Middle East

Israel
12:59 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

FAA Prohibits U.S. Airlines From Flying To Tel Aviv

A woman passes by a departure board at Philadelphia International Airport showing that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled Tuesday.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 9:00 pm

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a 24-hour ban on flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport.

"The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014," the FAA said in a statement.

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Middle East
10:18 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Dozens Killed As Libyan Militias Battle For Tripoli's Airport

A damaged building and debris outside are seen Sunday after heavy fighting broke out between rival militias near the airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Hani Amara Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 11:19 am

At least 47 people have been killed in fighting over the past 24 hours between rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli's international airport.

The country's health ministry said late Sunday that the fighting also wounded 120 people. The Associated Press reports:

"The weeklong battle over the airport is being waged by a powerful militia from the western city of Zintan, which controls the facility, and Islamist-led militias, including fighters from Misrata, east of Tripoli. The clashes resumed Sunday after cease-fire efforts failed.

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Middle East
8:04 am
Mon July 21, 2014

In Effort To Forge Cease-Fire Between Israel And Hamas, Kerry Heads To Egypt

A Palestinian overcome by emotion watches rescuers carry a body from the rubble of a house which was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, on Monday.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 8:26 pm

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Egypt today in an effort to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry would meet with Egyptian and other senior officials.

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Gaza
10:00 am
Sun July 20, 2014

At Least 13 Israeli Soldiers, 87 Palestinians Killed In Gaza Strip Sunday

A Palestinian man runs with a white flag in the Shejaia neighborhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting in Gaza City on Sunday.
Finbarr O'Reilly Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sun July 20, 2014 10:36 pm

Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET.

A spokesman for Hamas claimed Sunday that the group has captured an Israeli soldier. Reuters quotes Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, as saying that no Israeli soldier has been kidnapped.

It's the latest development in a bloody day of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Israel's military said today that a series of attacks on its forces inside the Gaza Strip has killed 13 soldiers, by far the heaviest single-day toll for its troops since the beginning of the offensive nearly two weeks ago.

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Military Offensive
1:11 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

What To Watch In Israel's Ground Invasion Of Gaza

An Israeli tank advances near the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Friday as part of Israel's ground incursion in the territory. Israel launched the ground operation Thursday following more than a week of airstrikes that did not halt Palestinian rocket fire.
Dusan Vranic AP

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 4:10 pm

Israel has unleashed repeated military offensives in the Gaza Strip since 2000 and has never been able to permanently suppress Palestinian rocket fire or seal off the territory's smuggling tunnels.

So why is Israel launching another major ground incursion now, and is there any reason to think the outcome will be different this time?

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Middle East
5:40 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Israeli Ground Operation In Gaza Continues

An Israeli artillery shell is fired at the border with Gaza on Friday near Sderot, Israel. Late Thursday night Israeli forces escalated their operation with a ground offensive, sending troops into Gaza. More than 250 Palestinians have lost their lives since Israel began operation "Protective Edge."
Ilia Yefimovich Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 6:42 pm

This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. ET:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to the Middle East on Saturday in hopes of finding a way to stop the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

"Israel has legitimate security concerns, and we condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that ended yesterday's temporary cease-fire," Jeffrey Feltman, deputy U.N. secretary-general for political affairs, told the Security Council on Friday. "But we are alarmed by Israel's heavy response."

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Middle East
4:39 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Israel Launches Ground Offensive In Gaza

Israeli soldiers ride on military vehicles near the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday
Ariel Schalit AP

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 7:53 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to send ground forces into Gaza Thursday night.

"We are hearing reports that so far the operation has been concentrated in the north," reports NPR's Emily Harris, who is in Gaza.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, called the invasion "a dangerous step. "The occupation will pay its price expensively, and Hamas is ready for confrontation," he said in a statement.

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Middle East
6:51 am
Thu July 17, 2014

A 5-Hour Truce Between Hamas And Israel Ends, And Fighting Begins

A Palestinian municipality worker sweeps the street as a United Nations vehicle drives past a damaged money exchange post. Israel and Hamas took a break from fighting Thursday for humanitarian reasons.
Lefteris Pitarakis AP

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 4:12 pm

This post was updated at 4:10 p.m. ET: Ground Offenses Begin

Israel has sent ground forces into Gaza on Thursday, which we are covering in this post.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET: Hostilities Resume

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Gaza
1:15 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Israeli Official: Chance Of A Ground Invasion Of Gaza 'Very High'

A picture taken from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing from the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli airstrike Wednesday.
Jack Guez AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 5:48 pm

This post was updated at 3 p.m. ET.

Israel has agreed to a United Nations request for a temporary cease-fire in its shelling campaign of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

The five-hour bombing halt on Thursday will allow humanitarian aid to be delivered in Gaza.

But any semblance of peace will be fleeting.

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Gaza
9:56 am
Tue July 15, 2014

After Peace Deal's Failure, Israel To 'Expand And Intensify' Campaign

An Israeli soldier stands on a military vehicle near Gaza early Tuesday, when a cease-fire was meant to take effect. The deal hasn't been embraced by all of Hamas.
Ariel Schalit AP

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 6:26 am

This post was updated at 5:30 p.m. ET.

A day that dawned with hopes for a fragile peace is closing with hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians appearing to intensify.

Early Tuesday, Israel had accepted the terms of a cease-fire proposed by Egypt, but Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, continued firing rockets.

A Hamas spokesman complained to NPR's Ari Shapiro that Egypt's current government is hostile to the group and its proposal didn't deal at all with Palestinian demands.

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Gaza
8:18 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Israel Shoots Down Drone As Clash With Hamas Continues

A missile leaves an "Iron Dome" battery, Israel's short-range missile defense system, Monday. Israel shot down a drone Monday, using a Patriot missile to take out the unmanned aircraft.
David Buimovitch AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 12:24 pm

  • Ari Shapiro on 'Morning Edition'
  • Hear Emily Harris on 'Morning Edition'

Exchanges of rockets and airstrikes continue between Israel and militants in Gaza, one week after violence broke out in the area. The Palestinian death toll is being reported at 172; no Israelis have reportedly died in the fighting.

From Haaretz:

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Afghanistan
11:35 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Kerry Pushes For Audit Of Disputed Afghan Presidential Poll

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah at the start of a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Friday. Kerry sought Friday to broker a deal between Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates.
Jim Bourg AP

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 3:16 pm

This post updated at 3:15 p.m. ET.

Calling it a "critical moment" in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for a partial recount in the country's presidential elections amid alleged vote fraud.

"We are in a very, very critical moment for Afghanistan," Kerry told reporters. "Legitimacy hangs in the balance. The future potential of the transition hangs in the balance. So we've a lot of work to do."

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Israeli/Palestinian Conflict Escalates; LIRR Strike Looms; World Cup Preview

A missile from the Israeli Iron Dome.
Credit Israeli Defense Forces / Creative Commons

Once again, violence has escalated in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Rockets are now reaching northern Israel and that government is responding with barrages of its own rocket attacks on Palestinian targets. We talk with a local professor who recently returned from the region and studies this on-going conflict.

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Middle East
7:38 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Israel And Hamas Keep Up Attacks, Ignoring Calls For Peace

Israeli firefighters extinguish vehicles at a gas station in Ashdod, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday.
David Buimovitch AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 1:54 pm

This post was updated at 1 p.m. ET.

The number of Palestinians killed in Israel's aerial offensive that began this week has surpassed 100, according to health officials in Gaza. More than 600 people have been wounded in the ongoing exchange of airstrikes and rockets between Israel's military and the militant group Hamas.

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Middle East
9:02 am
Thu July 10, 2014

On Opposite Sides Of Israeli-Gaza Border, Feeling The Same Fears

Several families share this one-room underground shelter in Ashkelon, Israel, not far from the border with Gaza. The children say they're afraid to go outside.
Ari Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 10:39 pm

More than 50 Palestinians have been killed and 450 wounded in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, rockets continue to fly toward Israel from Gaza, but so far, no Israelis have been reported killed.

For people living in and around the Gaza Strip, this conflict has turned daily routines upside down. Life is punctuated by sirens and explosions.

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Middle East
7:23 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Israel Continues Gaza Offensive, Hints At Ground Operation

Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip Wednesday. Since the Gaza offensive began Tuesday, Israel has attacked more than 400 sites in Gaza.
Ariel Schalit AP

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 3:21 pm

Update at 2:42 p.m. ET

Israeli leaders are signaling that a ground invasion might be imminent as the offensive on Gaza intensifies, killing at least 53 people and wounding 465 others.

The toll comes from the Palestinian Authority's Health Ministry.

Reporter Daniel Estrin tells NPR's Newscast unit that Israel's military struck at least 200 Hamas targets on the second day of its offensive on the Gaza Strip. The operation is in response to rocket attacks from Gaza toward Israeli cities.

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World
7:01 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Israel Expands Attacks On Gaza As Rockets Target Israeli Cities

Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza with more than 50 strikes overnight after Hamas militants fired scores of rockets over the border.
Jack Guez AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 5:36 pm

Updates at 5:32 p.m. ET

Israel said Tuesday it is expanding its operations against Hamas "and other terrorist organizations" in the Gaza Strip amid an escalation of violence that saw a barrage of rockets fired from the enclave toward Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other parts of the country.

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World
1:58 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Israel Says Bodies Of 3 Students Have Been Recovered

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 11:38 pm

Israeli officials say they have found the bodies of three teens captured earlier this month.

Yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were kidnapped late at night on June 12 from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion. Fraenkel is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

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The Two-Way
7:32 am
Mon June 30, 2014

ISIS Declares Caliphate As Iraq Fights To Retake Tikrit

Displaced Iraqi citizens receive meals to break their Ramadan fast from a Kurdish charity group. Iraq's central government has launched its first major operation against the ISIS insurgent group.
Hussein Malla AP

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 11:58 am

Extremist Sunni group ISIS has announced a plan to rule the territory it has carved out of Iraq and Syria in recent months, in a declaration that touches on public services, salaries and compensation for damages from the violence.

The plan was unveiled as Iraq's central Shiite government tries to retake the city of Tikrit, in its first major operation against the insurgents.

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White House
5:08 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Obama Asks For $500 Million To Train, Equip Syrian Rebels

Rebel fighters drink tea on the front line of Ramouseh, near the Aleppo Artillery School. President Obama has requested $500 million to arm and train "moderate" Syrian rebel groups.
Hosam Katan Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:21 pm

President Obama has asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels who are seeking the ouster of Bashar Assad.

If Congress approves the plan, it would supplement a covert training and assistance program already being run by U.S. intelligence agencies, The Associated Press says.

The White House says in a statement that the rebels would be vetted before providing assistance, to ensure that U.S. equipment doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

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Iraq
10:27 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Iraq's Most Influential Man Gets Pulled Back Into Politics

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose portrait is being held aloft by his Shiite supporters, has emerged in recent weeks to address the crisis facing Iraq.
Khalid Mohammed AP

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 12:10 pm

The most influential man in Iraq has been speaking up again after a period of relative quiet. It's not Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, or the head of the ISIS militants who are taking over much of the west and north of the country. It's an aged cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who can be compared to something like a pope for the country's majority Shiite Muslims.

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World
9:05 am
Tue June 24, 2014

In Iraq, More Than 1,000 Were Killed In June

Mourners chant slogans against the al-Qaida breakaway group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria after they buried 15 bodies in the village of Taza Khormato in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq on Monday.
Emad Matti AP

The United Nations has some grim news on Iraq this morning: It says at least 1,075 people were killed in June as Sunni militants overtook some significant cities in the country.

Most of the deaths, the U.N. reports, were civilians. The AP adds:

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Iraq
3:59 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Under Attack By ISIS, Iraq Agrees To Give U.S. Troops Immunity

Iraqi Kurdish forces take position near Taza Khormato as they fight jihadist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positioned five kilometers away in Bashir on Monday.
Karim Sahib AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 3:44 pm

Remember last week when President Obama said he planned to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq?

Well, the U.S. couldn't do it until the Iraqi government gave U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution, through what's called a "diplomatic note." If those U.S. soldiers committed any crimes or had any legal troubles while advising Iraqis, the U.S. wanted to handle any prosecutions.

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Drone Use
12:56 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

U.S. Court Releases Obama Administration's 'Drone Memo'

In this image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites in November, 2010.
SITE Intelligence Group AP

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 5:49 pm

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has released a long-secret memo in which the Obama administration lays out its legal reasoning for launching a drone attack on an American citizen overseas.

The legal justification concerns the drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who the United States claims was tied to plots against the U.S. and played a key role in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

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Iraq
8:42 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Kerry Meets With Iraqi Prime Minister In Baghdad Amid ISIS Crisis

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (right) sits with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday. Kerry was in Baghdad to push for Iraqi unity and stability, as Sunni militants swept through western towns abandoned by security forces.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 11:48 am

As Sunni militants make gains against Iraq's Shiite-led central government, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a previously unannounced visit to Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.

Maliki has been criticized for not being more inclusive of Sunnis and Kurds in his government — a change the Obama administration is calling for as part of any plans for military support.

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Middle East
2:23 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Obama: U.S. to Send 300 "Military Advisers" to Iraq

President Barack Obama answers questions from reporters at the White House.
Credit Screenshot / White House

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is prepared to take targeted military actions in Iraq if they would help fight a growing threat from extremist militants. He also said the U.S. is ready to send as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq.

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Middle East
7:20 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Iraq Battles Militants For Key Oil Refinery In Beiji

Iraqi army soldiers parade during a recruiting drive for men to volunteer for military service in Baghdad on Thursday. The country's leaders are urging Iraqis to help battle insurgents who have mounted an aggressive campaign in the north.
Karim Kadim AP

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 8:54 am

In an attempt to stop the juggernaut advance of the Sunni extremist group ISIS, Iraq's central government says the fight for the country's largest oil refinery is far from over. A military official says 40 militants have been killed.

"Iraqi government officials say an elite special operations force is holding off ISIS militants at the Beiji refinery 160 miles north of the capital," NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Erbil. "But local police report ISIS is tightening a grip on the facility."

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World
12:09 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

What's Next For Iraq?

A woman and a girl wash at a camp in Kalak set up for those fleeing the fighting in northern Iraq. The escalating conflict has sent shock waves across the region and is further destabilizing the Middle East.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 9:40 pm

This post was updated at 9:40 p.m. ET to reflect the Obama administration's pressure on the Iraqi government.

A week ago, it would have been difficult to find anyone in the U.S. arguing for renewed U.S. military action in Iraq. Now there's a furious debate about what the U.S. should, or shouldn't, do in the latest Iraqi crisis.

The drama seemed to erupt out of nowhere as Islamist extremists captured Mosul, one of the country's largest and most important cities, and kept pushing south toward the capital Baghdad.

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Iraq
8:15 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Militants Attack Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery As Sectarian Clashes Spread

An Iraqi boy and other civilians look at the aftermath of a car bomb in Baghdad's Sadr City on Wednesday. The violence in the Shiite district comes as Sunni militants advance in northern Iraq.
Karim Kadim AP

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 11:06 am

The Sunni militant group that has stormed across Iraq invaded the country's largest oil refinery today, hitting it with mortars. The government is using limited air attacks to strike back at ISIS, which now controls large areas of Iraq's north.

"The oil refinery in Beiji has been under siege since the militant fighters of ISIS seized the town of Beiji in their sweep through northern Iraq," NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Irbil, Iraq. "In an offensive at dawn, ISIS fighters attacked the refinery with machine-gun fire and mortars, according to Iraqi security forces."

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Iraq
7:42 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

What, Exactly, Are U.S. Interests In Iraq's Turmoil?

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen show their enthusiasm Tuesday for joining Iraqi security forces in the fight against Islamist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.
Haidar Hamdani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 8:33 pm

As the U.S. steers warships closer to Iraq and beefs up its embassy's security in Baghdad with nearly 300 troops, a nagging question has resurfaced.

What compelling interests does Washington still have in a nation where all U.S. forces were pulled out 2 1/2 years ago?

Three days after Sunni militants calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, President Obama paused on the White House lawn and issued a warning.

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