- Palestinian factions accept long-rejected ceasefire terms amid Egyptian pressure, Israeli military successes
Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip late Monday officially accepted a three-day Egypt-sponsored truce, effective 8 a.m. local time Tuesday and designed as a first step in ending roughly a month's worth of fighting in the Gaza Strip. The proposal is almost identical to one that Israel accepted weeks ago, but that Palestinians leaders had rejected out of hand for not meeting a range of demands broadly considered to be non-starters. The Israeli army had subsequently deployed ground troops into the Gaza Strip, targeting Hamas's tunnel and rocket infrastructure. The Jerusalem Post conveyed statements from Israeli officials who "pointed out that [the ceasefire] acceptance came after Israel finished destroying the terror tunnels" that run underneath the Gaza-Israel border, and which had been built to empty out within a few hundred yards of sparsely defended Israeli population centers. Hamas's activation of its offensive tunnel network - the terror group a few weeks ago dispatched over a dozen commandos to attack an Israeli community of roughly 150 people - had originally triggered the ground invasion. The belated Palestinian acceptance - which leaders reportedly struggled to justify - had been widely expected as the conflict dragged on with steady gains for the Israelis without any spectacular Hamas successes. Yaakov Lappin, the Jerusalem Post's national security correspondent, had evaluated that "the IDF has destroyed Hamas’s flagship terrorism project: its network of tunnels that snuck into Israel. Hamas spent five years preparing this strategic threat; the IDF wrecked 31 tunnels in two weeks." Amos Yadlin – the former head of the IDF’s military intelligence shop (Aman) and currently the director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) - assessed that Hamas's violation of an August 1 ceasefire had been a watershed, "enabl[ing] Israel to change its strategic position and choose an alternative that, at least in the short term, places Hamas in a difficult strategic situation." Yadlin, who had accurately predicted the escalatory trajectory of the conflict in its earliest days, emphasized that "Israel regained international legitimacy for its actions; Hamas was again cast as a terrorist organization lacking all credibility... Israel decided to deny Hamas veto power over ceasefires and took the initiative back into its own hands, clarifying that it was not negotiating with Hamas and not granting it any achievement, neither in terms of a ceasefire nor in terms of an agreement." Eyal Zisser - the head of Tel Aviv University's Middle Eastern and African History department and a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies - had his analysis published under the simple headline "Hamas lost big." Zisser declared that "no gimmickry will undo this Hamas-made catastrophe... Hamas' actions resulted in an unprecedented catastrophe for Gazans." There are indications that the Palestinian organization will have difficulty spinning the results as a victory. Hamas's leadership had quietly but broadly assured supporters that a series of strategic 'surprises' - long-range missiles, drones, and attack tunnels - would see the group notch major victories against Israeli civilians and civilian infrastructure. Iron Dome anti-missile batteries dampened the impact of the rockets, Israeli anti-aircraft assets neutralized drone flights, and Israel ended up destroying the attack tunnels. Fox News had already reported days ago that not "not only is Hamas losing its latest battle with Israel, it may also be losing its popular support," the perception among Palestinians being that the organization had dragged the Gaza Strip into a bruising conflict for no gain.
More than 130 civilians were killed over the weekend by Syrian regime forces across the country, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog group. The reports will be read alongside figures estimating that more than 1,800 people have been killed in Syria in the last ten days, just weeks after Bashar al-Assad was sworn in to a third seven-year term. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony from a Syrian defector who told lawmakers that more than 150,000 civilians are at risk of torture and death in Syrian jails. The defector, who appeared on Capitol Hill in disguise for security reasons, presented a collection of photographs taken in Syria, which, per the Daily Beast, catalogued “the torture, starvation, and death of over 11,000 civilians.” The Wall Street Journal characterized the lawmakers attending the hearing as “stunned” at the images, part of a larger collection of approximately 50,000 photographs smuggled out of the country by the defector, a former military photographer. International war crimes prosecutor David Crane called the photos “smoking gun evidence” of atrocities committed by the Assad regime, which Rep. Eliot Engel, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called “war crimes, plain and simple.” Engel criticized the Obama administration for not acting sooner “to stem the growth of ISIS and weaken the regime of Bashar Assad.” ISIS has in recent weeks made gains across Syria, and through the weekend battled Lebanese armed forces in the border town of Arsal, killing more than a dozen Lebanese troops and leaving scores injured.
War at home did not stop the Israel-based humanitarian relief agency IsraAID from sending experienced volunteers to help in the wake of a disastrous wildfire on the West Coast of the United States. “Our team is working hard alongside residents who lost their homes in Pateros, [Washington State], USA,” reported IsraAID Founding Director Shachar Zahavi. “The local community is amazing and receiving us with open arms.” Upon arrival following what has been dubbed the Carlton Complex — the worst fire in Washington State’s history, destroying some 300 homes — IsraAID joined forces with Team Rubicon to help residents remove debris from the ruins of their homes and sift through the ash to recover personal items. They’ll also help in rehab efforts. Sparked by lightning on July 14, Carlton Complex burned for more than 10 days through nearly 400 square miles of Methow Valley, about 180 miles northeast of Seattle. President Obama issued a state of emergency in Washington. Since its founding 10 years ago, IsraAID has responded to crises in 22 countries, reached more than one million people in distress and distributed some 1,000 tons of relief and medical supplies. The 750-strong staff of Israeli volunteers and professionals (among them 156 doctors and nurses and 100 therapists and social workers) has trained more than 5,000 professionals in the served countries as well. Earlier in July, despite Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, on the Day of the African Child graduates of IsraAID’s psychosocial arts-based facilitation training program at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya led an expressive arts activity for hundreds of children. And at the end of the month, IsraAID led its third workshop on expressive art therapy for community agents of a Haitian NGO helping survivors of gender-based violence. (via Israel21c)
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