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April 18, 2011

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Boy Hurt in Gaza Rocket Attack on Israeli School Bus Dies (Ha'aretz)
    Daniel Viflic, 16, who was critically wounded when Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus earlier this month, died at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba on Sunday.
    See also IDF to Plant Trees to Block Line of Sight from Gaza - Florit Shoihet (Israel Defense Forces)
    The IDF Southern Command began a project this year called "Forest Security," to plant trees between Gaza and nearby Israeli communities to create an obstacle to the aiming of missiles at civilian targets.
    "We are planting trees that will grow and provide cover," said Lt. Col. Ilan Dayan. "A person firing an anti-tank missile needs a line of sight to the target." It will take time, however, until the trees grow tall enough.
    Until a few weeks ago, there was no warning for incoming mortar shells. Recently, however, a radar has come into use that can detect any threat and issue a red alert. Now residents have 15 seconds to seek cover from mortars, just like rockets.
    "The day when 51 mortar shells were launched (less than a month ago), the system was used, with high quality," said Lt. Col. Dayan.
    The system also analyzes the source of the fire, significantly improving the IDF's ability to strike the launchers.

Itamar Murderers from a Terrorist Family - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Hakim Awad's father, Maazan, is a PFLP member who served 5 years in a PA prison in the late 1990s for the murder of a female cousin and the burning of her body.
    Hakim's uncle, Jibril Awad, is a PFLP member who transported a terrorist to Itamar in 2002. In that attack, the wife and three children of Itamar security officer Boaz Shevo were shot dead in their home.
    Another uncle, Salah Awad, 31, a PFLP member, is suspected of aiding and abetting the suspects in covering their tracks after the murders, telling them to burn their blood-soaked clothes, and sending the firearms they stole from Itamar to a friend in Ramallah, Jad Avid, 31.
    See also Details on Murderers of Five Members of the Fogel Family (Prime Minister's Office)

Poll: Palestinian Support for Military Attacks on Israel Dropped after Gaza War (Ha'aretz)
    According to a poll by the Ramallah-based Jerusalem Media & Communication Center (JMCC), since the Gaza war the percentage of Palestinians who oppose "military operations" against Israel rose from 38.1% in January 2009 to 51.8% in April 2011. 45.5% in Gaza supported military operations against Israel, compared with 32% in the West Bank.
    The percentage of Palestinians who believe rockets and mortars launched from Gaza against Israeli communities are useful in achieving national goals fell from 50.8% in January 2009 to 25.4% in April 2011.
    Palestinian support for bombing or suicide attacks against Israel decreased from 55.4% in January 2009 to 37.3% this April. 57.3% in Gaza supported bombing Israeli civilian targets, compared with 25.3% in the West Bank.

Report: Yemeni Jew's Killer Escapes Jail (Ynet News)
    Abdul-Aziz al-Abdi, 40, a Yemeni citizen convicted of murdering a Jewish man more than two years ago, has escaped from prison, the Chinese Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
    Moshe Yaish-Nahari's killer succeeded in bribing prison guards and escaping with ten additional prisoners.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • 13 Killed as Syria Protests Continue Despite Assad's Promise to Lift Emergency Laws - Tara Bahrampour
    Protests in Syria turned violent Sunday night when security forces shot at demonstrators in Homs and Latakia, killing at least 13 people and detaining many more, activists said. Protesters took to the streets again across Syria on Sunday, a day after President Bashar al-Assad vowed to lift emergency laws in place for almost 50 years. Demonstrations were also reported in Banyas, Jableh, Suwaida, Daraa and Aleppo. (Washington Post)
        See also Report: Syrian Security Forces Reluctant to Shoot Demonstrators - Amir Taheri
    On Friday, Syria's biggest Druze city, Suwaida, became an "Assad-free" zone as portraits of the despot and his father were burned in public. With the Druze joining the uprising, all of Syria's dozen or so ethnic and religious communities are now marching under the banner of revolt against the Assad dynasty.
        More important, the day brought the first signs that at least some of the security forces are reluctant to shoot demonstrators. According to my sources, security men have shot at least three soldiers on the spot for "disobedience." "These were cold-blooded executions in the street," a source said. "The soldiers had refused to fire on marchers. They were killed by men from the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs." Special Alawite units, known as al-Ashbah or "ghosts," appear in civilian clothes to kill demonstrators at random, a tactic meant to terrorize the opposition. (New York Post)
        See also Amateur Video of Syrian Security Abuses (Telegraph–UK)
        See also U.S. Gives Secret Backing to Syrian Opposition - Craig Whitlock
    The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables provided by WikiLeaks. The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria.
        U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Thanks U.S. for Funding Rocket Defense System
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday thanked President Obama and the U.S. Congress for $205 million in aid to develop a new Israeli-made missile defense system. The aid was approved Friday. Netanyahu said the assistance reflects "America's unshakable commitment to Israel in critical times." Experts say Israel's Iron Dome defense system, which shot down eight rockets launched from Gaza toward Israeli cities last week, is the first system in the world of its kind. (AP)
  • Clinton: Iran Trying to Hijack Mideast Revolts - Matthew Lee
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday accused Iran of trying to hijack democratic revolutions around the Mideast. "I think that everyone is aware of its efforts to exploit and even hijack what are legitimate protests. But certainly in an era of instant communication we hope that people will not be fooled by their tactics." We "see activities by Iran to try to take advantage of these uprisings."  (AP)
  • Jordan Arrests Islamists after Bloody Clashes - Kamal Taha
    Jordanian security forces arrested 70 Islamists on Friday in the towns of Zarqa and Rassifeh, hours after Islamist protesters attacked police with swords, daggers and clubs, a security official told AFP on Saturday. Nearly 100 people were injured, most of them policemen. The Salafist demonstrators have been demanding the release of 90 Islamist prisoners including Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, the one-time mentor of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who hailed from Zarqa. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two West Bank Palestinians Confess to Itamar Massacre - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israeli security forces have arrested Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad 18, of the West Bank Arab village of Awarta, who have admitted to committing last month's murder of five family members in Itamar, it was revealed on Sunday. On March 11, the murderers killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their children - Yoav, 10, Elad, 4, and Hadas, a three-month-old baby. The two suspects are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Six additional Palestinians were arrested for aiding the perpetrators. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Itamar Murderers: "We Would Have Killed the Two Other Children But Didn't Know They Were There" - Yaakov Lappin
    On the night of March 11, Hakim Awad and Amjad Awad entered the Fogel residence where they stabbed Yoav and Elad in their beds, killing them both. They then entered the parents' bedroom where they attacked Ehud and Ruth Fogel. The parents fought back. Ruth was shot dead and Ehud died of stab wounds. The two men left the house, but then they heard three-month-old Hadas crying. "They went back into the house and stabbed the baby to death."
        Two other children were in the home, but were spared because the murderers did not know they were there. Amjad later told interrogators that he would have killed them, too, had he known they were in the house. After returning to their village, "they received much support from family members and friends," a security source said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Failing to Cross the Moral Threshold for Statehood? - Herb Keinon
    After the arrest of the Awad cousins from Awarta for the brutal, blood-chilling murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar, one might ask whether Palestinian society has moved beyond the threshold needed to become a functioning society. True, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad unequivocally condemned the killings. But then Palestinian voices were heard claiming it couldn't be a Palestinian who killed the family. That degree of denial does not bode well for a functioning state.
        What is incumbent upon Palestinian society now - after having received various stamps of approval for statehood - is to finally start taking responsibility and owning up to the actions of its people. The "occupation" is the Palestinian justification for every atrocity - from sending women out as suicide bombers, to firing anti-tank missiles at school buses, to hacking a three-month-old baby to death. There have been a lot of occupied people throughout history, and they didn't go out and cut up four-year-old, cherub-faced boys. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: PA Official Justifies Itamar Murderers and Demands Their Release - Aaron Lerner
    In an interview on Sunday, S'ad Nimr, Director General of the PA Ministry of Detainees & Ex-Detainees, justified the Itamar murders as an act of resistance against the occupation and included those who carried out the murders in the PA demand that all Palestinians being detained by Israel be released. (IMRA-YouTube)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Helping Syria Suppress Demonstrations - Michael Ledeen
    In Syria, the anti-Assad demonstrations are getting bigger and are explicitly calling for regime change. The Iranians have sent some of their top experts to Syria to aid the Baathists in putting down the insurrection. The mullahs have delivered some 400 cameras that are hidden in traffic signals, in order to identify the activists, and more than 42 censors to shut down foreign radio and TV broadcasts. And there are many Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah in Damascus, along with Iranian-trained Arabs, nearly 2,000, to show the Syrian security forces how it’s done. In other words, it’s an attempt to replay the Iranian repression on Syrian soil. (Pajamas Media)
  • Arab Spring Turns Sour - Aluf Benn
    Hosni Mubarak and his sons were taken this week from the place where they were under house arrest in Sharm el-Sheikh to full detention. What happened to Mubarak explains the determination of the other tyrants in the Arab world to fight for their rule.
        Governments in the West want to be seen as supporting freedom and democracy, while at the same time preserving their strategic outposts and avoiding military entanglements. The result is fighting against Gaddafi in Libya, but only from afar and with a small force so as not to dirty one's hands and prevent losses that will look bad at home. Speaking in favor of freedom and against repression but shaking with fear lest the regime in Saudi Arabia collapse, and with it the oil economy on which the Western way of life depends. Presenting the revolution as a popular uprising and understanding that the real battle is for hegemony over the Middle East.
        And just as the revolution has returned to familiar patterns, so too the attitude toward Israel. The euphoria of the early days, when the demonstrators concentrated on calls for democracy, ended last Friday with a demonstration by 2,000 people outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The candidates to replace Mubarak have become more extreme in their expressions against Israel, and the temporary regime is growing closer to Iran and wants to amend the natural gas contract with the Israel Electric Corporation. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Immigrants in Israeli Army Find Passover Homes Away from Home - Michele Chabin
    When Passover begins on Monday at sundown, Roxanne Fogelman, 22, an Israeli combat medic from Oregon who moved to Israel in 2009, will join 600 other "lone soldiers" for a communal holiday meal. Israel is home to an estimated 5,000 lone soldiers - men and women who come to serve from other countries, or who are newly arrived immigrants to Israel, or whose families live elsewhere, or those with no family at all. The Jerusalem-based Lone Soldier Center was formed in 2006 after Philadelphia native Michael Levin was killed in action at age 21 in a battle with Hizbullah along Israel's northern border. (USA Today)

Netanyahu Concerned New Egyptian Government Will Be Anti-Israel - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told EU envoys last week, "I am very concerned over some of the voices we've been hearing from Egypt recently." "I'm especially concerned over the current Egyptian foreign minister's statements."
  • In addition, Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan, referring to the possibility of Israeli investments in Egypt, said Egypt did not need investments from "the enemy."
  • This statement angered Israel, especially in view of Egyptian requests in the past months for help in investments or in receiving more aid from the U.S. Congress.
    See also New Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby Reveals Disturbing Foreign Policy Trends - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The new Egyptian foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, has called for a revision of Egyptian foreign policy as it relates to Israel. Elaraby has urged Arab nations to sue Israel for atrocities committed against the Palestinians, including genocide. As a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, he expressed doubts about the very legality of past UN decisions, including the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
  • He told former President Anwar Sadat that the peace treaty with Israel, which placed limitations on Egyptian military deployment in the Sinai Peninsula, compromised some of Egypt's most fundamental rights.
  • However, Elaraby has had extensive experience negotiating with the Israelis since 1973. He remains a technician who executes the policies of the leadership, which today is the ruling Military Council under Field Marshall Tantawi.

    The writer was formerly foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

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