Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 28, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Ten North Koreans May Have Died in Israel Raid in Syria - Yoko Kubota (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Ten North Koreans helping to build a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria may have died in an Israeli air raid last September, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, citing South Korean intelligence officials.
    The dead included officials of the North Korean Communist party unit that exports weapons and military technology and members of the North Korean military unit which made nuclear facilities in the country.
    Two or three North Koreans survived the air strike.

Israel: UNIFIL Is Hiding Information about Hizbullah from Security Council - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    UNIFIL is intentionally concealing information about Hizbullah activities south of the Litani River in Lebanon to avoid conflict with the group, senior sources in Jerusalem have said.
    In the last six months there have been at least four cases in which UNIFIL soldiers identified armed Hizbullah operatives, but did nothing and did not submit full reports on the incidents to the UN Security Council.
    A new report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with regard to Security Council Resolution 1559 briefly mentioned an incident at the beginning of March in which UNIFIL soldiers encountered unidentified armed men, and included no additional details.
    The incident described in the report had actually been a clash between UNIFIL and armed Hizbullah activists, driving a truck full of explosives, who threatened the Italian UNIFIL battalion with weapons.
    Instead of using force as required by their mandate, the UN soldiers abandoned the site.
    A diplomatic source at the UN said senior officials in UNIFIL and in the UN Secretariat brought heavy pressure to bear to have the incident erased from the report or at least to blur it.

Amos 3 Satellite Launched into Space - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    Israel's Amos 3 communications satellite was launched into space successfully on Monday from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
    The satellite, designed and built by Israel Aerospace Industries, is expected to function for 18 years and will replace its predecessor, Amos 1.

Egypt Holds Four in Suspected Hamas Plot (Reuters)
    Egyptian security forces detained four people and have accused them of plotting to buy fuel for a pilotless aircraft for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, security sources said on Saturday.
    Two of those detained were members of Egypt's opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
    Sources said the aircraft was meant to be loaded with explosives for an attack.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Chief Sees Truce as a "Tactic"
    Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said Saturday that his group would accept an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, but that "It is a tactic in conducting the struggle." He called it "normal for any resistance" to sometimes escalate, sometimes retreat from fighting. "In 2003, there was a cease-fire and then the operations were resumed." On Friday, an Israeli government spokesman dismissed the proposal, saying Hamas was just "biding time in order to rearm and regroup." (AP/New York Times)
  • U.S. Navy Fires at Iranian Boats as Tension Rises in the Gulf - Damien McElroy
    The U.S. navy fired warning shots at two Iranian boats in the Arabian Gulf Friday. A U.S. forces security team on a chartered transport ship used loudhailers, radios and flares to warn off two small Iranian boats acting in an "unclear" manner. But the boats ignored the warning and the Americans opened fire, unleashing several bursts of live ammunition. The incident took place in the early morning near the international boundary. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also U.S. Weighing Readiness for Military Action Against Iran - Ann Scott Tyson
    The top U.S. military officer said Friday that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" as one of several options against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.
        Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who was nominated this week to head all U.S. forces in the Middle East, is preparing a briefing soon on increased Iranian involvement in Iraq, Mullen said. The briefing will detail, for example, the discovery in Iraq of weapons that were very recently manufactured in Iran, he said. "The Iranian government pledged to halt such activities some months ago. It's plainly obvious they have not," Mullen said. He said unrest in the Iraqi city of Basra had highlighted a "level of involvement" by Iran that had not been clear previously. (Washington Post)
  • Ahmadinejad's Foes Make Gains in Iranian Parliamentary Vote - Nazila Fathi
    Although conservatives won the majority of the seats in Parliament in Friday's runoff elections, critics of President Ahmadinejad made a strong showing, according to results released Saturday. Conservatives won nearly 70% of the seats, but that group includes many people who oppose Ahmadinejad's economic policies. 198 of the 290 seats went to the conservatives and 47 to reformist candidates (up from 40 seats in the current parliament). (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Disrupts Fuel Supplies to Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas militiamen in Gaza on Sunday attacked fuel trucks headed toward the Nahal Oz border crossing to pick up fuel for UNRWA - to enable food distribution - and for hospitals, forcing them to turn back, sources in the Palestinian Petroleum Authority said. "Dozens of Hamas militiamen hurled stones and opened fire at the trucks," the sources added. "The trucks were on their way to receive fuel supplied by Israel. The drivers were forced to turn back. Some of them had their windshields smashed."
        Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel on their way from Nahal Oz to the city. The fuel was taken to Hamas-controlled security installations. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also EU Faults Hamas for Gaza Fuel Crisis - Herb Keinon
    A statement issued by the EU on the fuel shortage in Gaza placed blame on Hamas. "Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have their share in aggravating the humanitarian situation, including through carrying out the attacks on the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings," the statement read. "The [EU] president condemns such actions, which only lead to further suffering of the population." Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said this was one of the few times that an EU statement had actually condemned Hamas by name. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA: Hamas Blocked Fuel for Gaza Hospitals
    The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank on Sunday accused the Islamist Hamas movement of preventing the delivery of fuel oil to hospitals in Gaza. "Members of Hamas in Gaza opened fire on Sunday on fuel trucks that were full of fuel destined for hospitals in the territory," the ministry said. Israel says it cannot deliver any more fuel as the tanks on the Palestinian side of the fuel terminal are full because Hamas will not allow the distribution of the one million liters of petrol and diesel stored there. (AFP)
  • U.S. Presses Israel on Gaza Cease-Fire - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Pressure is picking up on Israel to reach a cease-fire deal with Hamas in Gaza ahead of U.S. President George W. Bush's planned visit to Jerusalem in two weeks, Israeli defense officials said Sunday. Head of the IDF Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant recently expressed fierce opposition to a cease-fire with Hamas, warning it would be used by the terrorist organization to rebuild its damaged infrastructure and to increase its arms smuggling under the Philadelphi Corridor from Sinai. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: Gaza Truce Depends on Hamas Control over Islamic Jihad, Other Groups - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Israeli security officials have said that if Hamas cannot restrain the smaller militant Palestinian groups, first and foremost Islamic Jihad, there will not be much point to any cease-fire agreement. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rockets Hit Sderot, Kibbutz
    Palestinians in Gaza fired Kassam rockets at Israel on Sunday. One rocket exploded in the yard of a home in Sderot, causing damage. Another exploded in Kibbutz Zikim, south of Ashkelon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Fire Katyusha Rocket at Ashkelon
    Palestinian terrorists fired a Grad-type Katyusha rocket at Ashkelon on Sunday, causing serious damage to a garage in the city's industrial zone. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Shoot at Israeli Bus near Ramallah
    Palestinians open fire at an Israeli bus passing the village of Silwad in the Ramallah area on Sunday. No one was wounded, but the bus was damaged. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Syria's Secret Nuclear Reactor - Editorial
    The Bush administration's decision to go public with the considerable evidence it had about a secret Syrian nuclear reactor built with the help of North Korea that was bombed by Israel last September has placed that extraordinary event in a new political context. Syria's failure to report the reactor's existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency, as required by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its quick demolition and burial of the reactor's remains after the attack, require explanation - and in its absence, sanction. Will IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei hold Damascus accountable for its blatant violation of international law? (Washington Post)
  • Hamas: Incompetent or Cruel - Editorial
    The continuing tragedy of Gaza is that it was supposed to offer Palestinians an opportunity to show they were ready for self-government after Israel withdrew in August 2005. Unfortunately, the Strip has descended into poverty and chaos, a launching pad for thousands of rockets targeted at Israel's civilian population. The Israeli government claims Hamas has created a dishonest fuel crisis in an attempt to court international leverage and insists that enough fuel is stored in Gaza to cover essential humanitarian needs. As the government, it is the responsibility of Hamas to get the fuel moving.
        If, however, it is political pointscoring motivating Hamas' failure to get the fuel and food moving, it is further proof, if any was needed, of its true nature. Hamas is showing the world that anybody who believes that Israel is the worst enemy of the Palestinian people needs to think again. The impasse does not advance hopes of a workable, two-state solution. (The Australian)
  • Observations:

    Why Israel Kept Quiet Over Nuclear Syria - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)

    • Even after CIA director Michael Hayden's briefing of Congress about the Israeli air strike on a top-secret military site in Syria, when he confirmed that the North Koreans had indeed been helping the Syrians to build a nuclear reactor, the Israelis are still refusing to discuss the matter.
    • The reasons are twofold. When the Israelis first became concerned about the North Koreans' activities in Syria last summer, the Americans were negotiating a delicate deal to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program in return for a relaxation of the trade sanctions that have crippled the North Korean economy. Had the Israelis gone public with the intelligence, it might seriously have undermined Washington's diplomatic efforts.
    • The Israelis are also keen not to reveal too much about the technical aspects of the air strike, which is regarded as the most sophisticated operation by the Israeli air force since the 1981 mission against Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility, which thwarted Saddam Hussein's ambition to acquire a nuclear weapons arsenal. To carry out the attack undetected, the fighter-bombers had to be fitted with equipment that extended their bombing range, while penetrating Syria's state-of-the-art, Russian-built air defense systems.
    • Syria's experimentation with nuclear proliferation has more to do with its strategic alliance with Tehran than any pretensions the Assad regime might entertain about becoming a nuclear superpower. Now, it appears that the Syrians are quietly helping the Iranians with their nuclear weapons program.

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