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July 11, 2011

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U.S. Investigates Syrian Diplomats for Spying on U.S. Protesters - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    The State Department is investigating charges that Syrian diplomats are spying on Syrian anti-government demonstrators in Washington and other U.S. cities in order to intimidate their relatives in Syria.
    Eric Boswell, assistant secretary for diplomatic security, last week summoned Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha to air "concerns with the reported actions of certain Syrian Embassy staff in the United States," the State Department said Friday.
    "We received reports that Syrian mission personnel under Ambassador Moustapha's authority have been conducting video and photographic surveillance of people participating in peaceful demonstrations in the United States."

Gaza's Rocket Men Shoot for the Moon - Sharon Weinberger (Slate)
    Abu Saif, a rocket maker for the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, is a fan of Google Earth. One recent evening in Gaza City, I sat next to him as he showed me how he used the popular satellite mapping program to target sites within Israel.
    According to Abu Saif, more Soviet-era Grad rockets, whose range far exceeds the range of the homemade Kassams, have been coming through the tunnels, and all the militant factions now have them.

Sderot Adults, Children Traumatized by Rocket Fire (Ynet News)
    According to a study conducted by Natal, a trauma center for victims of terror and war, 70% of the kids residing in Sderot, that has been on the receiving end of thousands of rockets in recent years, are suffering from at least one symptom of posttraumatic stress.
    A third of all Sderot residents suffer from anxiety and have trouble functioning normally.

Israeli Umbrella NGO to Send Aid to South Sudan - Jeremy Sharon (Jerusalem Post)
    IsraAid, an umbrella group of Israeli and Jewish humanitarian aid organizations, is preparing to send a consignment of humanitarian aid to the newly formed nation of South Sudan, the group said Sunday.
    In addition, IsraAid teams have begun to plan for a long-term project aimed at providing assistance to vulnerable women and children living on the streets and in refugee camps around the capital city of Juba.
    "It is our mission and Jewish commitment to reach out to our new friends in any way we can," said Shachar Zahavi, founding director of IsraAid.
    More than 90% of the 9.1 million people in South Sudan live on a dollar a day.
    See also South Sudan's Representative in Israel Has Big Plans - Ilan Lior (Ha'aretz)

U.S. Using Electronic Warfare in Libya - W.J. Hennigan (Los Angeles Times)
    In the skies above Libya, the U.S. Navy has been deploying supersonic EA-18 Growler jets to "jam" Gaddafi's ground radar, giving NATO fighters and bombers free rein to strike tanks, communication depots and other strategic targets.
    The U.S. is spending billions to develop jammers that spew radio waves and emit other electromagnetic noise to jumble enemy electronic signals.
    As the defense budget is being eyed for cuts, electronic attack technology is one of the few areas - along with drones and cyber security - in which President Obama wants to boost spending.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Troops Describe Shooting Protesters - Bassem Mroue
    Syrian commanders told security forces they were fighting terrorists and ordered them to open fire on anti-regime demonstrations even after they found unarmed protesters instead, Human Rights Watch said Saturday in a report citing defectors. Some of the defectors said they feared they could have been shot themselves if they refused to obey orders. One reported seeing a military officer shoot dead two soldiers in Daraa for that reason. (AP)
        See also Syrian Protest Singer Slain for Anti-Assad Tune - Roee Nahmias
    Ibrahim Kashush became the latest symbol of the ongoing Syrian uprising. Equipped with a megaphone, Kashush started singing in front of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Hama last Friday, in a song titled "Be Gone," in reference to Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Come on, get lost, ya Bashar," Kashush chanted, "Take your brother Maher with you and take off!" "Your legitimacy has vanished, Bashar the liar....Bashar, be gone." The song became an instant hit and one of the main anthems of the protests. Four days later Kashush's body was discovered with his throat slit. (Ynet News)
        See also below Observations: Syria - Secret Journey Around a Nation in Revolt Finds Protesters Are Not Flagging (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • Video: U.S. Ambassador to Syria Greeted with Rose Petals and Olive Branches in Hama -
    U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was greeted by protesters with rose petals and olive branches when he visited the embattled city of Hama on Thursday. The Syrian government has condemned the visit. (Huffington Post)
        See also Report from Hama - U.S. Amb. Robert Ford (Facebook)
  • Israel Recognizes South Sudan, Offers Economic Aid - Dan Williams
    Israel recognized South Sudan Sunday, offering the new state economic help after it seceded from the mainly Arab Muslim north. "I announce here that Israel recognizes South Sudan," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet. "We wish it success. It is a peace-seeking country and we would be happy to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and prosperity."  (Reuters)
  • Canada Opposes Palestinian Bid for Recognition of Statehood - Mike Blanchfield
    Canada is rejecting a Palestinian effort to win recognition at the UN as an independent state. "Our government's long-standing position has not changed. The only solution to this conflict is one negotiated between and agreed to by the two parties," said Chris Day, the spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. "One of the states must be a Jewish state and recognized as such, while the Palestinian state is to be a nonmilitarized one." "Unilateral action is ultimately unhelpful," said Day. (Canadian Press-Toronto Star)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Cabinet Approves Northern Maritime Border - Herb Keinon
    The government approved on Sunday the demarcation of Israel's northern maritime border with Lebanon, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. The line demarcates economic rights in offshore territories that - with the discovery of vast natural gas reserves - have become very lucrative. The move to delineate the line was made in order to combat Lebanese claims to offshore territories that Israel claims as its own.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet: "The [maritime] line that Lebanon presented to the UN is significantly south of the Israeli line. It contradicts the line Israel has agreed upon with Cyprus, and what is more significant to me is that it contradicts the line that Lebanon itself concluded with Cyprus in 2007. Our goal is to establish the position of Israel regarding its maritime boundary, according to international maritime law."
        Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Sunday that reports that the U.S. backed Lebanon on the maritime border dispute are "nonsense."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: Iran, Hizbullah Behind Lebanon Protest over Israel Sea Border - Barak Ravid
    Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Cabinet Sunday that Iran and Hizbullah are purposely trying to create a new source of friction with Israel concerning the maritime border with Lebanon. "When we announced our gas drilling, the Iranians and Hizbullah decided that it would be a good excuse for conflict with us," said Ya'alon. "It was done with premeditation in order to create conflict with us, just like the Shebaa Farms [Lebanon has claimed the Shebaa Farms]."
        The proposed Lebanese line does not include Israel's large Tamar and Leviathan gas prospects. (Ha'aretz)
  • 124 Pro-Palestinian Activists Arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport - Zohar Blumenkrantz, Jack Khoury and Yaniv Kubovich
    124 pro-Palestinian activists were detained after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport as part of a staged anti-Israel protest at the weekend. About 200 more were prevented from flying to Israel by foreign airlines. A source at the Immigration and Population Authority said that Israel intends to expel the activists within 48 hours, but foreign airlines have already warned that they will not be able to move large groups of activists out of Israel quickly. "This is the peak of the holiday season and the flights are full," said one European airline representative. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Thanks European States for Helping Stop "Flightilla" - Yaakov Lappin
    Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday: "Israel thanks the European countries for their assistance and cooperation in preventing the provocative 'air flotilla' that was planned."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Envoys Clash with Washington over UN State Bid - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Signs of tensions between the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. surfaced over the weekend following a visit to Washington by two senior Palestinian envoys, Saeb Erekat and Nabil Abu Rudaineh. Erekat later said: "They informed us that they would use the veto if we go to the Security Council....They also told us that Congress would vote in favor of cutting off financial aid to the PA if it proceeds with its plan to go to the UN."
        On Monday, the Quartet is scheduled to discuss the PA's plan for statehood and ways of reviving the peace process. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Losing European Support? - Ronen Medzini
    In a letter addressed to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, more than 100 European Union parliament members say they object to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • In Iran, Sanctions Aim at Shipping Lifeline - Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick
    On June 30, the Danish shipping giant Maersk startled Iran's trade officials by abruptly pulling out of the country's three largest ports. A week earlier, the Obama administration had declared the ports' operator to be an arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a group linked to terrorism and weapons trafficking. Other shipping companies followed suit, and soon Iran was scrambling to find alternative ways to import food and other critical supplies - precisely the effect that U.S. officials were hoping for.
        After two years of failed efforts to entice Iran with diplomatic carrots, the Obama administration is quietly toasting successes at using economic sticks. A series of U.S. and international sanctions imposed over the past year have slowly undermined Iran's ability to conduct trade by targeting the country's access to international banking, insurers and transportation companies. "The impact is real," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, describing canceled or frozen projects in Iran's energy sector alone that total $60 billion. (Washington Post)
  • Saudi Columnist: Hamas Leader Khaled Mash'al Is Trading in the Palestinian Cause
    In a column in Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia) on June 30, Al-Arabiya TV presenter Turki Al-Dakhil slammed Hamas Political Bureau leader Khaled Mash'al, accusing him of supporting the Syrian regime at the expense of both the Syrian people and the Palestinian cause. "Since December 2010, [reports] commenting on the Palestinian cause have become few, and even scarce. [Instead,] the coverage has focused on Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt - [everything] except for Palestine....The reason for the absence of coverage is the abyss that has formed between the Palestinian statesmen and the [rest of] the world."
        "In the past decade, many Palestinian [flaws] have been exposed, for instance [the fact] that the [Palestinian] cause has become a tool for bargaining, making profits, exerting pressures, and [gaining] influence. This has turned Hamas into part of the Iranian axis at the expense of the Arabs, who struggled alongside the Palestinians, whereas Iran never fired a single bullet at any Israeli target."
        "The [flaw] most recently [exposed] is that the Syrian regime is more important to Hamas than the Syrian people....[Hamas] immediately turned into the Syrians' enemy, supporting every step taken by the [Syrian] regime."  (MEMRI)

Syria: Secret Journey Around a Nation in Revolt Finds Protesters Are Not Flagging (Sunday Telegraph-UK)

  • The Sunday Telegraph secretly visited Hama, Syria, during a week-long undercover journey around a nation in revolt - a journey which showed how tenuous government control has become, despite a crackdown that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since March. I witnessed a Syria of "freed" towns, vast anti-regime demonstrations, violent melees and angry gunfights.
  • Within minutes of noticing a foreigner, Hama residents began to boast of the impending fall of the regime. A butcher, Omar was brimming with pride as he explained why. "Look around, the government is finished in Hama," he said. "The army came here and they killed many and they stole. But we kept coming out. No matter how many times the army comes, we'll never give in now." "This Assad family are murderers and criminals," said one resident. "Tell everyone: the people of Hama say that this regime is finished."
  • It was a message that I heard repeatedly as I traveled across Syria, sometimes to places where it seemed the regime had completely abandoned any effort to keep control. In the northeastern city of Deir Resor, where six died in recent clashes, pictures of President Assad and his father, Hafez, had been destroyed and their statues removed.
  • One man described how the government had lost control of the city. "The army tried to come into Deir Resor a few weeks ago, but they soon had to retreat," he said. "The government knows the northern clans are armed, they have support from Iraq, and if they are attacked they will fight. But this is the biggest town in the area and if it is anti-government it means the entire east of Syria is too."
  • In the industrial port of Latakia, resident Abu Hamza described the violence: "For 10 days the army killed everyone walking the streets. I used to think that Israel was our enemy. But even the Israelis use rubber bullets, shoot at people's legs, allow ambulances to come and take people to hospital. Now I know the Syrian regime is our real enemy."

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