• Hamas, Israel exchange fire as Gaza cease-fires collapses

    The fighting between Israel and Hamas has resumed after the 72-hour Egypt-sponsored cease-fire collapsed. Hamas has so far fired more than twenty rockets on towns in southern Israel, while Israel, in response struck the Sheikh Radwan area with air strikes and artillery fire. Thousands of Gazan have again fled their homes in anticipation of a forceful Israeli response. The talks in Cairo over a post-war arrangement in Gaza have stalled as a result of what appear to be unbridgeable differences between Israel and Egypt, on the one hand, and Hamas, on the other hand. The 72-hour Egypt-sponsored cease-fire came to an end 08:00 local time (02:00 EST). As was the case swith earlier cease-fire, Hamas fired into Israel an hour before the formal end of the truce. Hamas spokesmen said that Egyptian and Israeli proposals failed to meet Palestinian expectations. They said that the organization would resume firing rockets into Israel unless an agreement is reached.

  • Arizona voted against complying with Real ID, and state residents now face the consequences

    In 2008, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill (HB 2677), signed by then-Governor Janet Napolitano, prohibiting the state from complying with the Real ID Act. Limits on people without a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, such as no access to federal facilities, will be phased in in three stages – 21 April 2014, 21 July 2014, and 19 January 2015. Those who do not have a Real ID will need a passport, a second form of identification, or an “enhanced” driver’s license.

  • State, Political Community and Foreign Relations in Modern and Contemporary Syria
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  • Ebola outbreak could inspire African terrorist groups to weaponize the virus: Experts

    Recent discussions about Ebola have mainly focused on the disease as a public health hazard, but counterterrorism officials are concerned that the new outbreak could inspire terror groups, specifically those based in West Africa, to weaponize the virus. The fear of weaponized Ebola dates back decades to when the Soviet Union’s VECTOR program, aimed at researching biotechnology and virology, was thought to have researched the creation of Ebola for warfare. In 1992 a Japanese cult group called Aum Shinrikyo tried, but failed, to collect samples of the Ebola virus in Zaire.

  • Tens of thousands flee as ISIS militants seize Iraq's largest Christian town

    The largest Christian towns in Iraq — Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella, and Karamlesh — emptied of their original populations as Jihadist ISIS fighters take control. Tens of thousands of the towns’ residents have fled to the autonomous Kurdish region. The towns were captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces at the same time that ISIS forces from Syria came down from Syria and captured the Sunni Anbar province to the west. Kurdish commanders said the Kurdish forces were over-stretched, and that they had to withdraw from the Christian towns in order to be better prepared for the coming drive east by ISIS militants.

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  • Al Qaeda-affiliates derive most of their funding from ransom paid to free Europeans

    In its early years, al-Qaeda received most of its financing from affluent donors from the Middle East, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances a significant portion of its recruitment, training, and arms purchasing from ransoms paid to free Europeans. “Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.”

  • Opportunities for regional realignment not likely to be seized

    After the first twenty-four hours, the 72-hour Egypt-sponsored Gaza cease-fire appears to be holding – something which could not be said for the previous five cease-fires, which were violated by Hamas within minutes of supposedly going into effect. The Israeli delegation yesterday flew to Cairo to begin negotiations on a longer-term arrangement. The reason why this cease-fire is likely to hold has to do with the realization by Hamas Gaza leaders of their isolation and the growing destruction Israel’s attacks were inflicting on Hamas’s war machine and Gaza’s already-dilapidated infrastructure. A militarily weakened Hamas, a moderate Arab block hostile to militant Islam, and a convergence of interests between Israel and the moderate Arab states provide the foundation for profound strategic transformation in the region. It is doubtful, however, that the Netanyahu government will seize the opportunity for a breakthrough in Israel-Palestinian relations, on which such a transformation depends. During the month-long war, Netanyahu has given no indication that he sees this round of Israel-Hamas war in anything other than tactical terms, and has offered nothing to show that he plans to exploit the military results of the war, together with the changing political context in the region, for a bold and creative initiative which would change Israel’s relations with the PA, transform Israel’s strategic position, and realign regional politics.

  • U.S. law enforcement agencies perceive Sovereign citizen movement as top terrorist threat

    Sovereign citizen, Islamist extremist, and militia/patriot groups are perceived by U.S. law enforcement agencies to pose the greatest threats to their communities, according to a new study. While sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, assessments about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat actually declined for most groups (for example, the KKK; Christian Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Environmental Extremists; Animal Rights Extremists) when compared to a previous study. The authors conducted in-depth interviews with officers representing 175 state, local, and tribal (SLT) law enforcement agencies, and found that the Sovereign Citizen movement was the most highly ranked threat, with 86 percent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that it was a serious terrorist threat. Approximately 67 percent agreed or strongly agreed that Islamist extremists were a serious terrorist threat.

  • A 72-hour cease-fire to go into effect this morning

    Both Israel and the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, which includes Hamas representatives, have accepted an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour cease-fire to begin at 08:00 Middle East time (02:00 EST) today (Tuesday).

    This is the same proposal Egypt put forth two weeks ago, which Israel had accepted but which was rejected by Hamas. It is not clear whether the cease-fire will go into effect, or will go into effect and then violated. Six earlier humanitarian cease-fires were violated by Hamas within minutes of going into effect. Israel, in the meantime, has concluded the destruction of thirty-one Hamas tunnels which reached inside Israel. Hamas was planning to use the tunnels for a Mumbai-like simultaneous, coordinated attack on Israeli kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip for the purpose of killing Israeli civilians – possibly hundreds of them – and capturing scores to be brought back into Gaza to be used as bargaining chips to extract concessions from Israel.

  • Top Hamas official: Jews use blood of non-Jewish children for Passover matzos

    Hamas is an avowedly and openly anti-Semitic movement, and the group’s loathing of Jews is part and parcel of its charter and what it teaches young Palestinians in the schools it controls. Hamas leaders, when they speak to Western audiences, are usually careful not to highlight this facet of the group’s ideology, but the other day one of Hamas’s leaders, in a televised interview, used the centuries-old “matzo blood libel,” asserting that Jews kill non-Jewish children in order to use their blood to make matzos for Passover. He linked the death of Palestinian children in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war to the Jewish thirst for killing non-Jewish children.

  • U.S. to spend more money on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, less on nonproliferation programs

    President Barack Obama has made gains in his quest to secure nuclear weapons and materials. In March, at the Nuclear Security Summitin Holland, Obama declared “it is important for us not to relax but rather accelerate our efforts over the next two years.” The Obama administration, however, is allocating more resources toward refurbishing and modernizing current nuclear weapons than advancing nuclear nonproliferation programs. Civilian institutions, including research labs, today hold enough nuclear explosive materials to put together 40,000 atomic bombs, but the administration has missed a self-imposed deadline of April 2013 for ensuring that nuclear materials were safe from terrorist organizations.

  • Israel announces 7-hour cease fire, continues withdrawal of forces from Gaza

    Israel declared a seven-hour “humanitarian window” in parts of Gaza on Monday, while withdrawing most of its ground forces from northern Gaza following the destruction of tunnels leading into Israel. International criticism continues following what appeared to be a deadly Israeli attack on a UN school sheltering displaced Palestinians. Initial Israeli investigation indicates that it is doubtful the Israeli airstrike against three Islamic Jihad fighters who were located about forty or fifty meters from the school had anything to do with the bodies of the dead in the schoolyard: Israel continuously monitors the area from drones and blimps, and initial video footage shows the bodies of the three Islamic Jihad fighters being dragged from where they were killed to the school yard — and that at least one schoolgirl is seen getting up and walking away after lying on the floor, covered in red dye and pretending to be dead. All previous cease-fires have collapsed after Hamas continued to its rocket launching into Israeli towns.

  • Gaza reconstruction would cost at least $6 billion

    Reconstruction in Gaza, where heavy Israeli bombardment in a war with Islamist militant group Hamas, has destroyed thousands of buildings, damaged water, sewage, and power infrastructure, and displaced about 300,000 people, will cost at least $6 billion, the Palestinian deputy prime minister says. This time, Mohammed Mustafa said, Palestinians hope donors to the reconstruction effort will make good on aid pledges. In 2009, only a fraction of the nearly $5 billion in funds pledged at an international conference after a three-week war between Israel and Hamas actually arrived in Gaza.

  • Egypt considering military action in Libya

    The disintegration of Libya may draw Egypt into eastern Libya. Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister and former secretary-general of the Arab League, said Egypt should consider the possibility of a military response to the growing unrest in neighboring Libya, as this unrest now threatens Egypt’s national security. Moussa’s prominence, and his closeness to Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has led to speculation that an Egyptian offensive in Libya is on the table. Moussa’s statement comes against a backdrop of growing Egyptian fears that factional fighting in Libya, which has forced most Western diplomats to flee the country, could spill over the border. Last month, a Libyan Islamist militia infiltrated Egypt and killed twenty-one Egyptian soldiers in a military base near the border with Libya.

  • Ukrainian military urged Donetsk residents to leave city ahead of attack on rebel stronghold

    The Ukrainian military earlier today (Monday) urged residents of Donetsk to evacuate, with more reports of increased rebel attacks on civilians and the Ukrainian military’s plan to clear the way for government troops to advance on one of the insurgency’s biggest strongholds. The military said it has opened extra humanitarian corridors out of eastern Ukraine’s regional capital, and the government will help evacuees to find temporary shelter. Over the weekend, government troops cut off a northern route that had been used by the pro-Russian separatists who control the city to bring in reinforcements of fighters and supplies. The military now has the city, ruled by the rebels’ self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, encircled.

  • China keeps tight control of news from tumultuous Xinjiang region

    Last week a remote county in China’s far west exploded in what was the country’s worst ethnic violence since 2009, but it took the Chinese government six days to put out an exact death toll. Beijing’s iron-fisted grip on the minority region makes it clear when, and whether, a full picture of what happened might emerge. The Chinese government exploits its expansive controls and propaganda to maintain a monopoly on the narrative in the tense region of Xinjiang, where minority Uighurs complain of oppression under Beijing’s rule, and where Islamists have joined in the fight for greater autonomy for the Muslim-majority province.