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North Korea:  According to a knowledgeable source, the vice minister of the People's Armed Forces was among senior officers executed by firing squad early this year for drinking alcohol and sexual carousing during the mourning period for former leader Kim Chong-il.

A government investigation ascribed to Kim Jong-un reportedly caught a dozen generals, including a deputy chief of the Army General Staff and the commanding officer of a frontline corps. All of them were accused of drinking liquor during the mourning period or being involved in sex scandals or both.

Comment: The news service reports suggest the military purge is ongoing though the executions apparently took place earlier in the year. Nevertheless, the Chief of the General Staff was sacked in July and civilian cabinet ministers have been replaced since then.

The reports indicate that the leadership group around Kim Jong-un is not yet secure. That would help explain its exaggerated reaction to leaflet drops from South Korea and its bellicose criticism of routine Allied exercises. The North Koreans are prickly toward outside provocations when the domestic leadership situation is unstable, as it seems. Purges always mean things are not going well in the leadership. It is not stable.

Afghanistan: Update. Taliban will increase the number of insider attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 52 foreign troops so far this year, according to an emailed statement by Mullah Omar on 24 October.

In the statement congratulating Muslims as they prepare to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday, Omar urged "every brave Afghan in the ranks of the foreign forces and their Afghan hirelings ... to strike them."

Comment: Omar's statement removes the ambiguity about whether insider attacks are part of the Taliban strategy. They are.

Sudan-Israel: For the record. An attack by four military aircraft was responsible for a 24 October fire at the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said. He blamed Israel for the airstrike because the aircraft approached the plant from the east.

Comment: The Israelis have conducted bolt-out-of-the blue attacks of this kind in the recent past in order to interrupt arms shipments from Sudan to the Palestinians in Gaza, via Egypt. The last such attack in Sudan occurred in 2009. As yet open sources have not reported the motive for the latest attack.

Syria: Lakhdar Brahimi, the international envoy trying to broker a peace deal in Syria, announced on Wednesday a tentative cease-fire between the two sides to mark the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

Brahimi is out in front of the principals. Syria announced it has not decided on the ceasefire and in any event makes its action contingent on reciprocity by the opposition.

Only a few of the opposition bands have agreed to the ceasefire. The Free Syrian Army announced a set of conditions freezing Syrian government forces before it would agree to a ceasefire.

Comment: The opposition conditions would require the Syrian government forces to stand in place, without promising reciprocity on the opposition's part. The ceasefire also has no provisions for enforcement or even monitoring. Muslims might fight less on the holy day, but a general ceasefire still looks unlikely.

Gaza-Israel: Israeli new services reported that the Palestinian Salah al-Din Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, has combined its operations with Hamas' Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades to plan a joint response to any Israeli attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that if the escalation in rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip continues, Israel is prepared to take stronger military action in response. The increase in hostilities between Israel and groups in the Gaza Strip, he said, is part of the larger regional instability that has risen in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Comment: The timing of the united front arrangement by the three main militias in the Gaza Strip appears aimed at supporting Iranian interests in the region, creating a diversion against Israel with which the international community must cope. The announcement suggests that the Palestinian militias want the Saudis and Qataris to know that Sheikh al-Thani's visit and aid will not alter their visceral hostility to Israel. Gaza is now a hot spot.

End of NightWatch for 24 October.

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