumulating too many jobs already. So unfortunately, I don't think this is part of the probabilities," he told reporters in response to a question about a political run, after delivering a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. "I think I have a job to do as head of two large companies," he added. Speculation over a political career was fuelled by reports last year quoting Ghosn as saying he would rely on the same techniques for running Lebanon that he used to turn around Nissan. The Lebanese parliament is divided between two main camps, the pro-Syrian regime bloc led by Hezbollah and backed by Damascus and Tehran and a second bloc led by the son of assassinated former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and backed by Saudi Arabia and Washington. The two sides are divided over the war in Syria and the question of Hezbollah's weapons, and have failed to agree on a candidate to fill the presidency. Ghosn spent most of his childhood in Lebanon where he attended French schools and is a graduate of France's elite Ecole Polytechnique.
He took over at Nissan in 1999, dispatched by Renault after the French firm took a controlling interest in the Japanese carmaker that was then on the brink of bankruptcy. Nicknamed "Le Cost Killer", Ghosn embarked on aggressive expense-cutting programmes to rescue the firm's battered balance sheet. His unlikely bid made something of a folk hero in Japan, where is he one of only a few foreigners to lead a major firm. Source/Agence France Presse


Berri Says Salam Cornered by Cabinet's Followed Mechanism
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri stressed on Thursday that Prime Minister Tammam Salam was trapped in an “unconstitutional mechanism” while he was seeking consensus among cabinet members on thorny issues. Salam “sought to find an agreement among ministers on government sessions agendas before the cabinet even convened,” Berri said in comments published in al-Akhbar newspaper. He pointed out that the PM “was keen to attain the ministers' approval on all decrees before announcing the cabinet sessions agenda... but he failed in his endeavor.” PM Salam insisted recently that he will not call for a cabinet session this week over differences on extra-budgetary spending and a decree on Lebanese University’s contract professors. 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. However, Berri described Salam in his remarks as “patient and sincere in dealing with his ministers.” Last week, the cabinet failed to approve the LU decree over differences between the representatives of different parties on the appointment of deans. Disagreements on the spending from outside the state budget have also left the fate of salaries of civil servants unclear. Lebanon has been without an official budget since 2005. The cabinet should allocate the extra spending.

Al-Labweh Engineer Kidnapped, Taken to Arsal Plains

Naharnet/Gunmen abducted on Thursday an engineer who hails from the Bekaa town of al-Labweh and took him away to the Arsal plains, the state-run National News Agency reported.
"Two armed men kidnapped engineer Mohammed al-Qadi who hails from al-Labweh in the northern Bekaa,” the NNA said, noting that he was at the outskirts of Arsal at the time of his abduction.
The kidnappers then took al-Qadi to the Arsal plains, the same source added. Thursday's kidnapping comes as army troops and security forces have been implementing a security plan in the Bekaa, the North and Beirut.  The plan has been successful in arresting several leaders of kidnapping rings. Two days ago, Palestinian Mohammed Jaber was kidnapped by an identified group of men in the Khraibeh plains in Baalbek.  And on July 8, citizen Joseph Emile Bashaalani escaped a kidnapping attempt after unknown assailants opened fire at his pickup truck in the Arsal region. Bashaalani received 10 gunshots during the kidnapping attempt.

European Report Tackles Need for Lebanon to Improve Roumieh Jail, Combat Terrorism
Naharnet/A European report warned that Lebanon is facing dangers from regional jihadists, while highlighting the threat of Islamists in the overcrowded Roumieh Prison, said As Safir newspaper on Thursday.
The report, prepared by European Union Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, explained that western jihadists are threatening Lebanon and its stability, adding that the Lebanese officials' decision to stand by and wait for the worst to happen is not a solution to this problem.
They therefore sought foreign aid to tackle this security issue.
De Kerchove compiled his report after holding talks with a number of Lebanese security officials during a visit he made to Lebanon months ago.
The European counter-terrorism experts positively evaluated their meetings with Lebanese officials, stressing in their report that they are keen on reaching a way to cooperate with the EU on several issues, most notably security ones.
De Kerchove's report spoke of the need to construct a new fortified prison in Lebanon to resolve the case of overcrowding in Roumieh, adding that Lebanon needs support in transferring Islamist inmates from Roumieh to the new jail.
A high-ranking diplomatic source told As Safir that Roumieh is one of the main sources of security tensions in Lebanon.
The European report also tackled Lebanon's request to aid its army in order to thwart the infiltration of jihadists through its porous borders.
It said that Lebanese officials requested assistance in setting up the third army regiment dedicated to monitoring the border and protecting the nearby regions.
The diplomat highlighted the flaws in monitoring the border in the western Bekaa region, especially in al-Qalamoun and Arsal areas.
He revealed that European countries, especially Britain, are receptive of the idea of bolstering border surveillance in Lebanon.
Setting up surveillance towers along the border is among the options being considered to that end, he told As Safir.
Security agencies have intensified their efforts to control Lebanon's land, air, and maritime borders given the recent bombings in the country and infiltration of terrorists, reported al-Liwaa newspaper in June.
In addition, the European and Lebanese officials also addressed the possibility of providing European aid to establish a national strategy to combat terrorism, said de Kerchove's report.
Lebanese authorities seek support in placing a national strategy and laws to combat terrorism, said the report.
This will take place alongside projects to train judges and the General Prosecution in combating terror, it continued.
The diplomatic source noted however that Lebanon has a counter-terrorism law, but it has not been updated to meet recent challenges.
In March, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq established a two-stage plan to resolve the situation at Roumieh Prison and improve the conditions of the inmates.
Roumieh, the oldest and largest of Lebanon's overcrowded prisons, has witnessed sporadic prison breaks in recent years and escalating riots over the past months as inmates living in poor conditions demand better treatment.
During the first stage of the plan, Mashnouq seeks to equip a new facility near the prison to accommodate around 700 to 1000 inmate.
The second stage, which needs around a year to be accomplished, will see the establishment of a new facility for dangerous prisoners, who will have a separate court room.
Corruption, negligence and the maltreatment of inmates are rampant at Roumieh as some inmates have access to cellphone, internet connection and soft arms.


Arsal no place for jihadists: officials
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Arsal Municipality said Thursday that the northeastern town was no place for jihadist groups, voicing its support for the Lebanese Army against any possible attacks.
“We hosted our refugee brethren fleeing death in Syria, but we do not desire for our land to turn into a field in which armed groups infiltrate under the pretext of a revolution and pose a danger to us and refugees in Arsal,” the municipality said in a statement. “The groups are carrying out thefts and intimidating the residents. Whoever wants jihad for the sake of Syria, they should go to the open front in Syria.”
Located near the porous border with Syria, Arsal has become home for thousands of Syrians fleeing the crisis in their country, with media reports saying militants have also taken refuge in the town.
Arsal and the area around it are largely Sunni, and locals sympathize with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The town has been a frequent target of Syrian rockets, with the Syrian regime arguing that it was attacking militant groups. “We have hosted some 120,000 Syria refugees in our homes and hearts, and we seek to provide them with needed shelter in this difficult phase despite the huge burden on the town,” the municipality said. It also affirmed its support for the Lebanese Army and its efforts to maintain security in the town and on the border.
“We, the residents of Arsal, accept no attack on our Army and we stand hand in hand against whoever desires to do so. The refugees have also expressed similar sentiments,” it said. “Any attack on the Army is an attack on us and the refugees in Arsal.”


IDF starts Gaza ground offensive

LAST UPDATED: 07/17/2014

After days of waiting and deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the IDF to send ground troops into Gaza to strike the terror tunnels into Israel.
A statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon Netanyahu directed the IDF to prepare to expand the ground operation.
The statement said that the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected. In addition, the statement said, Hamas even fired rockets during the Thursday's five-hour humanitarian cease-fire.
“In light of Hamas' continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” the statement said.
The statement said that Operation Protective Edge, now in its 10th day, will continue until its goals are reached: restoring quiet for an extended period of time,and delivering a significant blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza.
Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.
The ground invasion comes hours after a Hamas assault squad of thirteen highly armed terrorists attempted to carry out a massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Sufa, near the border, before being blocked by the IDF. Infantry, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, artillery, and intelligence units are taking over various areas in Gaza, and are all working with one another and the air force. They are operating in northern, central, and southern Gaza, where Hamas has dug an extensive terrorist tunnel network.
The IDF's Southern Command is overseeing the ground offensive.
The units involved have undergone intensive training recently ahead of their missions, Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz, IDF spokesman, said on Thursday night.
"The operation has reached its ground phase," Almoz said. "Large numbers of forces began a focused effort to destroy tunnels in Gaza.
We are in a new stage," he stated. At the same time, the air force is continuing with air strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad around Gaza.
The Ground Forces are currently engaging terrorist infrastructure, and the operation "will be expanded as needed," Almoz said. "They're moving now in various areas of Gaza. We will continue to attack in every location we think needs to be struck," he warned.
The IDF is currently calling up more reserves, Almoz added.
Palestinian sources said strikes occurred up and down the Strip, adding that one strike targeted a motorcycle apparently carrying members of a rocket launching cell on their way to an attack on Israel.
At around 10:00 p.m. rocket sirens sounded in the Tel Aviv area, and in the Shfela. Iron Dome made a number of interceptions in the Tel Aviv area.
Hamas bombarded Israel on Thursday with rockets after the end of the humanitarian truce, firing over 100 projectiles after 3 p.m. Eighty one rockets landed in open areas, two fell inside villages, damaging two homes, and 20 were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
Also on Thursday, a drone from Gaza was detected in Israeli airspace, over the Ashkelon area. The IAF fired a patriot surface-to-air missile at the aircraft, shooting it down. It was the second Hamas drone to be shot down in recent days. The IDF on Thursday warned citizens of Gaza to evacuate their homes and make their way from less populated areas to the Strip's major cities.
Close to 100,000 leaflets containing the message were dropped over the territory and hundreds of thousands of citizens from all over Gaza received recorded phone messages warning them to vacate villages.
Air raid sirens sounded throughout southern and central areas during the day. Ashkelon and Ashdod were targeted by Hamas repeatedly in the evening, and were successfully defended by Iron Dome.
Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over central Israel and the Sharon district in the evening, and one over the city of Ashdod. Several rockets landed in open areas.
The Gaza-border region of Eshkol came under continuous rocket barrages. Some ten rockets in open areas, and one damaged a home.
Between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Hamas fired 40 rockets at Israel, and Iron Dome shot three down Two rockets were fired at Beersheba, with one falling in an open area and a second intercepted over the Negev city. Within a minute of the ceasefire ending, rockets were fired from Gaza at the Ashkelon industrial area and Hof Ashkelon region. Most fell in open areas.
The humanitarian ceasefire was violated when Hamas fired 3 projectiles at the Eshkol region. The rockets exploded in open areas.
On Thursday morning, one rocket was intercepted over the greater Tel Aviv and Sharon district, and one rocket fell in an open area. In Beersheba, Iron Dome intercepted an incoming Gazan rocket.


IDF ground forces attack Gaza amid air, sea and artillery pounding. Half a million Gazans told to leave. Israelis around Gaza sent to shelters
DEBKAfile Special Report July 17, 2014/Israel air, sea and artillery pounded the Gaza Strip Thursday night, July 17, as IDF ground forces embarked on a ground attack, just announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. debkafile reports a softening-up operation to prepare for the entry of armored and infantry units. The IDF calls on the half million Gazans of southern towns of Khan Younes and Rafah to leave their homes for their own safety. Palestinians in northern towns reeived the same message. Israelis living close to the Gaza border were advised to stay in bomb shelters.
The IDF spokesman reported that large infantry and armored units are operating across the entire area of the Gaza Strip.
The announcement from Jerusalem said: "The prime minister and defense minister have instructed the IDF to begin a ground operation tonight in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel."
The IDF said: the ground attack has launched a new phase of Operation Protective Edge for striking a significant blow at Hamas in response to 10 days of attacks by land, sea and air and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation.
See the earlier debkafile report below:
Hamas tried sending a commando team through a tunnel snaking under the Gaza border for a large-scale terrorist attack or kidnap early Thursday, July 17. As the group of 13-30 started coming to the surface inside Israel opposite the southern Gaza Strip, it ran into heavy IDF fire. Some were killed; the rest turned tail to escape through the tunnel and reach home. Israeli helicopters bombed the tunnel which exploded, and went on to scour the area around the Gaza Strip for more attempted incursions, through the honeycomb of secret tunnels Hamas has sunk for terrorist attacks and kidnaps.
debkafile quotes Israeli and Western military experts as estimating that the prospects of an Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip are now more real than the chances of a ceasefire. There is little substance to the reports that Hamas and Israeli delegations are in Cairo to discuss various drafts of a ceasefire accord.
Our sources stress that the only real talks revolve around an ultimatum Israel has slapped down for Hamas, via the various would-be peacemakers: It has only days to halt its rocket offensive before Israel launches a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The question being asked now is why, after 10 days of trading Israeli air strikes for Palestinian rocket attacks, the IDF has not destroyed the Hamas war room, the seat of its command and control center for directing the war and launching rockets, instead of striking the vacant homes of Hamas high-ups.
In the absence of a clear battlefield victory, headlines are appearing like this one: "Hamas Has Already Won Its Rocket War With Israel."
Even IDF commanders are noting that the IDF, while hammering the Gaza Strip night after night, has not achieved a single tactical victory. Destroying the Hamas war room would serve this purpose.
debkafile's military and intelligence sources note that finding and destroying underground structures is a daunting challenge, which is why Hamas has sunk its resources for fighting Israel deep below the surface. The war room in particular is a whole town complex, which runs under the surface buildings at the center of Gaza City, including the Shifa Hospital. This labyrinth accommodates top Hamas military personnel, the local social elite made up of Hamas bigwigs, affluent Gazans, foreign citizens and professionals like doctors or engineers.
It has a large and elaborate system of conference rooms, as well as control and command centers, outfitted with air conditioning, its own electricity and communications systems, security, and storerooms for food, drink and medicines to support the hundreds of top personnel operating and sheltering in the facility.
The Hamas underground city can function for weeks without outside help.
The various would-be European peace brokers, including foreign ministers and the Middle East Special Envoy Tony Blair, have been concerned to preserve the Hamas core stronghold, so as to leave the Islamist organization intact at the end of the current round of hostilities as a future negotiating partner and surviving government of the Gaza Strip. Our military sources say that this core stronghold is in fact Hamas’ sunken war room complex.
The Obama administration has been careful to keep its head down and make sure not to be seen or heard until Washington sees where this process is going.
Former Israel Air Force chief, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who also led the planning team for a strike on Iran, hinted this week that if the air force and IDF had the capability for destroying the underground nuclear facilities at Fordo, they could also destroy the Hamas underground command center.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saw Wednesday that the cross diplomacy in Cairo had little chance of gong anywhere, he ordered a call-up of 8,000 military reservists in anticipation of the week ahead. The IDF spokesman said: The forces are prepared for ground action. After the Hamas tunnel terror bid was foiled Thursday, a ground operation was seen to be close, as the only effective measure against tunnel warfare.

Reading the Situation in Gaza
By: Eyad Abu Shakra /Asharq AlAwsat
Thursday, 17 Jul, 2014
The Palestinians have faced many tough situations over the years, but in most cases they have succeeded in winning the sympathy of their Arab brothers and most of the international community. They have a just cause, and the injustice done to them since 1948 is unquestionable. Only skeptics with their own personal agenda would ever seek to deny that injustice.
The same thing must also be said about the injustice done to the Jewish people over the centuries. Unfortunately, today we see two wronged peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis, locked in an existential conflict. This has happened because the moderate and reasonable voices have died down, and the two sides have become obsessed with victory over the other, if not each other’s complete annihilation.
I dare say that the many setbacks that have befallen the Palestinians are a partial excuse for the way they have lost faith in the international community, which the Palestinian people have found to be firmly biased in favor of their adversary. The people of this troubled land have also been let down by a fractured “Arab nation” that is now threatened with total fragmentation.
I do wonder about the excuses the Israelis have to justify their descent from “democracy” to “militarization.” Since the June 1967 war set their de facto borders, they have had a number of military victories that have enabled them to occupy lands far larger than the entity demarcated in 1967.
The Palestinians have long failed to fully grasp the nature of the Zionist movement. This failure has multiplied since the founding of the Jewish state, but this has not been the fault of the Palestinians alone. The entire Arab world was wept away by the euphoria of “Arabism”—though they never quite succeeded in defining it—and so they were chasing after mere illusions and dreams. In their quest for “one Arab nation with an eternal message” stretching “from the Indian Ocean to the Gulf,” the Arabs were willing to sacrifice principal human values: freedom and dignity.
Thus Arabism, particularly in its revolutionary form, has become associated with two negative traits: demagoguery and political opportunism. The revolutionary tyrants in our part of the world successfully used this to put a glossy veneer on their backwardness, tribalism and sectarianism.
As the Palestinians are part of the Arab world, the Palestinian resistance was directly influenced by Arab interests. In spite of the pledge to support the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in the wake of the 1967 defeat several Arab regimes established their own client organizations under the PLO umbrella. The Palestinians, like many Arabs, were also an active part of the “international liberation movement” against “colonialism” and “imperialism,” towing the line of the Soviet Union and China in the face of the capitalist, imperialist West.
Two influential moments in the Palestinian struggle were the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s second president, and Anwar Sadat’s decision to draw Egypt closer to the US. Other related factors were the competition between the Ba’athists in Baghdad and Damascus, as well as the positions of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and Gaafar Nimeiry’s Sudan, about who was the rightful heir to Nasser’s “Arabist” mantle.
The Palestinian movement was further affected when Sadat, calling himself the “pious president,” began to exploit the forces of political Islam, using them as a weapon in his battle against the remnants of Nasserism and dimming the light of Arabism. The Camp David Accords struck another blow to the Arabist dream, enabling Hamas to rise at the expense of Fatah and the weakened Leftist organizations.
At the time, Israel was not particularly troubled by political Islam. It was fomenting internal battles in the Arab world between Islamists on one side and Arabists and Leftists on the other. The US was also happy to support political Islam—even its jihadist element, as we saw in the Afghanistan War in the 1980s. That is to say, the emergence of Hamas was once seen as a rather positive development by Israeli and American strategic planners, who at that point were in a hurry to settle the Cold War in favor of the West.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact would later become a game changer. The influence of the Left in the Muslim and Arab worlds shrank as a result of the Cold War’s end, and the Arab national identity fell apart in the face of the growing power of political Islam supported by the West. The awakening only came after the Afghan jihadists discovered they had been used as tools in the West’s war of attrition against Soviet communism: as soon as the jihadists were no longer useful, the West’s strategic goal became to put that genie back in its bottle.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, the jihadist response would be worldwide suicide operations, reaching US soil with the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. From that point onwards, the game took a drastic turn. In the Middle East, Israel found itself in the eye of the storm.
At one stage, Israel had faced the threat of the Khomeinist revolution in Iran alongside its Western allies. But, seeing itself as part of the conflict between the US and Iran, Israel started gradually to rethink its regional strategy. Rejecting the “land for peace” principle on which the international Arab–Israeli peace process is based, the Israeli Right wing is today implicitly encouraging an intra-Islamic civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the region. This may best be seen by the West’s furtive support for the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, which is also supported (and armed) by Iran, even though the US was a leading force pushing for the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
The Iranian leadership, which is enviably pragmatic, discovered some time ago that there is an important intersection of interests between it and Israel. The Iran–Contra scandal was an early indication of Tehran’s pragmatism, based on the idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Today, the intersection of Israeli and Iranian interests manifests itself in the war on “terrorists,” in Tel Aviv’s discourse, and against “takfirists” in the parlance of Iran.
The price Israel is demanding is, quite simply, enough to end any possibility of a viable Palestinian state. This can only be achieved by weakening an already imperiled moderate power in favor of an unacceptable armed Islamist movement. Regionally it requires, if only on a temporary basis, that Iran use its affiliates in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq for the protection of Israel’s borders. In return, Iran is seeking full control of the Arab Mashreq, from the Gulf to the Mediterranean; it is also claiming leadership of the Muslim world on the principle of “the unity of the Umma.”
For the time being, Israel does not seem to be opposed to Iran’s aspirations and actions because it benefits if Tehran succeeds in protecting its borders, and benefits even more if Tehran’s failure intensifies the intra–Islamic civil war. The Gaza tragedy can only be understood from this angle.

What is Hamas trying to achieve?
Thursday, 17 July 2014
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim /Al Arabiya
To an ignorant observer, the recent escalation between Israel and Gaza might seem like just the latest episode in a human drama that we have become accustomed to in the Holy Land. And, though perhaps not for quite the expected reasons, that observer would probably be right. Israelis would claim that this recent episode ostensibly arose out of the heinous murder of three Jewish teenage boys. On the other hand, Palestinian sources would trace it back even further to similar murders of Palestinian teenage boys, earlier in the year. But ultimately, and without meaning to diminish the human tragedy in any of these singular events, they are not the root causes of what is happening now. Instead, they seem to be just a convenient pretext to deeper local politics. And that is the real tragedy of this latest Gaza story.
Allow me to explain. On my recent trip to Israel, I met both senior Israeli and Palestinian officials including current and former members of their respective cabinets. I learnt from my Palestinian sources that Hamas is essentially bankrupt. They have been unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of their staff for a while now, according to my sources. They were heavily reliant on support from Syria, Iran along with the Rafah crossing and hundreds of smuggling tunnels from Egypt to sustain them all of which have diminished recently.
“When the very existence of Hamas hangs by a thread, the reality is that the more severe a reaction we see from Israel, the better the future looks for Hamas”
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
When the Hamas leadership reached their financial limit, the Palestinian Authority agreed to step in and pay all salaries of the civil administrators and social workers in Gaza, my sources said. In exchange, the Palestinian Authority (PA) asked Hamas to make many concessions, including modifying its charter towards a more moderate and functional position. For example, the PA asked Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, according to what I have been told, and also form a unity government with the PA .
The problem with this is that it presents an existential threat to Hamas. Hamas arose as a radical, direct action alternative to the perceived weakness and failures of the Palestinian Authority. It is supposed to be, by definition, the active revolutionary cure to the sclerotic, corrupt and “self-defeatingly” compliant PA. If it is tamed, if it is brought into the fold of conciliatory, moderate politics, it loses its raison d’etre. In other words, Hamas’s real and somewhat justified fear is that if this course of events continues in this manner, it will simply be absorbed into Fatah and will have no further, independent purpose.
Why the rockets?
So where do the rockets fit in? Hamas is therefore playing a cynical game by firing completely useless and militarily insignificant rockets into Israel. The purpose of these wanton attacks, that cannot hope to penetrate Israel’s Iron Dome, cannot reasonably be other than to provoke Israeli retaliation. As we know from history, this will be overwhelming and disproportionate. And this could be just how Hamas wants it.
Their hope is likely to be that this will lead to significant sympathy around the Muslim world, particularly in the month of Ramadan. This will see money pouring into the various global charities of Hamas, from a wide variety of sources. The idea seems to be that this might rescue Hamas financially, and save them from their ideological extinction too. Many observers have now looked at this situation and the question must be asked: what is the purpose of Hamas firing so many rockets into Israel? The perverse reality seems to be that Hamas expects the typical Israeli over reaction, and is baiting for it, with no further strategic aims. And at this very moment, when the very existence of Hamas hangs by a thread, the reality is that the more severe a reaction we see from Israel, the better the future looks for Hamas. Netanyahu, who is regarded as a “very weak” and “a do-nothing” prime minister by many officials I met is more than happy to comply with the unnecessary violence Hamas expects.
And now we come back to our ignorant observer. This seems to be, once again, just another typical episode in the human drama in the Holy Lands. One in which the power interests of some Palestinian leaders, and some Israeli leaders too, play off each other in a casual, monstrous way while a few more hundred Palestinians die. Will we hold these leaders to account this time, or will we divert our attention away, once again, from the morally intractable problems of our Middle East?



How will Lebanon treat the man who fired on Israel?
Thursday, 17 July 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
A man named Hussein Atwi stands accused of launching a rocket from Lebanon towards northern Israel. In Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Jamaa al-Islamiya said Atwi, who is currently under arrest and is being interrogated, is one of its members.
According to the Lebanese government, if he is proven guilty, he will have violated state’s laws and subjected the country to danger and thus deserves to be punished.
Geagea’s objection
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea objected to this. His objection, however, does not aim to defend Atwi. It aims to protest the contradiction in the Lebanese government’s policy.
“Hezbollah has been, and still is, Iran’s most prominent agent”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Geagea told Future News television: “I support detaining Hussein Atwi who launched a missile from the South [Lebanon towards Israel.] However, what if during the interrogation, he says: ‘I fired one rocket against Israel and got arrested, but why didn’t you arrest he who fired thousands of rockets against Israel. Are they Lebanese and I am not?’ And what if he asks: ‘I fired one rocket against Israel and got arrested. Why don’t you arrest Lebanese groups fighting in Syria and firing thousands of rockets against the Syrian people upon Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah’s acknowledgment?’ What would they say to him?”
This is the new situation in brief; the borders with Syria are open while those with Israel are closed. Hezbollah did not launch rockets towards Israel and send drones in order to protect Lebanon, or the “Syrian” Shebaa territories. Also, it certainly did not do so out of its desire to liberate Palestine. Hezbollah acted as such in order to implement Iran’s policy and it thus worked within the scope of Iran’s agenda in the Arab region.
Committed to Iran
Since Hezbollah is committed to the orders of its Iranian sponsor, it has sent thousands of Lebanese youths to fight in Syria. Hezbollah’s militias support Assad’s forces by attacking border areas on the Lebanese side. As a result, most Lebanese borders fall under the control of Syrian armed groups that oppose Assad - groups that threaten Lebanon with guerrilla wars. It will not be possible to halt or limit the fighting because, unlike what used to happen when clashes erupted with Israel, there is no phone number you can call to reach an agreement with these groups, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Hezbollah opened up Lebanon to danger over the course of 30 years. It caused Lebanon’s destruction by triggering wars with Israel - wars that served the Syrian and Iranian regimes. For ten years, Hezbollah took Lebanon hostage for a Syrian border land occupied since the 1960s - the Shebaa Farms. But nowadays, Hezbollah no longer brings up this Israel-controlled countryside area in its statements and rhetoric.
The urgent Lebanese ordeal is more dangerous than all the crises the country has faced since the civil war ended, because it drags the Syrian war into Lebanon. This is in addition to Assad’s act of pushing one million Syrians to flee to Lebanon in order to export the crisis to neighboring countries. Armed Syrian extremist groups besiege Lebanese borders while the militias of the extremist Hezbollah party fight in Syria. One cannot come up with a convincing answer to respond to Atwi if he objects to the double standards where one man is arrested because he fired one rocket while no one obstructs the path of the thousands of men involved in the fighting in Syria.
The crisis of the war on Gaza renews questions about empty slogans. Hezbollah has been, and still is, Iran’s most prominent agent. Its main task was to confront Israel and keep the Palestinian cause alive, regardless of the consequences and under any justifications. But then, developments occurred and friends turned into enemies. Those who used to cheer for Hezbollah and pray for it, turned against it and now consider it an enemy that is no less evil than Israel. How can a man make a U-turn on his stances and justify his contradictions? Those who design slogans and formulate speeches usually know that people’s memories are very short. Syria’s events are the worst in terms of crimes, violations, the number of victims, its continuity and the sheer scale of the tragedy. Despite that, there are still people who forget all about it and, instead of sympathizing with this reality, sympathize with another, completely contradictory reality.

Saving Iraqi Turkmens Is a Win-Win-Win

Michael Knights/Washington Institute
July 16, 2014
A U.S.-backed effort to save besieged Iraqi Turkmens in the Tuz Khormatu district could bring Baghdad, the Kurds, and Turkey into a joint fight against the ongoing jihadist offensive.
In the battle for Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) continues to hold the initiative in its quest to establish a caliphate within the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. In response, Baghdad and its allies need to quickly break the group's momentum and deflate its image -- and they can do so with a significant victory that involves as many allies as possible, demonstrating that the entire region is bandwagoning against the IS.
U.S. military intervention in Iraq's security crisis could be drawing closer as politicians in Baghdad tentatively move toward a more inclusive government under a new prime minister, and as U.S. assessment teams report back their initial findings on the status of Iraq's security forces. The next stage for U.S. planners may be to help Iraqi authorities craft a political-military campaign that can get the security forces back on their feet and win undecided Sunni tribes and militants over to the government's side in the fight against the IS, which until recently called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Turning the tide arguably depends on two factors:
Winning a clear victory. The shattered Iraqi security forces need an iconic victory, perhaps small in scale but well publicized. The military task should be relatively modest in order to maximize the chances of success, restore confidence to the security forces, and burst the bubble of ISIS/IS invincibility.
Bolstering national and international consensus. Ideally, the Iraqi security forces and their international partners will focus their early efforts on a battlefield away from the chaotic sectarian strife of Baghdad and its suburbs. Namely, a battlefield where the interests of the various coalition elements -- Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, U.S., Turkish, and Iranian -- are in broad alignment.
Relieving the desperate suffering of besieged Turkmen villages in Tuz Khormatu district -- an enclave roughly halfway between Baghdad and Mosul -- would appear to tick all of the above boxes (see map).
IRAQI TURKMEN ENCLAVE UNDER SIEGE, JULY 2014: Green areas represent federal government-held areas; black areas are insurgent-controlled areas; yellow areas are peshmerga-held. The blue area is the Turkmen enclave at Amerli. Baghdad lies 100 miles to the south, Tikrit 60 miles to the west, and Kirkuk 40 miles to the north. Click on map for larger view.
Northern Iraq's Turkmens are a Turkic-ethnicity, Turkish-speaking minority that includes Shiites and Sunnis alike. Shiite Turkmens, who comprise most of the large Shiite communities in the Sunni-majority north, have long been intensely targeted by ISIS/IS and its predecessors (al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq). In mid-June, the group brutally drove over forty thousand of them from the Turkmen center of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. Days later, it massacred forty civilians in Bashir, a Turkmen town near Kirkuk, prompting Kurdish peshmerga fighters to move beyond their purely defensive positions in Kurdish areas to assist Turkmen militias.
A similar scene is now unfolding fifteen miles south of the Kurdish-held city of Tuz Khormatu, where the Islamic State is besieging a pocket of around twelve thousand Shiite Turkmen civilians in the Amerli subdistrict. The group has already captured outlying Turkmen villages such as Bastamil, Barochali, and Qara Naz, driving local families into the subdistrict center at Amerli. This center was the scene of a massive al-Qaeda truck bombing on July 7, 2007, that killed 159 civilians and wounded over 350. Now it is being defended by around 400 local Turkmen armed volunteers. The Iraqi army has attempted to fight its way up the Udaim River Valley to make contact with the pocket, but its advance stalled twenty miles south at Udaim Dam. Meanwhile, the Iraqi air force is flying ammunition, vital medical supplies, and even baby formula into the pocket using unarmored helicopters, which are exposed to IS heavy machine gun and sniper fire. Almost a month into the siege, Turkmen residents of Amerli claim that 175 people have died, and there is widespread fear of a sectarian massacre if the defense fails, since they have no open line of retreat.
Supporting the Shiite Turkmens of Amerli could be the iconic fight that Iraq needs at this moment. The Shiite-led federal government is desperate to prevent another sectarian cleansing episode such as the one suffered at Tal Afar, which was too remote to save. In contrast, Amerli could be relieved if the Iraqi army receives timely support. Iran has ties to the Shiite communities around Amerli and could be counted on not to interfere with such an effort. Indeed, Tehran is already pressuring the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to fight the IS more broadly, and an operation to relieve Amerli would fit into this effort. Further support would likely come from Turkey, which has gone to great lengths to support this particular Turkmen community in the past, flying air ambulances into Amerli following the 2007 bombing and evacuating the wounded to Turkey.
PUK fighters in the Tuz Khormatu area are likewise slowly being drawn into the local fight. When peshmerga prevented an IS car bombing against Shiite Turkmens in Tuz Khormatu city on June 19, the group responded by shelling and assaulting the nearby peshmerga checkpoint for four hours. The PUK has also facilitated the insertion of Turkmen militias into the Amerli pocket and blocked the path of IS oil-smuggling trucks in the area. Thirty miles to the southeast, an IS suicide bomber from Kazakhstan detonated a suicide vest at a peshmerga checkpoint on July 14, killing two fighters and injuring five -- one of the group's several recent attacks on the Kurds in the Hamrin Mountains region.
Some local Sunni insurgents could also be expected to stand aside or launch their own anti-IS operations in conjunction with a coalition effort to relieve Amerli. In the adjacent town of Suleiman Beg, the neo-Baathist militant group Jaish al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) has launched at least four attempted uprisings since January 2013, only to see IS fighters stride in and take over after the most recent uprising succeeded in June. The two groups are now fighting a low-level war for control across the Hamrin Mountains region; this week alone, twelve JRTN fighters were found executed by the IS at Saadiyah, sixty miles southeast of Amerli. Moreover, before ISIS/IS ramped up its presence in the Amerli area in the past year, local Turkmens had good community relations with the Sunni Arabs at Suleiman Beg.
As illustrated above, saving the Amerli pocket could strike an iconic blow at the Islamic State and draw together a rare community of interest between Baghdad, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, and Washington. With the new Joint Operations Center established in the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, the United States is well positioned to provide planning, coordination, logistical help, and airstrikes in support of any joint operation in the area. The U.S. military and PUK forces remain on very good terms, and U.S. personnel have extensive in-house experience working with local tribes and community leaders in Amerli, Suleiman Beg, and Tuz Khormatu city. The soldiers and civilians involved in past joint activities are only a phone call away, and some have already signaled their willingness to help old contacts in Amerli.
In short, many of the most promising arenas for U.S. intervention can be found in vital northern and western Iraqi battlegrounds away from Baghdad. If Washington's conditions for military intervention are met, a coalition effort to relieve the Turkmens at Amerli would be a good place to start. Such an operation would ideally be one of a number of linked battles that also fit the criteria of being achievable and in the interests of multiple factions -- hopefully building outward from the Tuz Khormatu, Kirkuk, and Lake Hamrin areas as Sunni militants looked to the example of Amerli and overthrew the IS presence in their own communities.
Operationally speaking, the United States is capable of resupplying the Amerli pocket with humanitarian and military supplies by air, effectively using night operations and airdrops in ways that Iraqi forces cannot. It could also evacuate the worst casualties and most helpless civilians. And a modicum of air support from the drones that already fly over Iraq would greatly improve the morale and survival chances of fighters in Amerli, as well as any Iraqi and Kurdish forces that push forward to relieve them. In addition, such strikes would be a timely reminder to allies and adversaries of the ongoing potency of U.S. airpower, and President Obama's willingness to use it when conditions are right.
*Michael Knights is a Boston-based Lafer Fellow with The Washington Institute.