For the night of 21 August 2014
China: Another apparent terrorist attack occurred today in Guangzhou in southern China. Xinhua reported seven people were slashed in the city's Tianhe district in an evening attack.
Comment: The Chinese are not calling this a terrorist attack. However, it is similar to recent attacks by Uighur separatists this year, particularly the use of edged weapons. This attack indicates that the Uighur terrorist cell in South China remains intact and a threat, despite an increasingly harsh security crackdown on the Uighurs.
Thailand: Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has been elected the new prime minister of Thailand, by his hand-picked parliament. The vote was 191-0, with three abstentions. He was the only candidate. His approval by the King will be important, but a formality.
Comment: Since his overthrow of the Yingluck Shinawatra government in May, Prayuth has tried to revive the economy with large infrastructure projects, such as railroad construction, and to attract foreign investment, such as by trying to modernize the education system. His main task, however, has been to eradicate the political infrastructure of the Shinawatra family.
He is 60 and must retire from the armed forces next month. In his new position, he will become a civilian, like President al-Sisi in Egypt, who is a retired Field Marshal. As prime minister, Prayuth will be in a position to continue his program of political reform and tutelage, which aims at guiding rural voters from supporting the populist programs that resulted in repeated electoral victories for the Shinawatras.
Pakistan: Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan suspended talks with the government Thursday after it appointed a new police chief in Islamabad. Khan said he would not leave the PTI sit-in site in Islamabad until Nawaz Sharif resigned as prime minister. He also called for his supporters from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province to come to Islamabad to reinforce the protest.
Comment: The Army made no new statements. No new clashes have been reported. Imran Khan refuses to compromise, frustrating the government's attempt to initiate a dialogue. As a result, the political confrontation shows no sign of ending soon. Khan's refusal to compromise suggests he has strong backing from some powerful political stakeholder. Since all important civilian political groups openly back Nawaz Sharif, that leaves the Pakistan Army and Islamic groups as the most likely backers of the anti-Nawaz Sharif movement.
Turkey: On 21 August, President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan named Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as his successor as prime minister. Davutoglu will be approved on 27 August. Erdogan will take his oath of office on the 28th.
Comment: Davutoglu is a longstanding advisor and supporter of Erdogan. His appointment means Erdogan will face no opposition from parliament in transforming the Turkish government into a presidential system under Edogan's control. A referendum on a new constitution is expected later this year.
Israel: Thousands of mourners attended the burial of three senior commanders of the armed wing of Hamas who were killed in a predawn airstrike by Israel. They called on the armed wing to take revenge against Israel. Hamas admitted that two of the dead commanders participated in the abduction of Israeli soldiers.
Comment: Media commentators wrote that these deaths represented the most significant blow to the group's leadership since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July.
The defense ministry asked the cabinet to approve another call up of 10,000 reservists. Palestinians launched more than 109 rockets on Thursday. Israeli aircraft attacked 110 targets. One Israeli was wounded today. The Palestinian death toll is 2,049 with 10,000 wounded.
Comment: The Palestinians are continuing to use up their rockets at the rate of over 100 per day. They retain a large inventory, but it is note being replenished. Meanwhile, much of Gaza is being reduced to rubble. The Hamas leadership seems oddly comfortable with that outcome, provided they can still shoot rockets.
Hamas: A leader of the armed wing of Hamas admitted it captured the Israeli teens whose deaths lead to the Gaza War. At a press conference in Turkey on Wednesday, Saleh Arouri said that Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, carried out what he described as a "heroic operation," whose objective was to incite a new Palestinian uprising.
"It was an operation by your brothers from the al-Qassam Brigades," he said. Hamas hoped to exchange the youths for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Comment: Hamas repeatedly praised the kidnappings, but Arouri, the group's exiled West Bank leader, is the first leader to claim responsibility and, thereby, confirm the Israeli accusations that Hamas abducted and killed the youths. Some Israelis on the left had insisted that Prime Minister Netanyahu trumped up a murder by local criminals to justify a war against the Palestinians.
The al-Qassam Brigades have now admitted that it committed the first overt act of violence that led to the Gaza War. This is significant because they also broke all the temporary ceasefires in the past 45 days and disrupted the peace talks in Cairo.
The Palestinians who launch the rockets evidently are rogues whom the Hamas political leadership does not control. Talks with Hamas are pointless as long as the al-Qassam Brigades can override any agreements by simply launching rockets.
It is not known what prompted Arouri to admit to the kidnappings, but he made Prime Minister Netanyahu look like a clairvoyant and a national hero.
Ukraine: Update. Most news services reported that Ukrainian army elements now control the rebel city of Luhansk. The Kyiv regime has stalled the Russian humanitarian aid convoy, whose destination is Luhansk, until after the army regained control. At least some Russian trucks should now be allowed to travel to Luhansk soon.
Nigeria: The riot police training academy in Gwoza, in Borno State, reportedly has been overrun by Boko Haram Islamist terrorists, according to a witness who spoke to the press. He said the terrorists arrived in three armored vehicles and on dozens of motorcycles and then started shooting.
A Nigerian news service said that several hundred terrorists participated in the attack. The academy contained more than 290 trainees. Casualty figures have not yet been reported.
A police spokesman confirmed the attack. Another source confirmed that the government has lost communications with the academy.
Comment: This was the second attack on the academy in two weeks. It is one of two riot training facilities in Nigeria. There seems to be no learning by the Nigerian security leadership and forces in the northeast.
End of NightWatch for 21 August.
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