- Twin car bombings target Sunni mosques in Lebanon, triggering fears of Sunni-Shiite terror cycle
- After rocket attack, IAF conducts overnight pinpoint strike in Lebanon against terror group that boasted of erecting "missile batteries to directly attack Israeli targets"
- WaPo: "Dramatic shift in [Egyptian] public opinion" toward army action against Muslim Brotherhood
- Treasury blacklists four top Hezbollah officials, declares group is "significant global terrorist threat" not "resistance" organization
What we’re watching today:
- Twin car bombings targeted Sunni mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, killing at least 42 people and generating fears that Lebanon is slipping into cyclical sectarian violence of the kind that has recently gripped Iraq. The attacks came eight days after a car bomb detonated in Hezbollah's southern Beirut stronghold of Dahiyeh killed at least 22 people and injured hundreds. That bombing itself was the second such attack in Dahiyeh in as many months, and came after Sunni groups threatened to target Hezbollah in Lebanon in retaliation for Lebanon's activities on behalf of the Shiite-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah subsequently vowed to double the group's deployment in Syria, and Hezbollah this week sought to contain future blowback by transforming its southern Beirut areas into what Agence France Presse described as a "fortress."
- Israeli Air Force jets conducted a pin-point strike on a target in southern Lebanon Friday morning, less than a full day after four rockets were fired at Israel out of the Hezbollah-dominated region. A statement by the Israeli Defense Forces described the target as “located between Beirut and Sidon” and reiterated that the Israeli government holds the Lebanese government responsible for attacks emanating from within Beirut’s sovereign borders. Debate in the hours after the strike revolved around the likely target, which social media accounts and news outlets narrowed to the Na'ameh area. The region contains military infrastructure controlled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization aligned with Iran that earlier this year was activated by Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime and bragged about setting up "missile batteries to directly attack Israeli targets." PFLP-GC officials nonetheless expressed surprise at the overnight IAF action. Very early speculation regarding the raid had also suggested that the IAF may have been targeting Hezbollah or the Al Qaeda-linked group Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB). The rocket attack on Israel that preceded the IAF action took place out of Hezbollah territory, and were claimed by the AAB. The sheer range of different groups linked to these incidents will be read against a general deterioration of security in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) had begun withdrawing from the region last spring, creating a power vacuum that analysts predicted at the time would be filled in by terror groups. Alongside the LAF’s withdrawal, Hezbollah began pointedly threatening the U.N.’s peacekeeping force along the Israeli-Lebanese border, and E.U. contributors have threatened to withdraw their troops due to the environment.
- Supporters of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-backed government demonstrated Friday in "Friday of Martyrs" marches, a week after the Brotherhood held "Day of Rage" protests during which over 60 people were killed in violence the Washington Post described as being between "the security forces, protesters and armed civilians on both sides of the nation’s widening political divide." Late reports Friday afternoon had one person dying and over 50 injured in today's marches. Meanwhile Egyptian security forces arrested some 40 people for involvement in what the Daily Beast describes as "the Muslim Brotherhood's war on Coptic Christians." The army, which backs the current interim government, also moved to arrest some Brotherhood officials in anticipation of today's marches. A Washington Post article published this morning described a "dramatic shift in [Egyptian] public opinion" over the last two years, with sentiment turning in favor of direct action against the Muslim Brotherhood by the military. The army's recent arrest of the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie was broadly hailed by Egyptian media, with several television network presenters congratulating Egyptians on the development, and one journalist calling the arrest "joyful news."
- The U.S. Treasury department on Thursday designated four top members of Hezbollah as terrorists, describing the Iran-backed group as "a significant global terrorist threat" and noting that the designations are in tension with claims - made both by Hezbollah and by some foreign policy analysts - that the group is an indigenous Lebanese "resistance" organization. The four men conducted activities on behalf of Hezbollah in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. and its allies have increasingly sought financial means to pressure the organization. In June Treasury designated four Lebanese nationals for conducting Hezbollah-linked operations in western Africa. Around the same time, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council unanimously decided to impose sweeping sanctions against Hezbollah and Lebanon, a situation that experts evaluated "could suffocate the country." Hezbollah’s willingness to promote Iranian interests via global terror campaigns, but at the expense of Lebanon's economic and financial stability, has been used by analysts to ridicule the suggestion that Hezbollah is not an Iranian proxy.
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