Boarding parties from the Navy’s guided-missile cruiser Normandy stopped a dhow in the Arabian Sea earlier this week and confiscated a cache of Iranian-made surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weaponry bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.
A video released by CENTCOM showed a small boat from the Ticonderoga-class Normandy approaching the dhow on Feb. 9 as crew members of the traditional Mideastern vessel gathered at the bow with arms raised in surrender.
In addition to three surface-to-air missiles, the arms cache included 150 “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, Iranian components for aerial drones and unmanned small boats, “as well as other munitions and advanced weapons parts,” CENTCOM officials said in a statement.
The arms cache was similar to one seized in the Arabian Sea by the guided-missile destroyer Forrest Sherman in November, CENTCOM said.
The weapons seized by the Sherman “were determined to be of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen” in violation of a United Nations Security Council Resolution barring weapons transfers to the Houthis, CENTCOM said.
The CENTCOM statement did not address the fate of the dhow’s crew, but past practice for seizures of Iranian arms has been for the crews to be released after questioning.
The action by the Normandy in seizing the arms cache was the first publicly announced haul haul for the U.S. Navy since a Jan. 4 drone strike at Baghdad’s International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.
Iran responded to Soleimani’s killing with ballistic missile strikes on Al Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province on Jan. 8. The Pentagon said earlier this week that a total of 104 U.S. troops at Al Asad have since been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury from the concussive effects of the missile strikes.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) boards a stateless dhow in the Arabian Sea and interdicts an illicit shipment of advanced weapons intended for the Houthis in Yemen, Feb. 9, 2020.
The seizure by the Normandy suggested that Iran has not been deterred in what the U.S. calls its “malign activities” to spread influence in the region.
Iran has long backed the Houthis, who last week claimed more missile strikes against Saudi Arabia, in Yemen’s civil war, which has resulted in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
The Houthi uprising in 2015 seized control of much of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Since then, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been fighting to restore Hadi to power. Periodic international efforts at brokering a ceasefire and peace deal have been unsuccessful.
The U.S. has supported Saudi Arabia with refueling flights and training for Saudi pilots in avoiding civilian targets.
In Nov. 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the effort to bring peace to Yemen was a reason to maintain close military ties with Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.
In an informal session with Pentagon reporters at the time, Mattis said he was working closely with United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to arrange for peace talks, but that effort also failed.
According to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the conflict in Yemen has killed at least 100,000, displaced 4.3 million people and left an estimated 80% of a population of 24 million in dire need of basic necessities.
On Aug. 6, 1941, P. Siomes, a German priest, was sitting in his room when the sunny, summer day outside was suddenly lit by an even brighter light that blinded him just before an explosion of sound and heat slammed into the building he was in.
The next month, he gave a full recounting of the hours and days following the bombing in a statement to the U.S. Army.
Author’s note: This article is based on a statement from P. Siomes, a German priest who was in the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. His English is great, but not perfect, but we’ve decided to be as honest to his original text as possible when transcribing. This leaves a few minor grammar and spelling errors, but we do not believe it hinders comprehension. His full statement is available here.
An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped.
(509th Operations Group)
Siomes was part of the Society of Jesus, headquartered in a church at the edge of Hiroshima, and he remembers it being about 8:14 when the city center suddenly filled with a bright, yellow light. He described it as being like the magnesium flash from a camera, but sustained. Over the next ten seconds, he felt an increase in heat, heard what sounded like a small and distant explosion, and was halfway to his door when his window suddenly exploded inward.
He was later glad to have made it away from the window, because he later found that his wall was filled with large shards of glass from the explosion that would’ve been embedded in him instead of the wall.
Siomes had believed that the damage to the building was from a bomb that burst overhead, assuming that the light was an unconnected phenomenon. But when he went outside to check the damage, all the worst damage was on the side of the building facing the city, and there was no bomb crater in sight.
A Red Cross Hospital is one of the only things left standing after the bomb. Near the center of the city, even the buildings that survived the blast were consumed within hours and days by the fires triggered by the heat and radiation.
(Hiroshima Peace Media Center)
But looking out into the city, he could see the extent of the damage. Houses were burning closer to town, and nearby woods were already becoming a large inferno. As the men at the facility, mostly monks and priests, begin helping fight the flames, a storm started, and rain began to fall.
Yes, the skies were clear before the bombs dropped, but a sudden rainfall is actually one of the very weird side effects of a nuclear blast. This would help fight the fires, but it also carries tons of irradiated dust, debris, and ash back to earth and helps it cling to the skin of survivors, but Siomes didn’t know this in 1945.
He and his fellow Christians began assisting the wounded in addition to fighting the fires. One of the priests “had studied medicine” before he took his vows, and the priests gave as much medical support as they could.
Father Noktor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded.
A military document provides a guide to the extent of destruction caused by the single bomb on August 6.
(U.S. Army illustration)
And the damages to the city and surrounding area weren’t limited to just the immediate effects of the bomb. High winds damaged infrastructure and knocked over trees and buildings for hours after the initial blast. Siomes believed that this may have been caused by the fires pulling in more air, and research after the war backed him up.
Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may have resulted from the heat of the burning city, had uprooted the large trees.
Later on, Siomes would see some of this chaos himself. He went into the city with others to search out some of the missing priests, and they were able to find their quarry. But as they tried to make it back out ahead of the fire, they kept finding wounded trapped under debris, and attempted to rescue them, but then had to move on as the fires got close.
Eventually, they’d take refuge in Asano Park and, as the fires got close:
A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a water spout forms which is approximately 100 meters high.
This infrastructure damage made it harder for survivors to organize themselves and render aid, which was catastrophic as new emergencies kept popping up. Worse, planners had never envisioned losing an entire city in one fell swoop, and they had concentrated key supplies in a few caches near the city center, all destroyed by the bomb and fires.
For Siomes, the priests, and the monks, this all meant that their aid would necessarily be limited. It took more than a day for them simply to find out where all of their own survivors were. Some of them even had the exotic new injuries that only nuclear bombs can create.
One of the priests had been serving in the city when the bomb hit, and while he was processing the sudden burst of light, his hand was already blistering from what would later be identified as radiation. It was the equivalent of an instant, severe sunburn.
Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand.
Father Kopp was lucky; he had actually been near the epicenter of the blast but was well protected by the structure which held firm.
The city of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.
(U.S. Navy Public Affairs)
As the hours turned into days, the survivors kept tending the wounded and eating what they could find. Bodies lined the rivers and streets, and only skeletons remained of most of the buildings. Survivors had to drag the bodies or carry them on available carts out of the city, gather wood, and then cremate them in the valleys.
Rumors and stories began to rise, especially among the fifty or so refugees that were housed at what remained of the church, about what exactly had happened.
Some were likely propaganda or ill-informed attempts to explain what had happened:
As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapses and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition.
View, looking northwest, from the Red Cross Hospital which survived the bomb. The other structures are largely ones re-built after the bomb.
Some of the rumors were reports of how different victims suffered from the bombs:
Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently the strength to recover. Those who had normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been associated with the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflamation of the pharyax and oral cavity had taken place.
A paragraph later, Siomes recalls:
Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns died later. Father Kleinserge and Father Cisslik, who near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed.
But the biggest surprise probably comes at the end of the document where Siomes shares debates between he and his peers about the morality of the bomb.
He doesn’t come to a final decision, but he does note:
None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit…We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Other were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldier and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus avoid total destruction.
It’s an argument that continues today, but apparently consumed some of the immediate attention of survivors in the hours and days following its first use.
Iconic C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” crashed on July 21, 2018, in Burnet, Texas. 13 people were aboard when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived, although injuries (one severe and 7 with minor injuries) have been reported. The C-47 was on its way to AirVenture 2018.
“At 9:18 AM, BCSO Communications was notified of a plane crash on the runway at the Burnet Municipal Airport. The aircraft was reportedly attempting to take off when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived and were able to exit the aircraft. One person was airlifted by helicopter to SAMMC with significant burn injuries. Seven persons were transported by ambulance or personal vehicle to Seton Highland Lakes with minor injuries.
The aircraft caught fire as well as nearby grass. The fires were extinguished by responding fire departments. For further information please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Aviation Administration who are handling the investigation.”, said the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook statement.
The investigation into the crash is still undergoing, though it is seen in the video that the tail never gets off the ground. According to specialists, this might have been caused by not enough speed or rotation. Although it is currently pure speculation until the investigation of the crash has been finished.
C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” N47HL is, sadly, a total loss.
In the first week of February 2018, insiders in the Israeli aviation industry told Haaretz that Saudi Arabia reportedly granted approval to Air India to fly direct from Delhi to Tel Aviv using its airspace.
Reuters confirmed that Air India said it is planning direct flights to Israel, and sought permission from Saudi Arabia to fly over its territory, which would significantly reduce flight times by more than two hours.
Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority denied reports that it already granted Air India’s request.
However, there was no indication that it would not consider the request in the future.
If the air route is confirmed, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia would allow commercial flights to fly to Israel using its airspace and would mark a significant shift in strategic policy that has shaped the region for decades.
Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has instated a ban on flights traveling to Israel from using its airspace for more than 70 years.
But news of Saudi Arabia potentially easing its airspace regulations may add concrete evidence to reports of the country’s warming ties to Israel.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared goals
Several reports have surfaced showing covert cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, who currently maintain no diplomatic ties.
One key issue the two have reportedly bonded over is curbing common-enemy Iran’s continued expansion in the Middle East.
Iran has openly threatened to annihilate Israel many times over the serious decades-long conflict between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia and Iran’s conflict dates back to a centuries-old divide between Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority in the Saudi Kingdom, and Shiites who govern Iran. The two officially severed ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters set fires in the Saudi Embassy compound in Tehran.
While the two countries have been coy about reports of exchanging intelligence, Israel has been upfront about its “covert” contacts with Saudi officials amid common concerns over Iran.
Representatives from the two countries shared the stage at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2015 and discussed their common interest in opposing Iran. Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, admitted that they’ve been quietly conducting diplomacy on Iranian issues since 2014.
In 2017, a leaked diplomatic cable confirmed longtime rumors of Israel and Saudi cooperation. In the cable, Israel instructed its overseas embassies to encourage support for Saudi Arabia in its battle against Iranian-proxy Hezbollah.
Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera that Iran remains a major threat to many countries across the Middle East.
“Unfortunately, the U.S. left a vacuum in the region which was filled by the Russians in Syria and by the Iranians and their proxies in other parts of the Middle East,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Israel is perceived as the most reliable potential ally. Therefore the Saudis understand pretty well that it is a good time to be good friends with Israel,” he said in the interview.
The Crown Prince is ushering in a new era
Saudi’s young Crown Prince is also seen as a key piece to understanding the timing of Israel and Saudi Arabia renewed relations.
The ambitious Mohammed Bin Salman has been spearheading a reform of Saudi’s domestic and foreign policy, which includes reevaluating its regional alliances, and aggressively opposing Iranian influence, according to Al-Arabiya.
The Crown Prince is also shaping Saudi’s cultural ethos. In November 2017, Salman made waves by purging anti-American and anti-Jewish clerics, making a strong indication that Saudi Arabia is seeking rapprochement with its Jewish neighbor and U.S.-ally Israel.
And by December 2017, Israel invited the Crown Prince to visit the country to discuss regional peace, and described the nation as the “leader of the Arab world.”
Experts say the Salman’s rise to power and widespread calls for reforms have allowed for a modern partnership with Israel to grow.
Associate professor with the Gulf Studies Program department at Qatar University Mahjoob Zweiri told Al Jazeera: “The political changes in Saudi Arabia and the desire to consolidate power is the main reason why these relations with Israel were opened.”
For the first time in two and a half years, US Navy carrier-launched warplanes conducted an airstrike against ISIS.
On Wednesday, Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters belonging to Carrier Air Wing 17 launched from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and conducted “kinetic” operations in support of the international coalition to defeat ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Daesh operatives will continue to try and take advantage of safe havens; but there is no safe place for terrorists to hide,” US Army Col. Wayne Marotto, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, wrote in a Thursday tweet, referring to ISIS by the pejorative Arabic nickname, “Daesh.”
The Iraqi military reportedly requested the US airstrike, which targeted ISIS “bed down” sites near the northern Iraqi city of Baiji, Iraqi officials said. According to Marotto, the US airstrike destroyed a cave and three shelters used by ISIS near Wadi al-Shai in Kirkuk Province. Operation Inherent Resolve officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding ISIS casualties due to Wednesday’s airstrike.
The presence of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf significantly ramps up the airpower potential of US military forces continuing to support the counterterrorism campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And Wednesday’s airstrike underscores that ISIS remains an undefeated threat — despite US plans to draw down forces in Iraq.
In a speech in Iraq on Sept. 9, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced the US would reduce its troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September.
“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” McKenzie said. “This decision is due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”
An F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, prepares for launch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Sept. 3, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka, courtesy of DVIDS.
Weeks earlier, while speaking online to a United States Institute of Peace forum from his office in Tampa, McKenzie warned that the conditions were ripe for the resurgence of ISIS forces in pockets of Syrian territory controlled by the regime of Bashar Assad.
“The underlying conditions that allowed for the rise of ISIS remain,” McKenzie, who is the top US commander for the Middle East, said during the Aug. 12 virtual event. “They continue to aspire to regain control of physical terrain.”
While ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate, which once stretched across northern Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army still operates from the shadows in urban areas and mountain redoubts and maintains a steady flow of income through illicit enterprises.
ISIS still counts some 10,000 militants within its ranks, according to a recent United Nations report. The US Treasury Department estimates that ISIS possesses monetary reserves of some 0 million, while the UN estimates that number is about 0 million.
“There’s going to be a requirement for us, us and our NATO and our coalition partners, to have a long-term presence in Iraq,” McKenzie said Aug. 12.
A sailor cleans the cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Aug. 27, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dalton Reidhead, courtesy of DVIDS.
American military personnel remain on the ground in both Iraq and Syria to assist local partners in combating ISIS. Earlier this month, the US announced it was sending M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to northeast Syria to support American and partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS.
“The mechanized infantry assets will help ensure the force protection of coalition forces in an increasingly complex operating environment in northeast Syria,” Marotto said in a Sept. 18 press release regarding the Bradley deployment.
Russia has deployed its military in Syria to bolster the regime of embattled dictator Bashar Assad, who has presided over a deadly civil war since 2011.
On Sept. 15, US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller announced the US would provide 0 million in military aid to Kurdish peshmerga forces in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
“As we saw at the height of the campaign against ISIS, you brave Peshmerga fighters are indispensable to Iraq’s security,” Tueller said during a Sept. 15 event in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s capital city of Erbil. “We are all grateful for the sacrifices you have made, and the region as a whole is more secure because of your courage and commitment.”
The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.
Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.
This could be you.
To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.
What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.
These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.
.00 haircuts for everyone!
The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.
With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.
The following is an interview with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, one of the soldiers entrusted with maintaining the tank capabilities at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Look through the pictures to see how Ford and a team of contractors reattach a turret on an Abrams M1A2. Ford also recently passed the board for entry into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and he talks about what he learned.
With nine years of service, Ford is on his third overseas deployment, having served in both Afghanistan and South Korea. (The interview was edited for clarity and length.)
Abrams M1A2 tanks stored at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 warehouse at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 10, 2019. APS-5 is a massive amount of ground force equipment positioned to provide strategic planners options to win in the US Central Command’s area of responsibility.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is the most important thing to know about maintaining the Abrams M1A2?
Ford: The most important thing to know about the maintenance of tanks is that they are very big and very expensive. Even the smallest components can cost a lot more than the average military vehicle, which means it’s that much more important to get the maintenance on them right.
For example, the operation we recently did to put a turret back on a tank had to be completed with extreme care and precision as not to damage the vehicle. The cost of error is one of those things you can’t help but to think about when planning maintenance on these.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, watches as contractors at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 work to lift a 30-ton turret at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed a huge team effort in putting the turret back on the tank. Is that a special event for people here?
Ford: We rarely pull turrets off or put them on, so every time it does happen it seems like it becomes a bit of a spectacle. That’s because we are lifting a 30-ton piece of equipment and moving it around with no room for error. It’s definitely something to see and experience.
It takes a lot of eyes to ensure that turret is coming out and going in straight. The turret is a machine fit — only just big enough to get into the hole of the tank. If anything is off to the left or right, there is a possibility of damaging equipment and that equipment is very expensive. In this case, the turret was level and fit well into its proper place.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, stands in front of an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Oct. 6, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is your role in a maintenance operation like this?
Ford: I fill the quality inspection role while [the contractors] are doing the majority of the work. As the contracting officer’s representative, I ensure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. I also verify and accept the completed work on behalf of the government.
As you can see there [in the third photo], the guy on the tank is in charge of the crane. I’m just there for safety reasons and then just to ensure it’s put together properly and safely. That’s all I’m looking for. But, if they need my advice as an expert on the vehicle, then I’ll interject when I feel it’s necessary. I try to stay back and let them do the job.
A contractor with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 directs a crane operator to briefly stop lowering a 30-ton turret onto an Abrams M1A2 so others could check its alignment to the mount at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, September 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed you jumped in a few times to help give directions. Is that typical?
Ford: There were a couple instances where they were unsure on how to move forward on that operation and, you know, time is always of the essence. That’s when I stepped forward to provide another set of eyes. But this was their operation, and I was mostly just watching it come together.
Some of the contractors have more familiarity with older tank models because they used those when they served. Sometimes I have to help fill the knowledge gap they have to help things along. But they have familiarity with each other — using hand signals they worked out that I don’t know, and that’s important for working as a team.
Ernie Boyd, work center supervisor at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5, provides positioning guidance as a crew lowers a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Can you tell me a little about the team doing the work?
Ford: I think the team takes their role very seriously. Take Ernie Boyd for example. He is a retired Marine with 14 years of experience working on tanks. He is one of my go-to guys for tanks and for solving work center issues.
He definitely takes his work seriously — you can tell. He’s a supervisor for the work center, but during this turret operation, he was doing a lot more than supervising. He was extremely hands-on in ensuring that operation went according to plan.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, provides another set of eyes for a maintenance operation to place a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is Army Prepositioned Stocks-5?
Ford: APS-5 is a massive set of equipment placed here to make rapidly deploying units faster. We give the warfighter the material capability they need to complete their missions.
Looking at the big picture, our job is to ensure APS-5 continues to provide viable strategic options to win.
All of our tanks are stored inside our warehouses ready for issue. They are configured for combat, meaning a unit can come in, hop in a tank, and drive it off the lot. They’re quick and ready to roll out for any mission.
This mission is important because there will come a day when a deploying unit will need this equipment, and if it’s not ready, then it could slow their mission down. It can be a life or death situation. Being able to provide the warfighter with the most ready equipment is our focus every day.
A maintenance crew at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 reattaches a 30-ton turret to an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Tell me about the first time you saw Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Ford: I walked into one of our warehouses and saw an entire battalion worth of tanks. They were in lines all facing each other as far as I could see — 72-ton vehicles all the way down from wall to wall.
You don’t often get to see something like that. Usually tanks are scattered out in fragmented lines waiting for operations or maintenance.
When I first saw it, I definitely felt excited about our mission and my part in it because I am the only tank [quality assurance] soldier here. All those tanks sitting there embodied my reason for being in Kuwait.
Contractors with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 watch closely as a crane lowers a 30-ton turret back onto an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019. The turret is machine-fit to the tank, and must be placed carefully to avoid costly damage.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What do you think of DFAC food?
Ford: Um, keeps me alive. I haven’t died or anything yet (laughter). Dry chicken and rice are great — just be sure you have plenty of water so you can swallow the chicken.
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in lots maintained by the 401st Field Support Brigade at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2016.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I know you will soon be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Why did you decide to go to the board and what did you learn?
Ford: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides continuous opportunities to serve throughout a career and beyond. The club’s mission is to develop and build professional noncommissioned officers and to provide community service to every Army community. So every duty station I go to from here forward, I get to go out to do good things for people while representing the Army and the NCO corps.
I learned it’s a big challenge, and with big challenges like that you don’t succeed on your own. I had to seek out a lot of mentorship and leadership scenarios from my leaders and all the way up through brigade. I had to expose my flaws and weaknesses; that way, they could help me correct those weaknesses. It’s just not enough to go in having read a book. You have to have real-life application of regulations and policies.
Trucks bring in APS-5 equipment from Camp Buehring back to Camp Arifjan during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team turn-in, Feb. 5, 2019.
(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)
Of the Army values, which stand out most to you?
Ford: I think loyalty is a big one for me. Your loyalty is always being tested. You have to constantly be loyal to your seniors, your peers, your subordinates, your unit, the Army, and the nation. You have to buy into that mission to really give it all that you have – you can’t waver on that.
Respect is another huge value for me. Without respect, you can’t have trust. Without trust, you can’t be a leader and you can’t be led. That’s our primary job, and you can’t be a good leader without first being a good follower.
Soldiers assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare to move 22 M1A2 Abrams Tanks from an Army Prepositioned Stock-5 warehouse to a remote staging lot during a large-scale equipment issue at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 29, 2019.
(US Army photo by Justin Graff)
What advice would you give to young soldiers?
Ford: Don’t be afraid to fail, just put yourself out there. You never really know how much support you have until you are out there asking for support, so put yourself out there and allow people to help you.
We have a lot of good leaders in the military. They see you taking initiative and they see your desire to better yourself, they’re going to pick you up and provide you with what you need.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
74 years ago the U.S. Marine Corps underestimated their enemy, what they had anticipated to be a short battle against the outnumbered Japanese troops ended up as a 36-day siege resulting in nearly 7,000 Marines losing their lives. There was no doubt the U.S. would successfully complete their mission, however the landing forces were not prepared for the Japanese that were well entrenched and had prepared for battle, resulting in one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history.
Iwo Jima has since become a memorial ground to honor all of the American and Japanese troops that died in the battle. Today Japan and the U.S. are allies, on occasion service members are able to visit the island and reflect on the history. Stepping foot on an iconic battle site of World War II is a once in a lifetime opportunity that most service members do not get to experience. Marines and sailors of Okinawa were fortunate enough to visit the island and learn about some of the history of that Battle.
A professional military education presentation was given on the beaches by U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Evan C. Clark, the training officer of 7th Communication Battalion, July 2, 2019. The Marines and sailors hiked the 5k trail from the flight line to the beach, along the way were various memorials of those who fought during this 36-day battle.
U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones prays at the base of Mt. Suribachi, Japan, July 2, 2019. Jones, the Navy Chaplain of 7th Communication Battalion, spoke with the Marines and sailors and did a moment of silence to honor the service members that died in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
“One memorial stood out to me as especially moving,” said Clark. “There was a memorial built where U.S. and Japanese veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima were brought back, where they met stands a plaque honoring their reunion.”
Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion hiked to the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
The plaque was made for the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima when American and Japanese veterans of the war returned to the island. They came together in friendship to honor the sacrifices of those who fought bravely and honorably.
Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion collect sand from the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
Following the presentation, U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm. Bn. offered a prayer and proposed a moment of silence to honor and respect all of the people that died during the events that took place on Iwo Jima.
“Any person that has served has seen pictures from Iwo Jima, particularly the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi,” said Jones.
But it’s impossible to fully comprehend from just pictures as to how many bodies were here strewn all over the beach and the extreme difficulty they went through. Being here has brought a better understanding of what took place here. — U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm
Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion listen during a Professional Military Education on the beaches of Iwo Jima, July 2, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)
Both Clark and Jones said they believe the presentation to be important and beneficial to the Marines and sailors serving their country.
“More than anything, it is a reminder of our history,” said Clark. “This is why we exist as a service. This is where we rediscover the importance of what the Marine Corps does.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
A House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences in separate versions of the defense authorization bill has rejected Senate-passed provisions that would have sharply increased TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays for a million retirees under age 65.
Lawmakers who in recent weeks shaped a final $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) also voted to allow disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, and caregivers of veterans severely injured in war to shop on military bases, paying slightly more at checkout than current patrons. They also will be able use base recreational facilities.
Expansion of access to on-bases services, which the Department of Defense endorsed in part to make commissaries more self-sustaining, is to occur Jan. 1, 2020.
Conferees also narrowed the scope of Senate-passed reforms to officer accession and promotion practices so officers will continue to be considered for promotion as part of the same year group they were promoted to current rank.
Also shelved was the Senate plan to repeal use of authorized officer strength tables to instead require that Congress annually authorize number of officers allowed to serve in the ranks of O-4 through O-6 across all the services.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Thurston )
Officer promotion law long has required consistent promotion timing and promotion opportunity across officer year groups. The Senate wanted to replace those requirements by grouping officers based on competitive categories — similar qualifications, specialties, occupations or ratings. Conferees also rejected that idea.
However, a host of other accession and promotion reforms survived the conference and will “begin to modernize officer personnel management to bolster the effectiveness, recruitment and retention of the all-volunteer force,” says a Senate Armed Services Committee press release.
“The 38-year-old Defense Officer Personnel Management Act requires all military services to manage their officer corps in the same general manner within specific constraints. By beginning to reform this system, the [2019 defense authorization bill] will provide for flexibility in the careers of commissioned officers [to] better serve the demands of the modern force.”
Officer personnel issues
Changes approved to better manage officers include:
Repeal a requirement that candidates for regular commissions not be older than 42, or at least have enough service years to complete 20 years by age 62.
Enhancement of services’ authority to award constructive service credit for special private sector training or experience to allow active or reserve officer appointments up to the rank of colonel or Navy captain in critically-needed fields.
Authorizing each service to award temporary promotions to the ranks O-3 through O-6 for specified positions. Only Navy has such authority today so this change would standardize it across all branches.
Authorizing promotion boards to recommend that “officers of particular merit” be placed higher on promotion lists than peers.
Allowing officers, when deemed in the best interest of the service, to have their names removed from consideration by a selection board for promotion to the next higher grade, and authorizing officers in certain military specialties to remain on active duty until reaching 40 years active service.
Authorizing use of an alternative promotion processes for officers in certain secretary-designated competitive categories, to include a term-based continuation process when certain officers are not selected for promotion. This would selectively end the traditional up-or-out requirement for officer management.
Conferees rejected House language that would have required the Air Force to assess the “feasibility and advisability” of allowing otherwise qualified candidates who are deaf or hearing impaired to be Air Force officers.
Military pay issues
The highlight of compensation provisions embraced by conferees was decided months ago: a 2.6 percent military pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2019, to match recent wage growth in the private sector. It also will be the largest percentage military pay increase in nine years.
On the other hand, conferees agreed to end a “personal money allowance” that, by law, has been paid to senior naval officers holding five prestigious positions. The titles impacted, and the size of allowances disappearing are:Director of Naval Intelligence (,200); Superintendent of the Naval Academy (,200); President of the Naval War College (id=”listicle-2590252146″,000); Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy (0) and President of the Naval Postgraduate School (0).
Military associations lobbied successfully against Senate language to repeal an unusual grandfather provision in current law that protects working-age retirees from a host of TRICARE fee increases that, for now, target only members who enter service this year or later and eventually retire.
Senators wanted the higher TRICARE cost-shares applied to all current and future retirees under age 65 and not disabled, as the Defense Department intended. Conferees blocked that but said they “remain concerned about the high cost of military health care, understanding that much of the cost has been driven by new benefits and benefit enhancements authorized by Congress.”
With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimating the average military cost of providing health care to a typical retiree household at ,800 by 2021, conferees directed the defense secretary to update that estimates by February 2019 and to list policy options both to improve quality of health care and to better control costs.
The compromise bill also directs that a survey be conducted “to ascertain whether beneficiaries would be amenable to additional modest fee increases to maintain a fiscally viable, comprehensive health benefit.”
The sweeping fee increases blocked included a first-ever TRICARE Select enrollment fee and, for retirees who use non-network providers a new annual deductible. CBO estimated that retiree users of Select would have seen average out-of-pocket costs jump from id=”listicle-2590252146″,645 a year to ,800 for family coverage and from 0 to id=”listicle-2590252146″,160 for self-only coverage. Retiree households using Prime would have seen more modest increases. TRICARE for Life recipients would been spared.
Commissary & exchange
Commissaries and exchanges nationwide are expected to see a few hundred thousand more shoppers. Conferees accepted House language to open base stores and services, starting in 2020, to any veteran with a service-connected disability, as well as to Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and veteran caregivers.
Defense officials supported the House-backed provision, to strengthen the military resale system and to reward deserving veterans with shopper discounts, if an extra user fee could be imposed on these “secondary” groups of store patrons.
A department study concluded that “a large influx of new patrons is necessary to continue efficiently providing commissary and exchange benefits into the future.” Military associations and veteran groups also had backed the move.
Conferees modified House language in support of the president’s call for a Washington D.C. military parade. The conference report says it’s “appropriate to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform.” But the bill “prohibits the use of operational units or equipment in the parade if the Secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.
More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.
All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.
This could be you.
(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)
On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.
The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.
In all the chatter aboutCaptain Marvel, one aspect of the film simply isn’t getting discussed enough: the fact that it’s the first 21st superhero movie to be a period piece to be specifically set in the 1990s. This is cool for several reasons. Not only does this subtly reference the fact that Samuel L. Jackson was totally the shit in the ’90s, but it’s also rad for those of us teenagers to remember a simpler time of Blockbuster Video and the last decade where people really listened to songs on the radio.
The best part of this Captain Marvel nostalgia fest is the soundtrack. Featuring ’90s mega-hits like TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” and No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl,” the soundtrack also has some deeper cuts like Elastica’s “Connection,” and R.E.M.’s “Crush With Eyeliner.” In the same way that the first Guardians of the Galaxy“Awesome Mix” celebrated the ’70s, the Captain Marvel soundtrack crushes on the ‘9os real hard. (Let’s also try to remember how strange this “Whatta Man” Salt N’ Pepper lyric is: “A body like Arnold and a Denzel face.” Would we want to meet such a chimera in real life?)
Disney has released the orchestral score of the film (composed by Pinar Toprak) but you can’t actually buy a physical version of the soundtrack featuring all the great grunge, hip-hop and pop ’90s hits. But don’t worry! There’s an Apple playlist (above) that has all the big ’90s songs mixed in with the new score. Come as you are. Listen to it now and have a better day.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
No doubt about it, the Wild West is an evocative era in American history. This period of frontier expansion is synonymous with rowdy saloons, cowboys, suspenseful shootouts, and of course, the ever-present tumbleweed. Within this lawless atmosphere, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Although it was a real historical event, the showdown between Wyatt Earp and the Cochise County Cowboys checks off every element of a good spaghetti western film.
Here are the basic facts: Approximately 30 shots were fired in the standoff between law enforcement and the group of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. The altercation left three cowboys dead and two lawmen wounded in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. However, the passage of time has meshed fact with legend. We’re here to set the record straight. Here are seven little-known facts about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
1. The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral.
Nope, the shootout didn’t happen inside or even next to the eponymous corral. Shots were exchanged in a vacant lot on Fremont Street, down the road from the corral’s rear entrance.
This common mistake can be attributed to the 1957 film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The movie made the shootout famous, but it was rather loose with the facts. (As for why the movie-makers decided on a location change, we’re guessing it’s because Gunfight at the O.K. Corral sounds more glamorous than Gunfight at the Vacant Lot on Fremont Street.) The corral still exists today, but instead of a business renting out horses and wagons, it’s a part of Tombstone’s historic district, where people can pay to watch reenactments of the gunfight.
2. The police may not have been the good guys.
There isn’t much room for moral ambiguity in standard depictions of the Old West. You have your bad guys (violent, lawless thieves) and your good guys (law-abiding sheriffs who try to protect the town). However, historians aren’t so sure what went down during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Earp brothers and their friend Doc Holliday claimed afterwards that they were trying to disarm the cowboys, who were illegally carrying firearms when the cowboys opened fire. The surviving cowboys alleged that they were fully cooperating and had even raised their hands in the air when the lawmen started indiscriminately shooting them at point blank range. Alliances were strong in the small town–newspapers were not above taking sides, and witnesses of the scuffle gave conflicting testimony. To further complicate matters, the transcript of the ensuing murder trial was destroyed in a fire. All in all, we may never know for sure who provoked the shootout.
3. Wyatt Earp wasn’t really the hero of the shootout.
Wyatt Earp went down in history as the central figure of the gunfight. In reality, his brother Virgil was far more experienced than him in combat and shootout situations. Virgil had served in The Civil War and had a long career in law enforcement compared to Wyatt, who had a shorter stint in law enforcement and was even fired from one position.
However, Wyatt gained fame when a biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, was published in 1931, two years after its subject’s death. Riddled with exaggerations, to the point that it was more fiction that actual biography, the book portrayed Wyatt as the deadliest and most feared shooter in the Old West. Another contributing factor to his notoriety was the fact that unlike his fellow lawmen in the O.K. Corral shootout, Wyatt wasn’t injured or killed. Nor was he harmed in any of the ensuing fights. His close calls in the face of death only added to his mystique. Which brings us to our next point …
4. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was only a small part of the long feud between the Earps & the cowboys.
Tension was simmering between the cowboys and the Earps long before gunfire erupted. Naturally, the fact that the Cochise County Cowboys made their living through smuggling and thievery ruffled a few feathers with town marshal Virgil Earp. The cowboys were implicated in several robberies and murders. The Earps promised justice, to which the cowboys responded that they were being persecuted without evidence. Death threats were exchanged.
The gunfight wasn’t the end of the enmity between these men either. The surviving cowboys were believed to have organized the assassination of Morgan Earp and a murder attempt on Virgil that left him permanently disabled.
5. Wyatt Earp wasn’t always on the right side of the law.
And he definitely wasn’t the infallible hero later accounts made him out to be. Earp was apparently heavily affected by his first wife’s death and started acting out. Before moving to Tombstone, he faced a series of lawsuits alleging that he stole money and falsified court documents. He was also arrested for stealing a horse and escaped from jail before his trial. Later, he was arrested and fined for frequenting brothels. Rumors were abound that he was a pimp.
Earp tried to turn things around for himself and got a job on the police force in Wichita, Kansas. However, he was fired after getting into a fistfight. Luckily for him, it was pretty easy to wipe the slate clean for yourself in those days. He could simply pack his bags and head to a new town like Tombstone, where he could start with a fresh reputation.
6. The gunfight only lasted 30 seconds.
Yup, the dramatic confrontation that left three men dead and three wounded lasted less than a minute. In that span, around 30 shots were fired. The movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corraldramatized the shootout, showing the men heavily armed and engaged in a fight that spanned minutes. In reality, each man carried only a revolver apiece and in the confusion, nobody could be sure who fired the fatal shots.
7. Many of the townspeople sympathized with the cowboys.
You would think the people of Tombstone would regard the Earps as their heroes for driving out the outlaws. Not so. Public opinion was divided over the matter, especially after Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan testified in court that he witnessed the cowboys try to surrender peacefully.
However, even the sheriff had loyalties in this small town. Virgil Earp had clashed with Behan on several other occasions, claiming that he turned a blind eye to the cowboys’ illegal activities and was sympathetic to the criminals. Additionally, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife, Josephine Earp, had lived with Behan for two years before entering a relationship with Earp. She left Behan after finding him in bed with another woman, but no doubt this contributed to the animosity betweens the Earps and Behan.
Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes.
The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Aug. 8 after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire.
In the hours following the exchange, sirens sounded across southern Israel in communities that surround the Gaza Strip, including Sderot. Israel deployed its Iron Dome system and intercepted 25 launches, though several civilians were injured by shrapnel.
Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom said three Israelis, including two men ages 34 and 20, were taken to a hospital for treatment.
In another round of escalation, Israel responded to rocket fire by striking what it said were Hamas militant targets in Gaza. By early Aug. 9, the IDF said it struck more than 140 targets.
A 30-year-old Hamas affiliate was killed in the strikes, the Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said. A 23-year-old pregnant woman and her 18-month old child were also killed in the strikes, according to the ministry. At least eight other civilians in Gaza were also injured, the ministry said.
The IDF said it fired at a vehicle used to launch rockets at Israeli territory.
Israel and militants in Gaza have exchanged frequent fire in recent months. In May, more than 100 rockets were launched from Gaza in the worst escalation since 2014, when Israeli troops invaded Gaza.
Following May’s rocket attacks, Israel and Gaza reached an uneasy cease-fire mediated by Egypt, though rocket launches and airstrike retaliation has continued.
Both sides have said they are working toward a cease-fire agreement, though continued rocket fire may dampen efforts. As of Aug. 9, sirens continued to sound in Israeli border communities.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a trip to Colombia to meet with security officials for cease-fire negotiations. Israel, however, appears to be learning more toward a quid pro quo agreement with Hamas instead of a comprehensive cease-fire, as past resolutions have often crumbled.
According to Haaretz, an Israeli official source said last week that cease-fire talks would not succeed unless the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians being held captive in Gaza were returned.
A Hamas official told the Turkish news agency Anadolu on Aug. 7 that the two sides were expected to sign an agreement by late August that would reportedly lift restrictions on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip in exchange for a five-year cease-fire and the return of the Israeli captives.
Israel’s defense chief said last month that Gaza’s only commercial border crossing, Keren Shalom, would reopen if calm persisted. The border had been closed in response to damage caused by incendiary balloons launched into Israeli territory.
The Hamas deputy chief Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera TV on Aug. 8 that talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to bring calm to the region were in “advanced stages.” according to Reuters.
“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” he said. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy.”
Neither the UN nor Egypt has publicly discussed its plans for a renewed Gaza cease-fire, but they said it would bring economic relief to Gaza’s 2 million residents experiencing shortages under crippling blockades.
Jason Greenblatt, a US envoy who has been involved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, pointed a finger squarely at Hamas for the escalation of violence.
The Islamic militant group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since Israel disengaged from the region in 2005. Since then, the group has fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014, resulting in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians and leaving much of Gaza is ruin.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.