Syrian Rebels Report 18 Cases of Chemical Attacks - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
Free Syrian Army official Louai Muqdad told Asharq al-Awsat: "The opposition recorded 18 separate cases of chemical weapons attacks in the outskirts of Damascus, Idlib, Homs and Hama."
He said Assad was using a new type of toxic gas and estimated that the Syrian regime had only recently obtained the new weapons.
Asharq al-Awsat further reported the commander of Syria's military police, Maj.-Gen. Abdulaziz al-Shalal, has defected and joined rebel forces.
Palestinians Disrupt Egyptian Blogger's Speech in Israel - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, 27, one of the leaders of the revolution in Tahrir Square, was interrupted by pro-Palestinian activists while speaking at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Sanad explained, "First of all I came to say a peace-seeking community exists in Egypt."
"My second objective is to show how...we will not obtain peace without democracy, or have democracy without peace."
Turkey to Allow Israeli Participation in Non-Military NATO Activities (JTA)
Turkey has agreed to allow Israel to participate in non-military NATO activities in the coming year, but still objects to Israel taking part in joint military exercises, a Turkish official said Monday.
"Israel Will Do in Jerusalem What Our Friends in America Do in Washington" - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau suggested Monday that those who censure Israel for building in its capital might change their views if they learned more about the 3,000-year-old Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
"Israel will continue and do in Jerusalem what the British do in London and what the French do in Paris and what our friends in America do in Washington." "We do not advise anybody what to do in their own capital."
Construction in Jerusalem is not meant as a punishment for anyone, he added, but is merely intended to serve the "natural" needs of Israeli citizens.
Indian Jews from "Lost Tribe" Land in Israel - Lauren E. Bohn (AP-Times of Israel)
53 Jews who claim to be the descendants of a lost biblical Jewish tribe emigrated to Israel on Monday from northeastern India after a five-year struggle.
The Bnei Menashe were recognized as a lost tribe in 2005, and about 1,700 moved to Israel over the next two years.
Israel recently agreed to let the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe immigrate.
300 are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
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- Syria Peace Envoy's Visit Yields No Progress - Ned Parker and Lava Selo
Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, ended a two-day visit to Syria on Monday after meeting with President Bashar Assad, but reported no progress on halting the conflict.
(Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S.-Russia Reach Agreement on Assad Ouster: Opposition Sources - Nazeer Rida
Senior sources in the opposition Syrian National Coalition have revealed that Moscow and Washington have reached an agreement on "a settlement regarding the departure of President Bashar al-Assad from power." However, the source added that "sticking points in this agreement include the precise mechanism of al-Assad's departure." Syrian National Coalition member Adib al-Shishakli claimed that Assad "has expressed his readiness to negotiate and leave power, accompanied by 142 members of his entourage."
Syrian National Coalition member Walid al-Bunni said, "I believe that the Russian viewpoint is in the process of change, after Moscow became aware that the Syrian opposition are making gains on the ground, becoming convinced that Assad's ouster is only a matter of time." (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
- Israel Rejects U.S. Gun Lobby Claims that Jewish State Proves U.S. Needs More Guns
Israel's policy on issuing guns is restrictive, and armed guards at its schools are meant to stop terrorists, not crazed or disgruntled gunmen, experts said Monday, rejecting claims by America's top gun lobby that Israel serves as proof for its philosophy that the U.S. needs more weapons, not fewer.
Far from the image of a heavily armed population, Israel allows its people to acquire firearms only if they can prove their professions or places of residence put them in danger. The country relies on its security services, not armed citizens, to prevent terror attacks.
Israel has far fewer private weapons per capita than the U.S., and gun rampages outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unheard of. Israel's school security system is part of a multi-layered defense strategy that focuses on prevention and doesn't depend on a guy at a gate with a gun.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Prime Minister's Christmas Greeting
Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the following statement Sunday: "As Christians around the world and in Israel prepare to celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you all the merriest of holidays.
Today, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking, and many of them are endangered. This is, of course, not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country."
"Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all. And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country. We will not tolerate any acts of violence or discrimination against any place of worship." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Video: Prime Minister's Christmas Greeting (Prime Minister's Office)
- Israel Requests UN Enforcement of Security Council Resolution on Hizbullah
On Dec. 17, an explosion occurred in a Hizbullah munitions depot in the town of Tair Harfa in southern Lebanon. Three houses were damaged by the blast.
There is a school about 300 meters from the site.
Immediately following the explosion, dozens of Hizbullah men sealed off the area and proceeded to erase all evidence of the incident, flattening the warehouse and removing what was left of the arms and explosives that had been stored there.
This is the fourth explosion in the last few years in Hizbullah munitions depots in South Lebanon. Others have occurred on
July 14, 2009, near Khirbat Slim; on
Oct. 12, 2009, in Tayr Falsay; and on
Sept. 3, 2010, in Shehabiyya.
These incidents took place in areas under the responsibility of UNIFIL and constitute a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and prohibits the storage of arms near the border with Israel.
On Dec. 20, Israel's Permanent Representative to the UN, Amb. Ron Prosor, sent a letter to the UN Secretary General and to the President of the Security Council demanding the enforcement of Resolution 1701. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- The Iranian Strategy - Amir Rapaport
Iran built up Hizbullah's strength after 2006 as a tremendous threat to Israel, which it would operate only in the event of an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iranian soil.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah was harshly reprimanded for his adventure in the summer of 2006, with the abduction of two Israeli soldiers that led to war. Since then, Nasrallah cannot initiate any sort of military measure against Israel without the explicit approval of the bosses from Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iran is currently accelerating its nuclear program. The centrifuges are working at top speed to enrich uranium. No one in the West would be surprised if next spring, just as the U.S. tries consolidating a coalition to intensify economic sanctions, Iran would unilaterally announce that it is halting the enrichment process. If this happens, it would not constitute a surrender on Iran's part, but rather progression according to a pre-prepared plan.
By the spring of 2013, Iran will already possess more than 200 kg. of 20%-enriched uranium, which could be suitable for use in a nuclear bomb.
Iran will be able to complete the rest of the planned enrichment process at its own rate, in secret, far from the eyes of the UN inspectors. At the same time, it will be able to conclude the development of a detonator for the nuclear bomb, as well as the adaptation of the future bomb to a launch capability. From this point onwards, Iran will be able to choose the time at which it will announce the nuclear weapon in its possession.
- How Jordan's King Hangs On - Joseph Braude
Over the past few weeks demonstrations in Jordan have ebbed, the king pardoned most protesters he had jailed, and the monarchy proved once more that reports of its death had been greatly exaggerated. The kingdom paid close attention to the revolutions of the Arab Spring and formed a clear strategy to quell the demonstrators using a softer approach. The king's response to the protesters was carefully calibrated. Whereas last year's despots doubled down on repression, "police were ordered to let the kids vent," explained Sameer Baitamouni, a businessman and liberal activist. "They limited demonstrations without repressing them."
"Visiting journalists see revolutionaries and think they represent millions," Sheikh Mustafa Abu Rumman, an Amman mosque cleric, told me. "But the millions want reform, not revolution, as do most protesters themselves. In my mosque, barely any worshippers want to topple the king." (Tablet)
60 Percent of Palestinian Casualties in Recent Gaza Fighting Were Terrorists (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center-Hebrew)
A detailed study of the identities of Palestinians killed during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in Nov. 2012 reveals:
- Of 178 Palestinians killed during the campaign, 169 were identified.
- Of those identified, 101 were terrorists and 68 were uninvolved civilians (60% terrorists).
- 71 of the terrorists were Hamas members; 17 were affiliated with Islamic Jihad; 6 belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees; 3 to Fatah; 2 to the Army of Islam; and 1 each to the PFLP and Salafists.
- The terrorist organizations publicized a smaller number of members killed and inflated the number of civilians to promote the image of a glorious victory, as well as to defame Israel.
- The Palestinians added the names of those who died in circumstances not related to the fighting in order to vilify Israel.
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