For the night of 17 August 2014
North Korea: North Korea launched three short-range rockets off the country's East Sea coast on Thursday morning, just as Pope Francis was arriving on the west side of the Korean Peninsula at the beginning of a five-day visit to South Korea.
Comment: North Korea denied accusations that the rocket launches were related to the Pope's visit. The denial is probably true.
Iraq: Update. Iraqi Kurds with US air support recaptured the Mosul Dam from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL fighters withdrew.
Israel: The Israeli delegation returned to Cairo on Sunday to resume negotiations with Hamas. The talks were expected to continue through Monday night, when the temporary cease-fire is scheduled to end. Thus far, both sides have respected the ceasefire.
To demonstrate Israel's goodwill, an official said that Israel lifted the fishing ban today, allowing Palestinian fishermen from Gaza to fish three nautical miles off Gaza's shore.
Comment: Egyptian authorities indicated that today's negotiations would represent Egypt's final effort to mediate a lasting ceasefire. All parties appear interested in observing the ceasefire a day at a time, even in the absence of an omnibus agreement.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel will not compromise on the security requirement that the Gaza Strip must be demilitarized. He also said that Hamas will not be permitted to obtain a political victory from its military defeat. If Hamas resumes rocket attacks upon the expiration of the ceasefire, Netanyahu promised massive retaliation.
What Netanyahu refers to is the Sadat Gambit that motivated the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Egyptian President Sadat knew that Egyptian forces could not defeat Israel in a war. The military objective was to gain enough territory to provide Egypt with leverage in the peace talks. In other words, lose the war to win the peace. It worked. Egypt did not with the war, but eventually became the second largest recipient of US military aid, second only to Israel.
The Palestinians, according to Netanyahu, tried a scaled back version of the Sadat Gambit, but failed because they were unable to cause significant casualties in Israel. The Gambit works when the side using it achieves sufficient, real battlefield success to afford it leverage in peace talks. The Palestinians fell short of attaining leverage because their rockets performed so poorly and so many Palestinians died.
The Israelis understand that ploy and will deny it to Hamas. The key point is that Hamas is continuing to fold. It is now willing to settle for a partial lifting of the Israeli blockade and to defer discussion of a seaport in Gaza, as long as Israel allows funds to be transferred by the Palestinian Authority to Hamas to enable it to pay the bills.
Another way in which Hamas has sustained a setback is that the Palestinian Authority appears to be asserting more authority over the negotiations, mostly because of Hamas legendary inability to govern and because the Authority has money and Hamas is broke.
One or other of the Palestinian groups may be expected to launch rockets by Tuesday, as a show of defiance. Israel will respond asymmetrically. The fighting is not finished.
Ukraine: Today, Ukrainian forces entered Luhansk in the heart of the secessionist region. The rebels claim to have shot down another Ukrainian fighter aircraft. The Red Cross has inspected and approved fewer than 20 of the 280 trucks in the large Russian humanitarian aid convoy, which remains blocked at the border of southeastern Ukraine.
Comment: Donetsk is the only large city still in control of the rebels in eastern Ukraine. Discipline reportedly is breaking down there.
Nigeria: Last week, Boko Haram kidnapped almost 100 men, women and boys in northeastern Nigeria. Communications are so poor that Nigerian authorities first reported the incident on Friday, the 15th. Chadian soldiers rescued most of them.
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed into the Doron Baga fishing and farming village on the shores of Lake Chad late Sunday through Monday and took away 97 young men and boys plus several women, residents said. The raiders killed 28 residents and burned scores of homes.
The hostages were loaded onto motorboats and taken across the Lake to Chad. Chadian soldiers intercepted a bus carrying the hostages and attacked. They killed the Boko Haram escorts and rescued most of the hostages. An official of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Maiduguri confirmed the rescue of the 63 male and 22 female hostages.
More than 30 hostages were still being held by Boko Haram fighters, who sped off with them in motorboats when they spotted the convoy being questioned by Chadian soldiers.
Comment: This is the first recent report of Chadian cooperation in combatting Boko Haram. Cameroonian and Chadian soldiers can stop Boko Haram, but not Nigerians. No learning about security is occurring in Nigeria.
End of NightWatch for 17 August.
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