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December 28, 2009

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Hamas Marks One Year Since War, But Gazans Stay Home - Diaa Hadid (AP/Washington Post)
    A meager turnout at a well-publicized Hamas rally Sunday to mark a year since Israel's Gaza offensive appeared to reflect public discontent over the militant Islamic group's attempt to turn the occasion into a victory march.
    Only about 3,000 people milled around a square in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliya, well below expectations, and other events during the day were also poorly attended.
    "Gaza was victorious with its steadfastness, its firmness and strength of faith," said Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a televised speech.
    But a siren meant to call for a minute's silence was ignored as cars whizzed by and pedestrians kept walking.

Israel Tells U.S. of New Jerusalem Construction - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Israel's Housing and Construction Ministry on Monday issued tenders for the construction of 6,500 housing units in 54 communities, including three Jerusalem neighborhoods: 377 new apartments in Neve Yaakov, 117 housing units in Har Homa, and 198 in Pisgat Ze'ev.
    Israel informed the U.S. in advance of its plan to build 692 housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the "green line," officials said Sunday.
    The officials noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu had said that "the decision to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] has nothing to do with Jerusalem. Israel built in Jerusalem before the freeze and will continue to build there now."
    The Prime Minister's Office said: "The Americans are updated on everything that is taking place in the construction field and has diplomatic consequences. Everything is being done with complete transparency."

UN Patrol Finds Explosives near Lebanon-Israel Border (AFP)
    A UN peacekeeping patrol in southern Lebanon found large quantities of explosives after "observing suspicious movement of approximately five persons" near the town of Khiam, eight km. from the border with Israel, UNIFIL announced on Sunday.

Hamas Confirms Deaths of Two Operatives in Beirut Bombing - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas confirmed on Sunday the death of two of its operatives in a bombing in Beirut on Saturday in an area that is a Hizbullah stronghold.

2009 Immigration to Israel Is 16,244, Up 17 Percent - Raphael Ahren (Ha'aretz)
    In 2009, 16,244 people immigrated - a 17% jump over last year's 13,859.
    The number of immigrants from English-speaking countries has also increased by 17% this year, from 4,511 to 5,294.
    "This year there were more immigrants from the former Soviet Union, more immigrants from the United States, from Britain and from South Africa - there's an increase from almost everywhere," Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said Sunday.
    The largest number of new immigrants were from the former Soviet Union, where the numbers increased by 21% from 5,867 to 7,120.

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  • Al-Qaeda Terror Attack on U.S. Plane Foiled - Peter Slevin
    A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a trans-Atlantic airplane on Christmas Day as it descended toward Detroit's airport. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was accused Saturday of trying to bring down the passenger jet with a homemade explosive device. Jasper Schuringa, an Amsterdam resident, restrained Abdulmutallab as others used blankets and fire extinguishers to douse the flames.
        Witnesses told the FBI that Abdulmutallab, 23, spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom before returning to his seat and pulling a blanket over his head. Then came a loud and sudden popping sound, followed by smoke and fire. (Washington Post)
        See also Father Alerted U.S. about Nigerian Plane Bomb Suspect
    Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the father of the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day, warned U.S. authorities last month about his son's extreme views, say officials. High explosives are believed to have been moulded to the bomber's body and sewn into his underpants. A preliminary FBI analysis has found that the device contained the high explosive PETN, also known as pentaerythritol. PETN was used in the device worn by British "shoe bomber" Richard Reid in 2001.
        The bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told investigators he had links to al-Qaeda and received the explosives in Yemen for a suicide attack, after a month of training. (BBC News)
  • At Least Ten Killed in Iran Protests - Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi
    Police officers in Iran opened fire into crowds of protesters on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, witnesses and opposition Web sites said. One of the dead was Ali Moussavi, a 43-year-old nephew of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, who appears to have been assassinated in a political gesture aimed at his uncle. In some parts of Tehran, protesters pushed the police back, hurling rocks and capturing several police cars and motorcycles, which they set on fire. Videos posted to the Internet showed groups of protesters attacking Basij militia. One video showed a group of protesters setting an entire police station aflame in Tehran. Several videos show police officers holding up their helmets and walking away from the melee, as protesters pat them on the back in appreciation. The turmoil revealed an opposition movement that is becoming bolder and more direct in its challenge to Iran's governing authorities. (New York Times)
        See also Report: Iran Police Refuse to Shoot Protestors
    An Iranian opposition website said police forces refused orders to shoot at pro-reform protesters during clashes on Sunday in Tehran. "Police forces are refusing their commanders' orders to shoot at demonstrators in central Tehran...some of them try to shoot into air when pressured by their commanders," the Jaras website said. (Reuters)
        See also Iran Battles Reinvigorated Opposition - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Kills Fatah Terrorists Responsible for Murdering Rabbi - Hanan Greenberg
    The three men responsible for the shooting ambush Thursday, in which Rabbi Meir Hai, 40, a teacher and father of seven, was killed, were themselves killed by the Israel Defense Forces during military activity in Nablus on Saturday in three separate locations. A fourth suspect reportedly turned himself in to the PA authorities.
        Sources in the IDF lauded the Palestinian security establishment Saturday for its conduct following the attack on Thursday, after Palestinian security forces detained 120 suspects. The PA forces "acted with determination, but alongside that we have the responsibility to act against whomever executed the attack and settle the score with them," said a senior officer with the IDF Central Command. (Ynet News)
        One of the terrorists, Anan Sabah, had received a pardon from Israel as part of the deal under which fugitive terrorists hand in their weapons and promise to cease terrorist activity. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Rifle Seized in Nablus Raid Linked to Rabbi's Murder - Efrat Weiss
    The police forensics lab determined that the M-16 rifle which belonged to Tanzim member Anan Sabah, one of the Palestinian terrorists killed in Nablus Saturday, was found to be compatible with the bullet shells found at the scene of last week's murder of Rabbi Meir Hai. (Ynet News)
        See also U.S. Asks Israel to Explain Killing of Fatah Terrorists - Barak Ravid
    Senior Obama administration officials requested on Saturday that National Security Adviser Uzi Arad explain an IDF raid in Nablus which killed three Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists. Arad stressed that this was a case of self-defense, since the three were behind a terror attack on Thursday. The Obama administration did not formally protest or complain about the incident, but only sought clarifications. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Fatah Accuses PA of Collusion with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    During the funerals on Sunday of the three veteran members and leaders of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, thousands of Palestinians chanted slogans accusing the PA of collusion with Israel and calling for an end to security coordination with Israel and dismantling the PA. One local journalist in Nablus called it "one of the biggest anti-Palestinian Authority demonstrations" in many years. For years during the second intifada, Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, was controlled by dozens of Fatah gunmen. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Three Palestinian Infiltrators from Gaza Killed - Anshel Pfeffer
    IDF soldiers killed three Palestinians crawling along the border between Israel and Gaza at 1 a.m. Saturday. The three had a rope ladder to scale the border barrier. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Unrest Isn't a Riot, It's an Earthquake - Zvi Bar'el
    To refer to what has been happening in Tehran over the last few days as "riots" is to gravely underestimate the power of the unrest erupting in the country since the June elections. The latest events are best described as further symptoms of an ongoing earthquake. Street protests have refused to abate for nearly half a year. The longer the demonstrations go on, the clearer it becomes that they're not aimed only at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Start of an Iranian Intifada - Meir Javedanfar
    An Iranian-style intifada seems to be in the making. The protests now seem to carry the potential to turn into a full-scale civil disobedience campaign. If developments continue in their current form, they can result in significant changes to the structure of Supreme Leader Khamenei's regime, or more drastically, lead to its total demise. His decision to allow the Basij to mount an attack on mourners at Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral was one factor leading to the spread of opposition in rural areas, faster and more efficiently than any campaign the reformist camp could have orchestrated. Khamenei's full-scale assaults against mosques and religious members of the community are creating the nucleus of an ideology that is legitimizing opposition, not just in cities, but throughout Iran. (PBS)
  • Egypt Sees Gaza Smuggling Tunnels as Security Threat - Roee Nahmias
    The Egyptian state newspaper al-Ahram reported Saturday on the Gaza smuggling tunnel industry. The paper presents the tunnels as a national problem which compromises Egyptian security. The report claims that Hamas used the tunnels to smuggle the operatives who carried out the terror attack in central Cairo last February. "This raises the question of whether these tunnels threaten our national security," the report said. The tunnel operators have opened fire at Egyptian security forces a number of times in the past, and have killed and injured Egyptian soldiers. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    The Primary Threats Facing Israel Today - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed Israel's foreign policy at a special Knesset session on Dec. 23:

    • The Nuclear Threat: "People are looking differently at Iran now, because of the sequence of recent events....That's why there's now a possibility that the international community will impose tight sanctions against Iran....We're making every effort to guarantee a positive outcome. But of course, the decision will ultimately be made by the members of the Security Council, where even a single member can tip the scales the wrong way."
    • The Missile Threat: "The threat of missiles and rockets is intensifying....[The] government has adopted a very simple policy: we won't tolerate any trickle or drizzle of rockets that later turns into rainfall and then a full-fledged storm. Any metal cylinder loaded with TNT that's fired, even if it lands in an open field...will result in a response."
    • The "Goldstone" Threat: "'Goldstone' has become code for a much broader phenomenon: the attempt to negate the legitimacy of our right to self-defense. It didn't just start now. The international campaign against Israel has gone on since the Durban Conference in 2000 and since the attempt in 2003 to condemn the security fence that has protected Israeli children - but is condemned just the same - in The Hague....
          We all have a real problem here. Ehud Olmert speaks on campuses in the United States, and he's denounced as a war criminal. Defense Minister Ehud Barak - they want to arrest him in London. And there's a warrant out against Tzipi Livni, the Opposition leader....This is an all-out offensive, not just against one Israeli government or another."
    • The Palestinian Issue: "I spelled out two principles that almost everyone in the Knesset can rally around. The first one is the demand that the State of Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. This includes relinquishing any claim to a right of return - code for the destruction of the State of Israel - and an end to all other claims....
          The second principle - which comes along with our recognition of the Palestinians' desire for a state of their own - is a demand for full demilitarization, so that things don't go back to the way they were....We need a real solution to guarantee demilitarization...we're going to have to insist on more than just words....
          From day one, we told the...entire world that negotiations have to start right away....And it would be an understatement to say that we've never received a response....We still have a real desire to complete those negotiations based on the principles I talked about earlier."

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