Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Suicide Bomber Caught in West Bank - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
MI5 Conducts Secret Inquiry into 8,000 al-Qaeda "Sympathizers" - Jason Bennetto (Independent-UK)
Terror Plots Accelerating in Britain - John Steele (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket Tuesday evening that exploded in the courtyard of a school in Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 on Israel's coast. (AP/Forbes)
The rocket was fired from northern Gaza, from the area of the former settlement of Dugit which has recently turned into a popular site for Kassam rocket launchers. (Ynet News)
See also Rocket Lands in Heart of Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
The rocket landed inside the Ronson high school, close to the Ashkelon Academic College. A large number of parents and students were present at the school at the time, though there were no injuries. Izz a-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, claimed responsibility. (Ynet News)
See also Strike on Ashkelon Close to Key Power Plant, Oil Pipelines - Mitch Potter
Ashkelon is a coastal city of substance, boasting plenty of industry and three particularly sensitive pieces of infrastructure. Sensitive sites include the Rotenberg Power Plant, Israel's second-largest generating station which supplies an estimated quarter of the country's needs; the Ashkelon Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant, the largest desalination plant of its kind in the world, which is due to provide 15% of domestic demand; and the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, which controls three oil pipelines reaching to the port cities of Eilat, Ashdod, and Haifa.
Tuesday's rocket attack represents the deepest strike ever into Israeli territory. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "This is very, very serious. This is a strategic upgrade in the terrorist war against Israeli cities, with the objective being to kill as many civilians as possible....We have to draw a line in the sand and respond in such a way that neutralizes the threat." (Toronto Star)
Hiding in friends' houses with their mobile phones switched off, Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya and his ministers are behaving more like an underground organization than a government. Renouncing mobile phones for fear of being tracked down, changing vehicles several times a day, and using different routes are some of the measures being adopted, said a Hamas minister. He said Haniya as well as several key ministers and lawmakers had started sleeping in different locations every night. Coordination between Hamas officials is done essentially by fax and rare meetings held in secret locations determined at the latest possible moment. (AFP/Yahoo)
Israeli troops are back in areas ceded to Palestinians, feeding concerns that pulling out of territories leads to instability - not security. Israeli analysts and officials say the recent Gaza conflict is undermining support for withdrawing tens of thousands of Israeli settlers from the West Bank. "If it went wrong in Gaza, it definitely will go wrong in the West Bank," says Menachem Klein, an adviser to former prime minister Ehud Barak. "What's been happening in the last few weeks, with Kassam missiles flying out and the general deterioration in the security situation, definitely causes a problem if you're looking for public support for unilateral withdrawals," says Isabel Kershner, senior Middle East editor of the Jerusalem Report. (USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Israel's security cabinet approved a deeper military incursion into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following the rocket attack on Ashkelon Tuesday night. The IDF has been given the green light to enter residential areas, but will not reoccupy the Gaza Strip, an official at the meeting said. A buffer zone will be created in the northern part of Gaza. Former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said there was "no escape from prolonged ground presence at the launch sites." He said, "If you want to tell your citizens: I did the maximum, then this is the maximum." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Olmert: Ashkelon Rocket an "Unprecedented and Severe Escalation by Hamas"
Speaking at the U.S. Embassy July 4th reception, Prime Minister Olmert said: "A Kassam rocket landed in the heart of Ashkelon on the Ronson High School. This is an unprecedented and severe escalation in the terrorist war being waged by Hamas, which currently controls the Palestinian Authority. I say here and now: This action, this attack, this criminal attempt that was intended to harm Israeli citizens living within the sovereign State of Israel, will have unprecedented and far-reaching consequences. Hamas will be the first to feel this." (Prime Minister's Office)
Following the expiration of the kidnappers' ultimatum Tuesday, there was no contact between Hamas and the Egyptian team mediating talks regarding Cpl. Gilad Shalit. However, officials involved in the negotiations stressed that Egyptian efforts to resolve the crisis by diplomatic means are continuing. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The firing of a rocket from Gaza into the center of Ashkelon on Tuesday constitutes an unequivocal invitation by Hamas to war. The Palestinians who launched the rocket apparently are members of the Hamas military wing, but it's quite possible that either an Iranian or Syrian element interested in intensifying the military conflict with Israel spurred the move. Tuesday's rocket could have landed anywhere in Ashkelon at any time of day. Over time, the Palestinians have armed themselves with many weapons and rockets. This is a direct confrontation with Hamas, other Palestinian organizations, and their supporters among the Palestinian public. (Ha'aretz)
Israel has evacuated Gaza, and what does Hamas do? It doesn't put all its energy into building a nest for its young there - a decent state and society, with jobs. Instead, it launches hundreds of rockets into Israel. The Palestinians could have a state on the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem tomorrow, if they and the Arab League clearly recognized Israel, normalized relations, and renounced violence. But those driving Palestinian politics seem determined to destroy Israel in its territory - even if it means destroying themselves in their own territory. (New York Times, 5Jul06)
Over the past 25 years, the Iranian regime founded by Ayatollah Khomeini has declared war on the U.S. several times. In October 1986, a plan was developed to shut Iran down. That plan, appropriately updated, would be equally effective today. It can be carried out while we are still engaged in Iraq. The pressures that would be brought on the Iranian regime would be unimaginable. The Iranian economy would grind to a halt. Our military forces have the capability to execute such a plan over an extended period of time. The Iranian regime needs to understand that this is an action the U.S. public will fully back.
We have learned the hard way that you cannot negotiate with a renegade regime. The only real solution is the elimination of the current Khamenei regime. If it was necessary to eliminate Saddam Hussein for our long-term security interest, then we have significantly more reason to help the Iranian people eliminate the current regime and take Iran back. The writer served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and deputy chief of naval operations. (Washington Times)
It would appear that Moscow, despite its rhetoric, has decided to acquiesce in Iran's nuclear program, most probably because of Putin's policy of enhancing Russian prestige in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world, at the expense of the United States. Russia's policy of dragging out negotiations as long as possible, while protecting Iran from sanctions, certainly strengthens Moscow's relations with Iran, while at the same time, by keeping oil prices high, it clearly helps the Russian economy.
Iran's new president is an Islamic "true-believer." Unlike his predecessors, who were willing to tolerate Russian policy in Chechnya, where Russian soldiers have killed thousands of Muslim Chechens, Ahmadinejad may one day decide that his Islamic beliefs obligate him to confront Russia on this issue. Were Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons, Moscow may wish it had supported sanctions against Iran when it had the opportunity. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Syrian Thorn - Shmuel Rosner (Ha'aretz)
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