North Korea: Japanese and South Korea press reported North Korea launched two ballistic missiles early Sunday. Both traveled about 500 kilometers in a northeastern direction before falling into the Sea of Japan, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
Japan immediately lodged a protest with North Korea via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing after the launch of the missiles, believed to have taken place at around 1:20 a.m. from the Kaesong area, according to Japanese press. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized Pyongyang for taking such action, saying it violated UN resolutions.
Comment: South Korean analysts judged that the two missiles launched today were Scud variants. North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles - also probably Scuds -- toward the Sea of Japan early Wednesday.
Afghanistan: Speaking at a news conference broadcast live on Afghan private Tolo News TV and other mainstream TV channels on 12 July, US Secretary of State Kerry said the both candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, agreed to a complete audit of votes.
"Every single ballot that was cast will be audited hundred per cent," Kerry said. The process of audit is to start in Kabul within the next 24 hours. He also said that Western forces would help transfer the ballot boxes from the provinces to Kabul.
Dr. Abdullah said that he and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai achieved an agreement on "extensive and comprehensive auditing of all ballot papers cast in the second round of the presidential elections." He said: "Today, I want to give assurances to our people that we have reached a technical and political agreement."
Comment: Some news outlets have described the agreement as a recount. That is not what has been agreed. The agreement stops the escalation towards violent clashes for a time. Underlying issues are not solved and hinge on the outcome of the audit, for which there is no target date.
Iraq: For the record. Today's parliament session featured a full quorum, but nothing else. No agreement was reached on the nominees proposed for the posts of the parliament speaker and his two deputies. Parliament adjourned until 15 July.
Israel: The cabinet held a meeting on the evening of 13 July and decided to continue to call up reserve forces and to continue airstrikes. The ministers have not yet authorized the Israel Defense Force to launch a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Such authorization depends on future events. Israel again warned the residents of northern Gaza to evacuate their homes.
In the six days of Operation Protective Edge, 172 Palestinians have been killed and over 1,230 have been injured.
No Israeli casualties have been reported.
Comment: The Palestinian rocket barrage probably should be remembered as one of the most inept and ineffective uses of ordnance in the history of warfare. One barrage of rockets did succeed in doing some damage to the Israeli infrastructure. It knocked out the Israeli power plant that serves 70,000 Palestinians. Israeli ground preparations continue.
Ukraine: Russian media reported that on 13 July Ukrainian forces began their offensive to retake Luhansk, spearheaded by 90 tanks and armored personnel carriers. According to the Russian news account, the separatists counter-attacked with 20 tanks and armored vehicles and drove the Ukrainians back. Artillery exchanges and local skirmishes followed.
The separatist forces near Luhansk were supported by a captured Su-25 attack fighter that they managed to restore to operational status.
Ukrainian forces also fired artillery towards Donetsk.
Russia-Ukraine: Russian press reported that Ukrainian artillery shelled a Russian village near Donetsk on the 13th, killing one civilian and injuring two others. Russian President Putin, in Rio de Janeiro, called the shelling absolutely unacceptable.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said, "What happened is a qualitative escalation of the danger to our citizens on our own territory. Understandably, this, naturally, will not pass without reaction. What happened reaffirms the need for an urgent cessation of bloodshed, resumption of talks within the contact group with the participation of the parties to the conflict, and compliance with the accords reached in Geneva on 17 April and at the Berlin meeting of the foreign ministers of the group of four (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) on 2 July."
Ukrainian authorities denied the shelling and accused Russia of supporting the separatists.
Comment: Ukraine continues to provoke Russia.
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