Report: Hizbullah Sent 5,000 Fighters to Help Assad - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
Some 5,000 Hizbullah combatants entered Syria in December to aid the regime of Bashar Assad, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported on Monday.
Four battalions comprising at least 1,300 soldiers each had succeeded in killing 300 rebel soldiers in recent weeks, the report said.
Egyptian Army Foils Attempt to Bomb Coptic Church in Sinai (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Egyptian armed forces spokesperson Col. Ahmed Ali announced on Monday that forces "have foiled an attempt to bomb the Rafah Church in North Sinai."
Army patrols discovered two cars carrying explosives in a street between the church and a military facility under construction at 1 a.m. Monday.
Wife of Hamas MP: A Woman's Role Is to Instill Love of Martyrdom in Her Children (MEMRI)
Umm Osama, the wife of Hamas MP in the Palestinian parliament Khalil Al-Hayya, told Al-Aqsa TV on Dec. 2, 2012:
"Women in Palestine play a great role in raising their children and in encouraging them to wage Jihad for the sake of Allah."
"She instills in her children the love of Jihad and martyrdom for the sake of Allah."
"I am constantly praying: 'Allah, make the end of our days be in martyrdom.' I pray for this even for my husband and my children. None of us want to die in our beds."
Report on Terror Attacks in West Bank, Jerusalem in December - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
The Israel Security Agency tallied 111 attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem in December: 98 involved firebombs, six involved explosive devices, and three involved grenades.
There were two instances of small arms fire, a stabbing, and a hit-and-run. Three Israelis were injured in the attacks.
At the same time, there was a marked drop in terrorist attacks on Israel's border with Gaza. Only one mortar was fired into Israel in December.
See also Report: Terror Data and Trends - December 2012 (Israel Security Agency)
Publisher Apologizes for Labeling Israel "Occupied Palestine" in Textbook - Alison Flood (Guardian-UK)
The British publisher Garnet Education has apologized for its "serious editorial error" after labeling Israel as "Occupied Palestine" on a textbook map.
The publisher said: "Please accept our sincere apologies for any offense caused but rest assured that this was a genuine mistake and in no way reflects any Garnet Education policy."
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- Hints of Syrian Chemical Push Set Off Global Effort to Stop It - Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger
In the last days of November, Israel's top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pound bombs that could be loaded on airplanes. The munitions were loaded onto vehicles near Syrian air bases. In briefings, administration officials were told that if Assad ordered the weapons to be used, they could be airborne in less than two hours - too fast for the U.S. to act.
What followed next, officials said, was a remarkable show of international cooperation. After
a public warning by President Obama and more sharply worded private messages sent to the Syrian leader through Russia, Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan, the Syrians stopped the chemical mixing and the bomb preparation. But concern remains that Assad could now use the weapons produced that week at any moment.
(New York Times)
- Iran Oil Revenues Drop 45 Percent in 9 Months Because of Sanctions
Iran's revenues from oil and gas exports have dropped by 45% because of sanctions over its nuclear program, Gholam Reza Kateb, head of the Iranian parliament's budget committee, said Monday. The International Energy Agency says Iran's oil exports plunged to 1 million barrels a day last July from 1.74 million in June after an EU embargo went into effect, but it said exports picked up to about 1.3 million in November.
In another sign of the effectiveness of the sanctions, most flights operated by Iranian airlines to domestic and international destinations have been cancelled because of unpaid debts.
- U.S. Opposes Using the Term "State of Palestine" - Mohammed Daraghmeh and Karin Laub
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants official documents to carry a new emblem: "State of Palestine," but he is not rushing to change passports and ID cards Palestinians need to pass through Israeli crossings. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed the name change as pointless. "Instead of looking for gimmicks, Palestinians should negotiate with Israel to bring about the end of the conflict," he said. "That will lead to a situation of two states for two peoples."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed U.S. opposition to using the term "State of Palestine."
"You can't create a state by rhetoric and with labels and names....You can only create a state, in this context, through bilateral negotiations," she said, calling Abbas' decision "provocative." (AP-ABC News)
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- Netanyahu: Iran Is Greatest World Danger, Not Settlements
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told a Birthright Israel gathering that the greatest danger to the world is "not from Jews building in our ancestral capital in Jerusalem.
It's from nuclear weapons in Iran....It's chemical weapons in Syria falling into the wrong hands. That's the danger we have to focus on." (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel to Press U.S. on Iran Sanctions Loopholes
The time has come for President Obama to give Iran a "very clear ultimatum, very clear deadline combined with a very credible military threat," Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday.
He said Israel views the financial sanctions imposed on Iran by the Obama administration as "very serious and very effective and the Iranian economy is in bad shape already now," noting that "for the first time maybe at least some Iranians" are questioning whether the nuclear program is "worth the cost."
Steinitz said he would discuss with U.S. officials what Israel perceives as loopholes in sanctions and Iran's efforts to subvert legal restrictions.
- Post-Mubarak Egypt: Israel Owes $500 Billion for Sinai Damage
In December 2011, Egypt sent the UN a report detailing how Israel owes the government of Egypt $500 billion for damage sustained by the Sinai Peninsula when it was controlled by Israel between 1967 and 1982.
Following a year of inaction by the UN, the report has now been sent to the U.S. in the hopes that it will press its ally, Israel, into paying the debt. The report notes that former president Hosni Mubarak did not make such claims during his time as ruler.
- The Enduring Egypt-Iran Divide - Mehdi Khalaji
Islamists in Iran and Egypt share anti-Israel sentiment and support Hamas against the secular-nationalist Fatah. Committed to governance under Sharia (Islamic law), they both view Western culture as a threat. But despite these ideological affinities, political disagreements make a rapprochement unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood believes it should assume a leadership role for all Islamist groups and states, while Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei describes himself as the "leader of the Islamic world."
Moreover, the Sunni-Shia divide could pose a major challenge for Egypt-Iran relations, as the Muslim Brotherhood works to strengthen ties with Sunni allies. In fact, since Mubarak's ouster, anti-Shia propaganda has gained traction in the Egyptian public sphere, with books alleging Shia corruption of Islam's true meaning filling the shelves of Cairo's bookstores. Before the revolution, Egypt was considered one of the most Shia-friendly Sunni countries in the Arab world. But the Muslim Brotherhood remains financially dependent on the Gulf monarchies, which are using Egypt as a platform for their anti-Shia, anti-Iran agenda.
The most urgent dispute between Iran and Egypt relates to Syria. As a result of Iran's support for the brutal, repressive policies of the Assad regime, Islamists in Egypt are beginning to view Iran as a status quo power, not an agent of revolutionary change. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Brotherhood Victories Lead Muslim Clerics to Intensify Incitement Against Jews - Zvi Mazel
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Ennahda party in Tunisia, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, received 41% of the vote in the parliamentary elections and is now ruling the country - and suddenly there are worrying manifestations of anti-Semitism, led by religious figures.
Al-Quds al-Arabi reported on Dec. 12 that Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Suhayli in Rades delivered a lengthy tirade against the Jews: "O Allah, you know what those accursed Jews have done, the corruption they spread across the Earth.... Strike them so that there is not one of them left. Allah, make the men and women sterile. Bring down your wrath and your hatred on them."
Al-Quds al-Arabi stressed that since the fall of the Ben Ali regime there had been a number of blatant attacks against Jews. Though the Tunisian government from time to time makes reassuring statements on the issue, it is obvious that Muslim clerics believe that a regime led by the Brotherhood will let them intensify their incitement against Jews. A similar phenomenon can be observed in Egypt, cradle of the Muslim Brotherhood. The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
The Key to Peace: Selling the Two-State Solution in Palestine - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)
The war in Syria, the revolutions in the Arab world and above all the rise of a bitter Sunni-Shiite transnational religious war have pushed the Israeli-Palestinian dispute into the background for many Middle Eastern governments. When the Gulf monarchies are focused on what they see as a stark threat from Iran, Israel looks more like a strategic asset than a threat.
- Many people want to embrace the happy fantasy that the Palestinians are ready today to make peace if those nasty Israelis would just stop provoking them by building new settlements, and that if we in the West press Israel enough on the settlement question, peace will quickly come. But we don't think that pressuring Israel on settlements is the way to get to peace.
- The real problem is exactly what it has been for sixty years: deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution. While many Palestinians are ready to accept that solution, many of those see it as only a temporary step on the road to a single, Palestinian state. President Obama and other aspiring peacemakers need to understand that it is Palestinian opinion rather than Israeli policy that is the key variable in the peace equation.
- The question that haunts Israelis isn't so much whether a Palestinian leader would sign a peace treaty as whether the peace treaty would stick. Many Israelis don't think the pro-peace Palestinians are there yet, and looking at the political strength of Hamas and of forces like Islamic Jihad that are even farther to the extreme, it is hard to disagree.
- At a time when Islamic identification and militancy is rising across the region, it may not be possible for Palestinian moderates to deliver a lasting peace.
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