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Iran-Backed Islamic Jihad Behind Rocket Attacks on Israel - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
The Grad rockets that hit Ashdod and Beersheba this week were launched by terrorists from Islamic Jihad, as were the numerous mortars fired toward Israel.
Four of the five terrorists killed by Israel on Wednesday were longtime Jihad members who had been firing rockets and mortars at Israel for years.
Islamic Jihad members completely reject Israel's right to exist, and believe the only way to liberate "all of Palestine" is through armed Jihad, or holy war.
Whenever Hamas is interested in escalation, it gives Islamic Jihad the green light to fire rockets at Israel.
Gulf States to Deport Hizbullah, Iranian Agents (AFP)
Arab states in the Gulf plan to deport Lebanese Shiites over links to Hizbullah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah reported Thursday.
Based on assessments by the U.S., France and Bahrain, Hizbullah and Revolutionary Guard agents were leading the protests along with local Shiite clerics in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.
Bahrain is preparing to deport 90 Lebanese Shiites, most of them arrested during the recent demonstrations in the kingdom, and is examining the status of 4,000 Lebanese families living in the country.
Iran Website Recruits "Jihadists" for Bahrain "War" (Al-Arabiya-Dubai)
Iranian authorities have licensed the Raheel website which features Quranic verses that call for Jihad, or holy war, including the use of volunteer suicide militants, against the "invasion" of Bahrain by troops from countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The website claims that a "redeemer" would wage war against Arab Gulf countries, Israel, and the U.S., and that the divine promise of the redeemer's advent is materializing.
According to the website, 1,858 have so far volunteered, 60% from Iran, 18% from Bahrain, and the others from several countries in the region including Kuwait.
Sanctions in 72 Hours: How the U.S. Pulled Off a Major Freeze of Libyan Assets - Robert O'Harrow Jr., James V. Grimaldi and Brady Dennis (Washington Post)
The $32 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks frozen so far by the U.S. represents a significant portion of that nation's wealth.
The plan to find and freeze Libyan assets began taking shape Feb. 23 at the White House. Treasury official Stuart Levey led the drafting of Executive Order 13566.
On Feb. 25, the order took effect.
Within minutes, dozens of employees at the nation's largest banks, who were waiting for the signal, began freezing more than $30 billion in an effort to cripple a violent dictator half a world away.
WikiLeaks: Lebanese Army Seized Hizbullah Rockets during War - Michael Omer-Man (Jerusalem Post)
During the height of the Second Lebanon War, the Lebanese army (LAF) seized a shipment of rockets destined for Hizbullah, according to a leaked U.S. State Department cable, furnished by WikiLeaks and published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Sunday.
According to the cable, in a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr claimed that during the first week of August 2006, the LAF had intercepted and seized a container of rockets.
See also WikiLeaks: Lebanese Christians Sought Israeli Victory in '06 War - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
Facebook Makes First Ever Israeli Acquisition - Roy Goldenberg (Globes)
Facebook, operator of the world's largest social network, is buying Israeli start-up Snaptu for $60-70 million - Facebook's first acquisition in Israel.
Snaptu's application allows mobile phones, even those less advanced than an iPhone or Android phone, to access mobile Internet.
Israel's Special Relationship with the Solar Water Heater - Rhonda Winter (Reuters)
Heating water usually accounts for 40% of an average family's monthly energy costs. Nearly 90% of all Israeli households use solar thermal energy to heat their water, and many buildings are entirely powered by the sun.
Relative to its small size, Israel has invested more of its resources into waste water treatment and reclamation research than any other country in the world. A whopping 70% of its used water is now recycled.
Israeli University to Award Honorary Doctorate to Bob Geldof for Humanitarian Work (AP-Washington Post)
Ben-Gurion University said Monday that it will award an honorary doctorate to the Irish singer and social activist Bob Geldof in May for his work to end hunger in Africa and raise awareness about poverty.
Geldof staged the Live Aid fundraising concerts in London and Philadelphia in 1985 to help hunger victims in Africa.
Spa Treatments by the Dead Sea - Alice Pfeiffer (New York Times)
According to legend, Cleopatra ordered the Roman envoy Mark Antony, her lover, to conquer the Dead Sea region so that she would have a lifetime supply of its mud, believed in antiquity to have healing and rejuvenating properties.
Today, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the hot springs of Ein Gedi have become the basis for a thriving spa-based tourism industry.
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- Jordan Protesters Set Up Camp in Amman - Ranya Kadri and Ethan Bronner
More than 1,000 pro-democracy demonstrators of the "March 24th Movement" set up a tent camp in the center of Amman, the Jordanian capital, on Thursday in conscious imitation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, saying they would stay put until they saw real change. While Muslim activists were in evidence, the thrust was for democratic government. (New York Times)
See also Unrest in Jordan - Don Duncan
Jordan recently has been shaken by popular protests. The upheaval also reflects a factor peculiar to Jordan - its delicate demographic balance between indigenous tribes, known as East Bankers, and Palestinians who have received Jordanian citizenship.
Most agree that Jordanians of Palestinian origin are now a majority, and may even number as much as 70% of the country's estimated 6.4 million population.
The demographic divide has an economic dimension.
Traditionally, East Bankers have dominated the public sector, and Palestinian Jordanians the private. Today, as a result of economic policy changes, Amman is dotted with start-up enterprises, many of them steered by young Palestinian Jordanians. The demographic anxiety among East Bankers has caused them to see Jordan's recent pro-private sector economic policy as an attack on their welfare, in favor of the Palestinians.
(Le Monde Diplomatique-France)
- Syria's Bashar al-Assad Faces Most Serious Unrest of His Tenure - Leila Fadel
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was facing the most serious unrest of his 11-year tenure Thursday as anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa threatened to escalate after a deadly crackdown.
Syria expert Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said the Syrians "are hesitating, but it seems like there is a big hole in the dike here, and the fear factor is collapsing." (Washington Post)
See also Fear Barrier Crumbles in Syria - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
In his sermon, the preacher of the Saladin Mosque in Damascus was reflecting on the joys of Mother's Day when a young man jumped up to the pulpit and grabbed the microphone. "Why are you talking about this in these circumstances? Tell us about the political situation!" he shouted, referring to the dramatic protests now gripping Syria, before secret police arrested him and hurried him away. In Damascus, as in the provinces, a barrier of fear which had blocked dissent is breaking down.
See also White House Condemns Syria's "Brutal Repression" of Demonstrators (AP-Washington Post)
See also Syria Protests Call for Strong U.S. Stance - Andrew J. Tabler (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Muslim Brotherhood a Rising Force in a New Egypt - Michael Slackman
In post-revolutionary Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government. When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side.
"There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on," said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. "It makes sense if you are the military - you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street."
It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force.
Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, said, "The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone."
(New York Times)
See also Egypt Tells Israel It Is Committed to Peace Treaty - Tom Perry and Mark Trevelyan
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told Rafi Barak, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official, in a meeting in Cairo on Thursday that Egypt was committed to its international treaties, Egypt's foreign ministry said, reiterating that the countries' peace accord is secure.
- Scottish Bible Translator Killed by Jerusalem Bus Stop Bomb - Laura Roberts
Mary Jean Gardner, 55, was caught in the bomb blast at the central bus station in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
A well-regarded Bible translator, Gardner came to Israel to study Hebrew. Heading to a restaurant to meet a friend, she happened to be passing the bus stop on foot when the bomb exploded.
See also British Envoys Lay Wreath at Bomb Scene (Jerusalem Post)
See also Jerusalem Bus Bombing Injured Six Americans
Six Americans were injured in the deadly Jerusalem bus bombing Wednesday, a State Department official said. (Fox News)
See also Obama Telephones Netanyahu Over Terrorist Bombing
President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel's security in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a deadly bombing at a bus stop in Jerusalem.
Obama also extended his condolences and expressed concern about recent rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from Gaza.
(AP-New York Times)
- Gates: Middle East Tumult Should Spur Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks - Viola Gienger and Gwen Ackerman
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to Israel Thursday, "I know there may be a temptation during this time of great uncertainty in the region to be more cautious about pursuing the peace process....I carry a different message - that there is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution."
Gates also advised caution on any response to the Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel and a bombing in Jerusalem.
"No sovereign state can tolerate having rockets fired at its people," he said.
"We all just need to be mindful that we don't want to do anything that allows extremists or others to divert the narrative of reform that is going on."
See also Gates Prods Israel on Resumption of Peace Talks amid New Attacks - Yochi J. Dreazen
A senior Defense Department official told reporters traveling with Gates: "You look across the landscape in the Middle East and you see this kind of populist wave crashing across the region, and I think it is probably in the Israeli interest to get out ahead of that populist wave by leaning forward on the Palestinian track and taking that issue away from the discourse....At the moment, Israel is not the center of the story...but at some point this rising tide of populism in the region will have real implications for Israel." (National Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu in Moscow Questions Abbas' Desire to End Conflict - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Moscow on Thursday that it was not clear whether PA President Mahmoud Abbas genuinely wanted to end the conflict with Israel.
"[Abbas] speaks peace to the world, but domestically there is incitement and education toward hate," Netanyahu said. "The first thing that needs to be discussed is the root of the problem: that the Palestinians don't recognize our existence alongside them."
The prime minister said it was "nonsense" to think that the major problem in the region was the construction of two homes on a street where 100 homes already exist. "The settlement issue needs to be discussed and decisions made, but for that we need to sit and talk." (Jerusalem Post)
- Rocket Barrage from Gaza Strikes Israel Thursday
Rockets landed in and north of Ashdod on Thursday afternoon and sirens were heard in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera and Gan Yavne. Another rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, the eighth rocket attack since Thursday morning. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Thursday that Israel will not tolerate "terrorist attacks or shooting rockets at our citizens." "Hamas is responsible for everything that is shot out of Gaza and if it does not take responsibility, it will pay the price."
See also Nowhere to Run: Ashdod, Ashkelon Grapple with Rockets - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
See also IDF Braces for Rocket Fire Close to Tel Aviv - Yaakov Katz, Yaakov Lappin and Tovah Lazaroff
The IDF is bracing for a possible further expansion of missile fire from Gaza after two Grad-model Katyusha rockets flew some 30 km. and slammed into Ashdod on Thursday for the first time since the Gaza operation two years ago. The blast from the missiles was heard in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot and Yavne. Palestinian terror groups in Gaza are believed to have Iranian-made rockets, like the Fajr-5, that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
Strategic Affairs Ministry Director-General Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser said, "We used to think that Hamas was in control [in Gaza]. What we see in the last few days is that they do not want to control or cannot control [the violence]." (Jerusalem Post)
See also IDF to Activate New Anti-Missile System in South - Ron Ben-Yishai
Due to the recent escalation of rocket fire from Gaza, the IDF plans to activate the Iron Dome portable anti-missile system on Sunday in order to intercept short-range rockets and mortar shells.
- IDF Continues to Assist Gaza Civilian Population - Florit Shoihet
In the shadow of the recent increase in rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, the IDF continues to aid the civilian population living there.
Over the past week, an average of 300 aid trucks entered Gaza per day, carrying a variety of materials including wheat, gravel and animal feed.
(Israel Defense Forces)
- Palestinian Shot by Policeman While Attacking IDF Soldier
An Israeli policeman shot a Palestinian in the leg on Friday after he attacked an IDF soldier, hitting him in the head with a rock in an attempt to snatch his weapon at a bus stop near Tomer in the Jordan Valley. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Two Palestinians Arrested Carrying Four Pipe Bombs in West Bank
Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinians found carrying four pipe bombs on Friday morning at a roadblock near Nablus. (Jerusalem Post)
"Arab Spring" Reduces Palestinian Issue - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)
- The onset of the Arab spring suggests that priorities have shifted away from external reference points - Israel and the U.S. - to the more authentic forces of internal processes of political change. Playing out in Arab capitals and countrysides is a process of ownership, the regaining of control over the Arab story (and future) by Arabs themselves. Zionists are unlikely to figure as prominently in the Arab story.
- The Arab spring has captured the attention and imagination of the peoples of the region, creating a new set of priorities and agenda that has set the Palestinian issue in a new light, reducing it to a much tinier scale. The days when manipulative leaders can use Palestine as a rallying cry to mask their own abusive behavior may be numbered. For those countries that have peace treaties with Israel (Egypt, Jordan), Arab publics will finally have to own those relationships and decide for themselves whether or not they make sense.
- Does the Arab spring reflect the end or the erosion of the resonance of the Palestinian issue in Arab politics? Hardly. Secularists and Islamists - not to mention extremists of all stripes - will keep Palestine alive as a rallying cry. But this time, across the Arab world, the focus is now on elections, constitutions, and the revolutions yet to come.
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