happening in the middle east
June 17, 2019

In response to recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, an additional 1,000 U.S. troops are being sent to the Middle East, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced Monday.

The U.S. says Iran is behind the attacks, and Shanahan said "hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups ... threaten United States personnel and interests across the region." These troops, who will join 1,500 other soldiers sent to the region last month after similar tanker attacks, are "for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East," Shanahan added.

Earlier Monday, Iran said within 10 days, it will go over the 300 kg (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium it can have under its 2015 nuclear deal. Catherine Garcia

March 14, 2019

Militants in Gaza fired two rockets at Tel Aviv late Thursday, the Israeli Defense Forces said, the first time the city has been targeted since 2014.

The rockets landed in an open area, and no one was hurt, the IDF said. In response, Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza, hitting Khan Younis, a town 15 miles south of Gaza City. The IDF said it's targeting "terror sites," CBS News reports.

Palestinian media says that a Hamas naval base was hit, but no injuries have been reported. No organization has claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv attack. Catherine Garcia

March 3, 2019

The United States has closed its Jerusalem consulate, which for several decades served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians.

Now, outreach will be conducted through a Palestinian affairs unit at the U.S. Embassy, which was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is a critic of Palestinian leadership and supports Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In a statement to The Associated Press, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the decision "was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations. It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip." Catherine Garcia

October 26, 2017

At the same time the Iraqi prime minister announced an offensive was underway to recapture a region close to the Syrian border from the Islamic State, Kurdish officials said its peshmerga fighters were being hit by artillery fired by Iraqi troops and Iran-backed militias.

Early Thursday, the Kurdistan Region Security Council said the Iraqi forces were northwest of Mosul, and in a statement, the council called on Iraq to withdraw from the area and asked the United States government to "stop Iraq's reckless behavior." Last month, Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence from Baghdad, and since then, Iraqi troops have pushed into oil-rich territories where the peshmerga drove out ISIS fighters.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops are fighting to take back al-Qaim and Rawa in the western border region, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said early Thursday. This is the last bit of land ISIS still controls in Iraq. On the Syrian side of the border, ISIS still has some territory, but they are retreating from the area. Catherine Garcia

October 16, 2017

Tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) escalated Sunday and early Monday in Kirkuk, a contested oil-rich region currently controlled by Kurdish authorities. After announcing a "major operation" had been launched, Baghdad said early Monday its forces have taken over "vast areas of Kirkuk," including oilfields west of the region's namesake city, while the KRG said everything in the region remains under Kurdish control.

A KRG official told Reuters that Iraqi troops were not able to get closer to Kirkuk or take away any territory from Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and the biggest battle took place south of Kirkuk, where the peshmerga and a mostly Shiite Iraqi paramilitary force exchanged artillery fire. In late September, Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence, a referendum Baghdad has called illegal.

The peshmerga and Iraqi forces are fighting the Islamic State, and the U.S. Defense Department is calling on both sides to "avoid additional escalatory actions," which would take the focus away from beating ISIS. Catherine Garcia

July 24, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet voted on Monday to remove metal detectors installed at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, but Sheikh Najeh Bakirat, the mosque's director, said that's not enough to please Muslim worshippers who also want security cameras to come down, Al Jazeera reports.

The metal detectors were installed at entry points to the mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, after two police officers were shot and killed there on July 14. The new security measures sparked protests and clashes between Palestinians and security forces, with at least five Palestinians killed and hundreds more injured. Catherine Garcia

April 3, 2017

Human Rights Watch said Monday that Israel is not letting its researchers into the Gaza Strip to document cases of abuse by authorities.

Since 2008, Israel has "systematically" kept researchers out of Gaza, with the exception of one permit being granted last year, Human Rights Watch said in a 47-page report. The organization said Egypt has also prevented its employees from entering Gaza from Egyptian territory since 2012. The militant group Hamas took control of Gaza, home to almost 2 million people, in 2007, and both Hamas and Israel have been accused of war crimes during fighting over the last decade.

Israel for years has said Human Rights Watch is biased against the country, and Tel Aviv has declared that there is no reason to have researchers in Gaza because Israel is doing its own investigations into possible abuse. "If Israel wants the ICC prosecutors to take seriously its argument that its criminal investigations are adequate, a good first step would be to allow human rights researchers to bring relevant information to light," Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. Israel wasn't the only party called out in the group's report — it also criticized Hamas for not working with investigators and failing to protect local human rights workers, and Egypt for not letting researchers through to Gaza. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads