1. Update on the Gaza Strip

Last week we reported on a series of flare-ups in the conflict between Israel and Palestine on the Gaza Strip. This week there has been more hostilities and harsh words between these two sides.

Last week the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) launched an air assault raising the tensions even higher. This came after Palestinians tried to cross the border into Israel. During the events, an IDF tank struck a Hamas observation tower. On Friday five people were killed, including an Israeli soldier, on the border. The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade (Hamas’ armed wing) confirmed that three members were among the dead from Friday. This all led to a second cease-fire between the two sides in one week (the first being reported on in last week’s snapshot).

This week the Israeli officials have had strong words for Hamas saying “If Hamas violates this [the cease-fire], it will pay an even heavier price.” The Defense Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, said, “If Hamas continues launching rockets, the result will be a lot worse than they think.”

The fear of a new war starting has everyone on edge. There has not been fighting like this in Gaza since the war in 2014.

2. More Violence in Africa

In the African country of Chad, Boko Haram militants are suspected of killing 18 farmers and kidnapping nine women. Since the incident, one of the women has escaped. This is one more incident in a nine-year conflict between Boko Haram and the citizens of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. The violence in the region has led to the death of more than 30,000 people and has dislocated almost 2.7 million from their homes.

The farmers were outside of the safe area that was marked by the security services of Chad. This is what led Boko Haram to attack. There has been a recent uptick in attacks by Boko Haram, which is calling into question the efforts being made to stop them. In 2016 Chad sent 2,000 troops to Niger in support of anti-terrorist actions but withdrew them as of last October. These new attacks are raising questions as to what can be done to secure the region.

3. Russia Offers Protection to Israel’s Golan Heights

Last week Russian officials made an offer to Israel, stating that they would keep the Iranian forces that are fighting in Syria back 100 kilometers (62 miles). Israeli officials repudiated this offer saying “We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border”.

Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the separation of forces agreement between Israel and Syria be honored. There are fears that because of the Syrian civil war, this agreement may fall by the wayside.

Earlier this year Israel launched two interceptor missiles in the Golan Heights when sensors detected missiles from Syria coming over the border. Later the sensors corrected and showed the incoming rockets were to land on the Syrian side, thus forcing the Israelis to give the abort order and causing the missiles to self-destruct in the air.

4. Department of Homeland Security Confirms Russian Hackers infiltration

In a web briefing on Monday 23 July, DHS officials have confirmed that independent and state-backed Russian hackers have successfully gained access to utility networks in the United States.

This infiltration has compromised the control room of several electric utilities throughout the past few years and has continued through this year. This breach got to the point where these outside entities had the power to throw a switch and disrupt the power flow of the United States power grid. This could have had serious national security consequences if power was actually disrupted in America.

Cybersecurity has become one of the biggest topics of our electric grid in the digital world we now live in. It is still unclear whether the hackers still have access due to the tactics they used to get in. The hackers used credentials of actual vendors that do business with the utility companies. The utility companies have been stunned that their systems had been compromised.