More than a year and a half after it was launched, the Great March of Return continues to mobilize weekly on the Gaza Strip border. Friday, Oct. 25, saw the 80th such mobilization—and was met with gunfire by Israeli security forces. Hundreds of Palestinians protested at various points near the border fence, with some setting tires on fire and throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at the Israeli forces—who responded by launching tear-gas canisters and opening fire with both rubber bullets and live rounds. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 95 civilians—including 43 children, a woman, two paramedics and a journalist—were shot and injured by Israeli troops.
In Episode 42 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Yoseph Leib Needelman-Ruiz (Ibn Mardachya), author of Cannabis Chassidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs. In this far-ranging meeting of the minds, the pair explore contemporary dilemmas of Jewish identity in both Israel and the diaspora, Zionism and gentrification (drawing parallels from the West Bank to Williamsburg), nationalism and anarchism, and such strange contradictions as the embrace of cannabis by Israel's right-wing political establishment. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Drone strikes on Sept. 27 targeted positions of an Iran-backed pro-government militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces, in northern Iraq, at al-Bukamal near the Syrian border. Hours later, a second attack struck a base in the Fallujah area used by the same militia force. Reports suggested the strikes were carried out by Israel, which has been stepping up attacks on Iran-backed forces across the border in Syria. (Haaretz, ToI) On Sept. 24, Turkish warplanes attacked the Chamanke area of Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing a local shopkeeper. Turkey has been for years targeting positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. (Rudaw) On Sept. 10, US-led coalition forces bombed a supposed ISIS stronghold on Qanus Island in the Tigris River, in Salahuddin province. ISIS fighters who had fled areas re-taken from the group in Mosul and Syrian territory are said to have taken refuge on the island. (Iraq News, Stars & Stripes)
After years of presumed Israeli air-strikes on Iranian forces in Syria, the IDF finally carried out air-strikes that were publicly acknowledged Aug. 24, hitting a compound near Damascus supposedly shared by the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force and Hezbollah militants. Three were said to be killed in the attack, suposedly launched to head off a planned Quds Force drone attack on West Bank settlements. (Jerusalem Post) Two days later, an Israeli drone struck a supposed compounds of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a Damascus-aligned faction, in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley. Lebanon's President Michel Aoun called the attacks a "declaration of war." (Jerusalem Post)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on May 28 detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into the conditions facing civilians in Sinai. The abuses detailed in the report include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government's fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of committing atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses.
An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip apparently took effect with no formal announcement May 6, after two days of hostilities that saw hundreds of rockets launched from Gaza and the most extensive Israeli air-strikes on the Strip since 2014. A total of 27 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, are reported dead in the air-strikes, which also included the first "targeted killings" of Hamas militants since 2014. Four Israeli civilians were also killed, all in the south. In the hours before the ceasefire, Israeli troops massed on the Gaza border, and a new invasion of the Strip appeared imminent. (Ma'an, Al Jazeera, Ha'aretz, YNet)
Reports are emerging of a clash between Russian forces and an Iran-backed militia in Syria—pointing to mounting tensions between the two most significant foreign powers backing the Assad regime. At least 11 were killed in the fighting in the city of Aleppo April 16. The clash began near a vegetable market in Khaldiya district, and quickly escalated to the use of heavy weaponry, with ground-to-air missiles fired on nearby areas within the city. At least some of the casualties are believed to be civilians. The militia was unnamed, but Tehran is backing numerous Shi'ite militias in Syria, many made up of volunteers from Iran and Iraq. The clash followed recent Israeli air-strikes on Iranian targets near Aleppo, and Tehran-backed factions apparently accused Russia of green-lighting Israel's attacks, or even coordinating with Tel Aviv on the strikes. (Syria Call, Middle East Monitor, Arab Weekly)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex areas of the occupied West Bank ahead of the coming week's Israeli Knesset elections. In an April 5 interview on Israeli Channel 12 TV, he was asked about plans to annex Israeli settlement blocs in the occupied territory, and responded: "Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty... I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians." (Times of Israel, NPR)