Egypt struggles to restore order as Morsi supporters clash with army, launch widespread attacks against Christians
Kerry: Israel "completely upfront" with U.S. and Palestinians about new West Bank construction. Says activity should not derail talks.
Iranian diplomats: Hamas seeking reconciliation with Tehran, "showed much interest in healing wounds"
Gaza-based Palestinians launch rockets overnight into Israel
What we are watching:
- The Egyptian government has imposed a curfew in major cities, after clashes today between the army and supporters of Egypt's former Muslim Brotherhood-linked president Mohammed Morsi reportedly killed over 230 protesters and 43 police officers. In retaliation to the crackdown, Morsi supporters launched widespread attacks against Christians and Christian buildings across Egypt. Pro-Morsi elements have been steadily escalating violence against Copts for weeks. Today attackers reportedly destroyed a 4th century church, one of the oldest in Egypt, and set fire to a Christian youth center in Fayoum. Multiple other churches and homes were also attacked. Coptic officials responded by calling for national unity in the face of the violence. The Egyptian army seems to have regained control over areas of Cairo where Muslim Brotherhood members been protesting, and Cairo is urging Morsi supporters to "listen to the voice of reason" and cease engaging in violence.
- Secretary of State John Kerry today clarified that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been "completely upfront with me and with [Palestinian Authority] President Abbas" regarding a recent announcement that Israel plans to build new homes beyond the Jewish state's 1948 borders. Kerry conveyed Netanyahu's clarification that the building would be happening "within the so-called blocs" that are widely expected to end up controlled by Israel under any realistic final status agreement, and that they would "not have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement." Palestinian diplomats had publicly expressed surprise at the announcement and explicitly suggested that it could derail peace talks. Kerry brushed aside suggestions that the new construction should derail negotiations, and emphasized that "if you resolve the borders of Israel – and you can only do that also resolving the security issues for Israel – you have resolved any questions about settlements, because then you know what is in Israel and what is not."
- Analysts have begun to unpack the implication of reports -published in Arabic and Israeli news outlets last week - to the effect that Hamas has rebuilt ties with Iran and with Tehran's Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah. The reports detailed meetings which took place at Iran's Beirut embassy and which included top Hamas officials. Ali Hashem, the Al-Mayadeen news network's chief correspondent, yesterday published additional context around the rapprochement. Hashem described how "on the day of Hassan Rouhani's inauguration, the president welcomed the old resistance triad, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad." He quoted a Tehran source explaining that "after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt... Hamas showed much interest in healing the wounds, so meetings became very fruitful, and they were mainly in Beirut." As long as Hamas remains on the same page as Tehran regarding the eradication of Israel, another Iranian source emphasized, "we don't mind them having different views on any issue."
- Palestinian fighters in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip fired rockets at Israel on Tuesday night. At least one rocket fell on the Gaza side of the Israeli-Gaza border, while another struck Israel. The Times of Israel notes that while rocket fire was "once a daily occurrence," the Palestinian willingness and capacity to launch barrages at Israel was "has mostly tailed off" since Israel severely eroded Hamas's terror infrastructure during last November's Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel responded to the overnight rocket fire with pin-point attacks against hidden rocket-launching assets in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF reported accurate hits.