ISIS Abductions in Syria Rise to 220 Christians (Reuters-New York Times)
Islamic State militants have abducted at least 220 people from
Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria during a three-day
offensive, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
"ISIS now controls ten Christian villages," Observatory head Rami
Abdulrahman said. "They have taken the people they kidnapped away from
the villages and into their territory."
See also The Plight of Syria's Vulnerable Christian Minority - Ishaan Tharoor (Washington Post)
Iran Smuggles in $1 Billion in Bank Notes to Skirt Sanctions - Jonathan Saul (Reuters)
At least $1 billion in U.S. bank notes has been smuggled into Iran in
recent months as it seeks to avoid Western sanctions that have shut
Tehran out of the global banking system, with the Iranian central bank
playing an important role, Iranian officials and Western intelligence
Dozens of Militants Killed in Egypt's Northern Sinai (Reuters)
Egypt's military killed 20 suspected Islamist militants and wounded
28 near the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid in Sinai, Egyptian
security sources said on Wednesday.
Internal Unrest Threatens Gaza - Hazem Balousha (Al-Monitor)
Starting Nov. 2014, there has been an increase in bombings, car
burnings, kidnappings, theft and shootings in Gaza, most notably the
assassination attempt on Fatah leader Mamoun Sweidan on Feb. 16.
The security services have made no arrests, while Fatah and Hamas have exchanged accusations of responsibility.
The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for some of the
bombings, but Hamas has denied that IS is present in Gaza.
An informed security source told Al-Monitor that some of
the recent crimes were linked to organizational disagreements between
the two Fatah currents - President Mahmoud Abbas and former leader
Mohammed Dahlan - and that some are attributable to lax security as a
result of the non-payment of security staff.
The source added:
"There are people who belong to some extremist currents, and they have links to the security agencies operating in Gaza."
The bombings are done at "individuals' initiative in the absence of
a strong leader and an interior minister who keeps track."
The incidents have a negative effect on Palestinian reconciliation and delay the postwar reconstruction process.
Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites Are Flocking to Study the Other's Language - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
Jerusalem Arabs are filling up Hebrew classes and a similar thing is happening with Jerusalem Jews studying Arabic.
Arabs consider Hebrew a must to make a living. They want it for leisure-time activities and academic studies as well.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Netanyahu: World Powers "Have Given Up" on Stopping Iran from Developing Nuclear Weapons
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that world
powers "have given up" on stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons
in ongoing negotiations. Netanyahu, as well as many in Israel, view a
nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its very existence, citing Tehran's
repeated calls for Israel's destruction and its support for groups like
Netanyahu said that the greatest challenge Israel faces is "the
threat of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons with a declared goal
of annihilating us....From the agreement that is forming it appears that
they (world powers) have given up on that commitment and are accepting
that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to
produce material for many nuclear weapons." "They might accept this, but
I am not willing to accept this," he said.
- U.S., Israel Trade Barbs Over Iran Talks - Carol E. Lee
Top U.S. officials have sharpened efforts to undermine Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his visit to Washington.
Members of Netanyahu's inner circle described the prime minister as
caught between the objectives of maintaining good relations with the
White House and protecting Israel from an Iranian threat. In the end,
they said, while damage control might later be necessary, Iran took
"Sometimes in the life of a nation you have to make hard choices,"
said Dore Gold, who has served as an adviser to the prime minister on
international affairs. "This is a very tense moment. But Iran is not
some agreement about a [West Bank] settlement. This is a life-or-death
question for Israel."
Gold compared Netanyahu's predicament with one faced by another
Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, who defied a warning from Lyndon
Johnson not to launch pre-emptive strikes against an Arab military
buildup in 1967, the start of what is known to Israelis as the Six-Day
War. (Wall Street Journal)
- House Panel Grills Kerry on Iran Nuclear Negotiations - Deb Riechmann and Matthew Lee
Secretary of State John Kerry played defense Wednesday on Capitol Hill,
fielding dozens of questions from lawmakers worried about what Iran
could get in a deal being negotiated to block its ability to make an
atomic weapon. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Cal.), chairman of the House Foreign
Affairs Committee, told Kerry, "I'm hearing less about dismantlement and
more about the performance of Iran's nuclear program. That's
particularly disturbing when you consider that international inspectors
report that Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work."
Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY) said, "We're hearing troubling reports on
the scale and duration of the program that Iran may be allowed as part
of a deal." Kerry responded, "There are some big issues yet to be
resolved. We are not there yet." (AP-U.S. News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hizbullah Campaign Stalls on Syrian Golan Heights - Avi Issacharoff
Contrary to reports by Lebanese and Hizbullah-affiliated media,
the military operation carried out by the Assad regime and Hizbullah
designed to purify the Syrian Golan Heights of rebel forces has not
borne much fruit.
The major operation, which was devised with the assistance of Iranian
officials, began about two weeks ago, and during the first days of the
offensive, Lebanese and Syrian media reported rapid gains.
In reality, while a couple of thousand Syrian army soldiers along with a
few hundred Hizbullah fighters indeed did take control of individual
villages and several outposts, the Syrian opposition - both secular
factions and members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front - also
managed to capture several villages and outposts and the situation in
the Syrian Golan Heights, in essence, has not changed at all.
(Times of Israel)
- IDF: Hamas Foiling Gaza-West Bank Trade - Elior Levy
"Hamas presents Israel with severe obstacles in creating direct, vibrant
commerce with the Palestinian Authority," Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai,
the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT),
told the Palestinian media on Wednesday. "Israel wants to rebuild the
Strip and improve the conditions of those who live there, but every
action by Hamas against Israel leads to a response and a deterioration
of the situation." Moreover, Hamas prevents the reconstruction by
violently taking building supplies in order to rebuild its terror
- To Speak or Not to Speak - Ben Chouake
For Israel, with just one bomb, Iran can do to the Jews in 12 minutes
what Hitler did in 12 years. The P5+1 negotiations with Iran are
scheduled to produce a political agreement similar to a letter of intent
on March 24. This is why Prime Minister Netanyahu believes he must
speak out now against the dangers of a faulty agreement. Rescheduling
this after the Israeli election may be too late. The invitation for
Netanyahu's address to Congress and timing close to the Israeli election
may break typical protocol, but there are life-threatening issues at
Netanyahu's upcoming address to Congress is not about insulting the
honorable president, which no Israeli leader would gratuitously do. It
is about Israel trying to save itself and the world from Iranian terror
and its messianic ambitions.
- Why Is Netanyahu's Speech to Congress Key for Israel's Security? - Arye Mekel
The agreement now being worked out with Iran is terrible and dangerous,
and it will enable the Iranians to continue and advance in their efforts
to become a nuclear nation, or at least a nearly nuclear nation. This
is the assessment of many experts in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere.
Moreover, Iran doesn't hide its hostility to Israel and its desire to
destroy the Jewish state.
What should an Israeli prime minister, whatever his name, do? Sit
with his hands folded, or warn by every means possible about the danger
which, in Netanyahu's view, is the most serious threat to the Jewish
people since the Holocaust?
It is clear that it would be preferable to work in cooperation with the
American president, as Israel has always tried to do. Netanyahu, who
was educated in the U.S. and is very familiar with the American
experience, would have preferred to work together with Obama.
Unfortunately, the president sees the Iranian issue differently.
Ambassador Arye Mekel is a veteran Israeli diplomat.
- Iran's Israel Intentions - Editorial
Israel is the one nation whose existence is most threatened by Iran.
Understand this and you understand why the Israelis are so alarmed by
the deal President Obama is trying to strike with Tehran.
Understand this and you also understand that it gives Jerusalem a far
different stake in these talks than the nations negotiating the deal. As
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American Jewish leaders last
week: "A regime that openly calls for Israel's destruction would thus
finally have the means to realize its genocidal aims."
When the president first began negotiations with Iran, he said the
purpose was to halt Iran's nuclear program. Now, it seems, the purpose
is to delay it. But a rogue state with an unquenchable thirst for nukes
cannot be managed. Trying to keep Tehran a year or so from producing
WMDs will neither solve the problem nor end the threat.
(New York Post)
Submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict - Col. Richard Kemp (Col. Richard Kemp)
I was in Israel for much of the summer 2014 Gaza conflict. This
submission is based on observations on the ground during the conflict,
29 years' military experience of conflicts of this type, intelligence
work relating to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and knowledge of
the IDF and Israeli intelligence services.
In my opinion the actions taken by the IDF were necessary to
defend the people of Israel from the ongoing, intensive and lethal
attacks by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. There was a sustained assault
on the Israeli population from rockets and mortar bombs; attacks on
Israeli military posts using tunnels; apparent plans to launch further
attacks on Israeli military posts and on civilian settlements also using
tunnels; and attempted attacks from the sea.
As the Gaza Strip is effectively a separate state, outside of
Israeli control, these actions amounted to an attack by a foreign
country against Israeli territory. In these circumstances I know of no
other realistic and effective means of suppressing an aggressor's
missile fire than the methods used by the IDF. Nor have I heard any
other military expert from any country propose a viable alternative
means of defense against such aggression.
It is grossly irresponsible to demand that Israeli control of
Gaza's borders be lifted, when it is clear that Israeli action is
necessary to prevent the re-armament that will lead to further attacks
by Hamas and other groups. It should be noted that Egypt takes similar
preventive action against Gaza extremists for the same reason as Israel.
In my experience the most junior soldiers in the IDF
understand the Laws of Armed Conflict
and the imperative of adhering to them. I previously commented in
relation to the 2008-09 Gaza conflict that no army in the history of
warfare had taken greater steps than the IDF to minimize harm to
civilians in a combat zone. My observations during the 2014 conflict
I personally observed 19 separate missile attacks, some
involving multiple missiles, fired at Israeli population centers. Hamas
does not possess the capability to carry out precision attacks using
missiles and therefore these attacks were all indiscriminate, and
therefore unlawful under the Laws of Armed Conflict, carrying the risk
of killing or wounding innocent civilians.
IDF took exceptional measures to adhere to the Laws of Armed Conflict
and to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza. I strongly urge the
Commissioners to condemn Hamas and the other groups for their actions
during this conflict. Failure to do so would be tantamount to
encouraging a repeat of such actions in the future, by Hamas and other
Gaza groups and by extremist groups around the world who would wish to
emulate the actions in Gaza.
Col. Kemp was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and served
in the UK Cabinet Office working on intelligence relating to
international and domestic terrorism.