North Korea: On 30 July, North Korea fired four short-range rockets in an easterly direction, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The rockets, judged to have come from a 300-millimeter multiple rocket launcher, were fired from a site near Mount Myohyang in North Pyongan Province in north central North Korea towards the Sea of Japan. Two rockets flew for just a few seconds and apparently failed in flight. A third flew 210 kms and probably splashed into the Sea. A fourth failed in flight after 130 kms and fell inland.
According to South Korean press analysis, this was the first time that a North Korean unit has fired a 300--mm rocket from an inland location and for such a rocket to travel more than 200 kilometers, or full range. In the past, most rocket launches have been from coastal sites.
The press also noted that Wednesday's firing marked the 16th time that the North has launched rockets this year. It also was the fifth firing of 300-mm rockets in 2014.
The latest launches brought the total number of North Korean rockets and missiles fired in 2014 to 102.
Comment: North Korean forces have launched more missiles and long range rockets this year than in any of the past 30 years. The conventional wisdom about the lack of launches was that the North Korean leadership wanted to preserve its wartime stocks. It tested missiles and rockets for quality control of production and to maintain minimal crew proficiency.
Apparently the conventional wisdom was at least partly accurate because today's test featured at least a 50%, and possibly a 75%, failure rate.
Another novelty is firing across the country instead of out to sea. The actual trajectory is not available in open sources, but almost any missile that falls on land risks hitting civilians and structures. However the North's leaders might judge that over land launches improve the security of the tests.
Iraq: A car bomb exploded in an eastern Baghdad neighborhood, killing one civilian and injuring nine. A second car bomb detonated in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, killing 2 civilians and injuring 11.
Comment: Fighters and supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continue to show their reach and capability. The frequency of bombings in Baghdad is slowly increasing.
Politics. Iraqi news services published contradictory reports about whether Prime Minister al-Maliki will run for a third term.
On Wednesday, a Member of Parliament for the Liberal bloc, Riad al-Saadi, reportedly said that "the National Alliance has five candidates for the post of prime minister." He identified the three candidates from the National Coalition as Ahmed Chalabi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Aadi Abdul-Mahdi.
He said that al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition has nominated two men: Khodair al Khozai and Hussain al-Shahristani. He said that the outgoing Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, withdrew his candidacy for the post because of political pressure.
Later in the day, a spokesman for the State of Law Coalition denied al-Saadi's claim and said al Maliki remains committed to run for a third term.
Comment: If the report is accurate, the slate of candidates is primarily a list of familiar Shiite politicians, some of whom have considerable political baggage. Acceptability to the US is obviously a selection criterion.
Israel: The security cabinet held another late night session on 30 July to decide the next phase of Operation Protective Edge. It agreed to intensify the attacks, the fourth escalation order since Operation Protective Edge began.
It also approved another reserve call-up. An additional 16,000 soldiers are being recalled to active duty, raising to 86,000 the number of reserve soldiers committed to Protective Edge. This is about one-fifth of the reserves. The 86,000 does not include large portions of the active duty force that also are engaged in combat operations.
Finally, the cabinet said it will continue to observe periodic, brief humanitarian ceasefires.
On Wednesday, three Israel Defense Force soldiers died in combat, bringing the total to 56 soldiers killed and 3 civilians. Palestinians fired 80 rockets on Tuesday and 84 on Wednesday. At least 2,770 rockets have been fired at Israel since 8 July, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The number of Palestinians killed is now estimated at 1,400.
Ceasefire talk. One news service reported that "a prominent source" in Hamas said that "the delegation the movement (Hamas) and the PLO have agreed to set up in order to discuss the issue of a ceasefire with the Israeli entity in Gaza could be arriving in Cairo at any minute." The source said the delegation, which is composed of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and PLO representatives, will put forward their demands regarding a ceasefire. He insisted that the discussions with the Egyptian officials will be "based on the demands of the resistance, rather than the Egyptian initiative announced two weeks ago."
Meanwhile, an Israeli newspaper reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to bring to the cabinet a US-Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire initiative. A senior Israeli official reportedly indicated that this turnabout occurred after the United States and Egypt accepted on 29 July two key Israeli demands:
-- that the mediation talks in Egypt begin only after a complete halt of firing on the part of Hamas and unequivocal evidence that it accepts a ceasefire;
-- that in the talks, Egypt and the United States accept Israel's demand that the Gaza Strip is rehabilitated only on condition that Hamas military support is stopped - even if the Palestinian delegation to the talks does not accept this demand.
Comment: The talks are exploratory, but appear more serious than those held last week. No lasting ceasefire may be expected because the combatants do not yet appear ready to stop fighting. The main result of the talks is likely to be an appreciation of each side's readiness to stop fighting and begin serious talks.
Nigeria: A female suicide bomber blew herself up in a college in northern Nigeria's biggest city of Kano, killing six people and critically wounding another six people. The bomber targeted youths who were looking at a notice board for national youth service in Kano Polytechnic.
Comment: This was the fourth attack by a woman bomber in Kano in less than a week.
End of NightWatch
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