White House, State Department declare support for Israeli self-defense campaign: "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians"


The Obama administration on Tuesday issued a range of statements firmly and repeatedly expressing support for an Israeli campaign aimed at halting weeks of escalating rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, hours after Jerusalem announced that it had launched a series of air strikes as part of what the Israelis are labeling Operation Protective Edge. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki made nearly parallel remarks at their respective daily press briefings, condemning rocket fire into Israel - claimed by both Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups - and expressing concern for Israeli and Palestinian civilians being endangered by the Hamas-driven escalation. Earnest opened the discussion of the crisis by declaring that "we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks." He went on to express the administration's concerns regarding "both the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes and the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas' violence." For her part Psaki declared that "we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks." She also went on to worry over "the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes, the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas’s action." She also emphasized the administration's "hope... that by sending a strong message that Israel will be able to deter some of the attacks that have been happening that have been coming at them from Gaza," before reiterating the State Department's "view that [the Israelis] have the right to defend themselves." The Israelis continued their campaign overnight and into Wednesday local time, with the Israeli Air Force having struck roughly 270 targets since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.


Reuters on Tuesday published remarks by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, with Khamenei insisting that Iran has an “absolute need” to build 190,000 centrifuges, ten times the number of centrifuges the Islamic republic already possesses, and far more than what has been proposed by P5+1 negotiators. The Reuters report – which comes less than two weeks before the July 20 deadline to reach a comprehensive deal set by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) – will be read alongside comments conveyed to the Associated Press (AP) by diplomats regarding the nuclear talks, which the AP described as “making little headway” as “Tehran [is] resisting U.S.-led efforts to crimp activities that could be turned toward making weapons.” The diplomats also noted that Iran was among other things still resisting compromise over its enrichment capacity and downgrading its plutonium production facility at Arak. The Los Angeles Times on Friday reported that the parties remain far apart on the broader issue of a so-called "sunset clause" that would determine how long restrictions remained in effect, a condition that both the P5+1 and Iran understand as keeping the Islamic republic from becoming a 'normal' nuclear state. Western diplomats want the terms of any final deal to stretch for at least 20 years, while Tehran is pushing for an agreement that would last just five years. Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh told the Times that Iran would be inclined to make concessions on key issues if the deal only lasted a few years, and that after the agreement has expired, “they’re off to the races.”


Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News on Monday reported that security officials acting at the behest of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had launched a wide-ranging sweep - the outlet described it as taking place across 30 provinces in Turkey - aimed at followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who have been locked in open political warfare with the AKP since a December 2013 graft probe by Gulen-linked judicial and police officials targeted top figures in the Islamist party. The probe quickly expanded to ensnare top AKP elites, including Erdogan and members of his family, triggering a series of retaliatory purges that saw thousands of Gulenists expelled from their posts. The recent AKP sweeps have been more ambitious, and have taken place in the context of accusations that Gulenists are actively undermining Turkey's national security. The police order, which was dated June 25, has been met with harsh criticism from among others Turkish constitutional law experts. A former justice minister, Hikmet Sami Türk, slammed Erdogan and the AKP for “working to create evidence” against the Hizmet movement, and noted that the probe “violates universal human rights.”


Over the past few weeks, Israelis have been shocked at the kidnappings and murders of three Jewish and one Arab youth, and the resumption of shelling from Gaza. But reactions aren’t limited to fear, sadness and anger. In typical Israeli fashion, people are thinking out of the box to help prevent future tragedies. The nonprofit emergency medical response service United Hatzalah launched a public “SOS” emergency alert app that can dispatch an immediate distress call — and the caller’s precise location — to the Israeli police and its own dispatchers. As of today, the weeks-old SOS app for Android and iPhone already has been downloaded for free by 100,000 users, according to Dov Maisel, director of international relations at Jerusalem-based United Hatzalah. Another free smartphone app, Tzeva Adom (Red Alert Israel), was developed for iOS by Kobi Snir during heavy shelling from Gaza about two and a half years ago to make sure users in Gaza-area communities wouldn’t miss an air-raid siren. With Snir’s permission, Ari Sprung developed an Android version in his Jerusalem basement. In the past tense week, Sprung tells ISRAEL21c, the updated app – now including a chat feature so people can share their emotions – is being downloaded at a fast clip. There have been over 100,000 installs of the Android version, and the iOS version is now available in English. “We’re learning that people are downloading it not only to make sure they hear the alert but also to keep tabs on relatives anywhere in the country,” says Sprung. He and Snir are seeking donations of servers and/or cash to expand the app worldwide in several languages.  They just announced that users of the popular Israeli social app Yo will get a “yo” every time a missile is launched into Israel if they are subscribed to Red Alert Israel. (via Israel21c)

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