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Palestinian Prisoners Arrive in Turkey After Captive Swap (Reuters-Ynet News)
Eleven Palestinians arrived in Turkey on Wednesday as part of the thousand-for-one prisoner exchange.
Among the Palestinians was Amna Muna, who on Tuesday caused a delay in the implementation of the deal after refusing to be moved to Gaza.
Previous reports suggested she terrorized other Palestinian inmates and it was feared that families of the prisoners would seek revenge over her abuse.
See also What Awaits Muna in Gaza? - Yoram Schweitzer (Ynet News)
See also 15 Freed Palestinian Prisoners Arrive in Damascus (Xinhua-China)
Turkey Will Not Allow Transit of Israeli Gas to Europe (Natural Gas Asia)
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Friday that Turkey has turned down requests by private firms to allow the transit of natural gas produced in Israel through Turkey to Europe, linking the rejection to the present state of relations between the two nations.
Hamas Gains from Prisoner Swap Likely to Fade - David Rosenberg (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
Observers of the Palestinian scene say Hamas' victory in the prisoner swap will likely prove ephemeral.
"Twenty days ago, Abbas gave a speech at the UN General Assembly and he was very popular. Nowadays, no one talks about that speech," said Mkhaimar Abusada, professor of politics at Gaza's Al-Azhar University. "The same thing will happen to Hamas."
Hamas may not be able to rebuild its organization with the released prisoners heading back to the Fatah-ruled West Bank, where Israeli and PA security forces have decimated the movement, analysts said. Their identities are already known and their movements are likely to be restricted.
How Iran Kills Abroad - Roya Hakakian (Wall Street Journal)
On Sept. 17, 1992, two men burst in on a private dinner at Berlin's Mykonos restaurant where eight of Iran's leading opposition figures were seated.
One thrust his gloved hand into the sports bag that hung on his shoulder and machine-gun bullets riddled the guests. Four died that night.
The lead shooter, an Iranian named Abdulrahman Bani-Hashemi, flew to Turkey and crossed the border into Iran. Two years earlier, he had attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Sweden. The Swedish authorities detained, then released, him. Three years before, he had assassinated an Iranian exile, a former pilot named Morad Talebi, in Switzerland.
Two weeks after the Mykonos restaurant murders, German authorities arrested several men in connection with the attack. Only one of them was Iranian. The rest belonged to a ring of small-time Lebanese crooks.
In May 1993, the German chief federal prosecutor submitted his indictment - in which Iran's ministry of intelligence was implicated in the crime.
During the four-year trial, a top official of Iran's ministry of intelligence defected and testified that there was a list of 500 individuals, "enemies of Islam" who Tehran had systematically pursued to annihilate.
There are staggering parallels between the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington and the Mykonos hit.
The writer is the author of Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, about Iran's extraterritorial terror campaign against Iranian exiles.
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- Prisoner Swap with Israel Emboldens Hamas - Ernesto Londono
Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home Tuesday looking pale and rail thin to a country bracing itself for fallout from a prisoner swap that has emboldened the militant Palestinian faction Hamas. As busloads of freed Palestinians arrived in the West Bank, residents waved Hamas flags, a rare sight in the Palestinian enclave where the rival Fatah has traditionally been more popular. Israeli doctors said Shalit showed signs of malnutrition and lack of exposure to sunlight but was otherwise healthy; his father said Shalit continues to suffer from shrapnel wounds received during his capture. "He came out of a dark pit, a dark cellar," his father said. (Washington Post)
See also Palestinians View Prisoner Exchange as a Victory - Catrina Stewart
Masked and heavily armed militants from Hamas' armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, joined the hundreds of thousands of jubilant Palestinians who crowded into Gaza City's Al-Katiba Square to greet the arrival of nearly 300 newly freed prisoners. On a stage bedecked with flags and garlands, a giant poster depicted the capture of an Israeli soldier as the crowd chanted: "We want another Shalit!"
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the crowd: "Some described Shalit's captivity as a worthless adventure but today they are proven wrong." "Palestinians have a feeling of victory," said Atef Masad, 46. "It is something we have taken from Israel by force. It is something we can't get through negotiations." (Independent-UK)
- More than 40 Dead in Surge of Violence in Syria - Liz Sly
More than 30 civilians and as many as a dozen soldiers were killed Monday in Syria, most of them in Homs, a city that is rapidly emerging as the epicenter of armed resistance to the Assad government.
Residents and activists said a group of Syrian soldiers defected from their army unit, a move that triggered clashes with regime loyalists and, later, a heavy tank bombardment of several city neighborhoods where the defected soldiers are believed to be taking refuge.
In recent weeks, there have been increasing reports of defections from the army. An attack by defectors on a Syrian army checkpoint in the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border killed seven soldiers.
The LCC, a group that monitors and organizes anti-government protests,
said 25 doctors and pharmacists had been detained in recent weeks because they had provided medical treatment to protesters injured at demonstrations.
The human rights advocacy group Avaaz said it had identified 57 patients who had been detained by the security forces from their beds in hospitals in the towns of Homs and Latakia. In addition, it said, the government-sponsored militias known as Shabiha have used Red Crescent ambulances to shoot at demonstrators.
- UN Report Rips Iran's Human Rights Record - Barbara Slavin
A UN report by Ahmed Shaheed, the new UN "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran," condemns the Iranian regime for wide-ranging human right abuses, including the secret killings of hundreds of prisoners under mysterious circumstances.
Hundreds of political activists, journalists, students, filmmakers, lawyers, environmentalists, women's advocates, members of ethnic and religious minorities, dissident clerics, and Iranians with ties to Western countries have been swept into the prisons of the Islamic Republic since the disputed 2009 presidential election.
There have been more than 200 "officially announced" executions in 2011 and at least 146 secret ones in a prison in the eastern city of Mashhad. Last year, 300 people were secretly executed there, the report says. More than 100 Iranians under age 18 remain on death row.
Read the Report: Human
Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (United Nations)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Prime Minister Netanyahu Welcomes Sgt. Gilad Shalit
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday: "As an IDF soldier and commander, I went out on dangerous missions many times. But I always knew that if I or one of my comrades fell captive, the Government of Israel would do its utmost to return us home....Mutual responsibility is no mere slogan - it is a cornerstone of our existence here."
"But I also see an additional need, that of minimizing the danger to the security of Israel's citizens. To this end, I enunciated two clear demands. First, that senior Hamas leaders, including arch-murderers, remain in prison. Second, that the overwhelming majority of those designated for release either be expelled or remain outside Judea and Samaria, in order to impede their ability to attack our citizens.
For years, Hamas strongly opposed these demands. But several months ago, we received clear signs that it was prepared to back down from this opposition."
"In recent days, we have all seen national unity such as we have not seen in a long time. Unity is the source of Israel's strength, now and in the future. Today, we all rejoice in Gilad Shalit's return home."
(Prime Minister's Office)
- Ramallah Goes Green - Avi Issacharoff
After years of hiding, persecution, avoiding rallies and demonstrations in the West Bank, Hamas supporters went out into the streets en masse to celebrate. Hundreds of Palestinians, most of them young, wrapped in green flags and scarves, made it clear that Hamas deserved the credit for the prisoner exchange deal.
One Hamas activist, Abdallah, wanted to make it clear to the Israeli public that Hamas does not seek peace. "This is Muslim land," he said. "The Jews came from abroad and therefore can live here as citizens under an Islamic state....You should understand, Islam is the future....Our prisoners were freed with force, God-willing, we will free more with force." (Ha'aretz)
See also Shalit Deal Throws Hamas a Lifeline - Avi Issacharoff
Hamas, whose civilian and military infrastructure has almost completely disappeared from the West Bank in recent years, has reared its head with the prisoner exchange deal.
On Tuesday, Hamas celebrated in the streets of the West Bank, with masses of people vowing to kidnap Israelis, songs of praise of Hamas' military wing and crowds vowing to continue the jihad until Israel is destroyed. Senior Hamas officials, alongside dangerous former prisoners, vowed to continue the terror attacks and, in particular, the abduction of Israelis to bring about the release of more prisoners. Now Israel will have to deal with the threat of kidnapping not only from Hamas but also from other Palestinian organizations, jealous of its success.
- Previous Asymmetrical Prisoner Exchanges - Alon Pinkas
In 1983, the Yitzhak Shamir government freed 66 terrorists and 4,500 detainees captured during the 1982 war in Lebanon in return for six soldiers. In 1985, as part of the Jibril deal, the Shimon Peres government released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for eight Israeli soldiers. The 2004 Tannenbaum deal saw the Ariel Sharon government release 436 detainees in exchange for one Israeli reserve officer who was kidnapped by Hizbullah after being lured into a business deal. In 2008, Israel exchanged scores of Lebanese and Palestinian detainees and prisoners for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured during a 2006 Hizbullah ambush on the Israeli-Lebanon border and who died shortly thereafter. The 1,027 prisoners freed for Shalit is asymmetrical but not unusually unbalanced.
The writer served as Consul General of Israel in the U.S.
See also Israel Released over 1,200 Palestinian Prisoners in Last Four Years
Since July 2007, 1,233 Palestinian prisoners have been released from Israel Prison Service facilities for various political reasons. In July 2007, Ehud Olmert freed 255 prisoners as a gesture to Mahmoud Abbas. In October the same year, 87 prisoners were freed as a Ramadan gesture. That November, a further 441 prisoners were freed before the Annapolis talks. In August 2008, 198 prisoners were released as part of an effort to strengthen Abbas. In December 2008, Israel released 227 prisoners as a gesture before Eid al-Adha. In October 2009, 20 female prisoners were freed in exchange for a video of Gilad Shalit speaking.
- Reining in Abbas - Jonathan Schanzer
The U.S. House of Representatives wants to hammer Mahmoud Abbas and the PA for snubbing American-led diplomacy and applying for statehood at the UN last month. Congress and the White House should zero in on Palestinian corruption and shape a new aid regime that accomplishes U.S. objectives more effectively.
Abbas controls the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund, whose board he hand-picked and whose by-laws he rewrote. Since 2006, the PIF has awarded contracts exclusively to Abbas cronies, including his sons, Yasser and Tareq. The PIF-backed Wataniya cellular phone company, which drew on international-donor funding, inked a lucrative advertising contract with Tareq, while his brother Yasser sat on its board.
The Abbas family is now said to be worth millions, with lavish property holdings and investments throughout the Middle East.
What's needed is not a wholesale cut in aid, but a concerted effort to root out PA corruption. This would include U.S. Government Accountability Office audits of Abbas' presidential budget, international oversight of the PIF, and a much closer look at the financial relationship between the PA and Hamas in Gaza. Most importantly, it would give the White House and Congress new leverage over the wayward Palestinian leadership.
The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Gilad Shalit Returns: One Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians? - Brad Hirschfield (Washington Post)
Gilad Shalit has been returned to Israel after more than five years in Hamas captivity - years in which his family was given no news of his condition and years in which his captors observed no internationally recognized humanitarian standards.
- In Gaza, handing over 1,027 Palestinians for a single Israeli is seen as a fool's bargain. And in Israel there are those who claim that this trade makes the next kidnapping that much more likely.
- But people sworn to your destruction don't need any further incentives to kill you. And the fighters being returned in exchange for Shalit are a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of others who are already willing to engage in mass murder.
- This conflict is a generational conflict and, as such, it will take generations to resolve.
The writer is President of CLAL - The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
See also The Prisoner Exchange: The Morning After - Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz)
See also Saving Shalit, Encouraging Terror - Walter Reich (New York Times)
See also Gilad Shalit Comes Home - Martin Peretz (New Republic)
See also Why Netanyahu Made the Prisoner Swap Deal with Hamas - Daniel Gordis (Foreign Affairs)
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