Turkey: Syria to Swap Prisoners for Rebel-Held Iranians (Reuters)
The Syrian government will free 2,130 civilian prisoners on Wednesday in exchange for the release of 48 Iranian Revolutionary Guards held by Syrian rebels, a board member of the Turkish NGO IHH said.
Qatar to Double Aid to Egypt - Ethar Shalaby (Daily News-Egypt)
Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani said Tuesday in Cairo that Qatari aid to Egypt will increase to $1 billion from $500 million, and that money loaned to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) will also be doubled to $4 billion.
Qatar also plans investment in two major projects on the Mediterranean and at Port Said to cost $18 billion.
Hamas Court Sentences Fatah Leader to 15 Years in Jail (Ma'an News-PA)
A military court in Gaza City on Tuesday sentenced Fatah military leader and explosives expert Zaki al-Sakani to 15 years in jail for terrorism and illegally possessing explosives and weapons. Zaki was detained four years ago.
Fatah denounced the verdict, calling the court "illegitimate" and saying, "The man was a prominent leader of Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigades and one of its best fighters."
On July 25, 2008, five Hamas military leaders were killed in an explosion near the beach in Gaza City and about 40 civilians were injured. Hamas accused al-Sakani of being behind that explosion.
Israeli High-Tech Start-Ups Sold for Combined $5.5 Billion in 2012 - Hezi Sternlicht (Israel Hayom)
Fifty Israeli high-tech start-up companies were bought out in 2012 for a total of $5.5 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers Israel.
In recent years, buy-out deals in the Israeli high-tech sector have become fewer, but larger.
Rubi Suliman, the head of PwC's high-tech practice, noted: "Recently, we are seeing Israeli companies grow, and become world leaders in their areas."
"We are seeing companies with revenues of over $100 million. We did not see these in the past. They were being sold much earlier, often pre-revenue."
Israeli, U.S. Medical Firms Merge - Greg Bluestein (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
EndoChoice, a Georgia-based company that sells endoscopy devices, said Friday it plans to merge with an Israeli-based medical firm in a deal that would create 200 new jobs, mostly in metro Atlanta.
Israel's Peer Medical Ltd. has developed a video system and endoscopy device that helps doctors greatly expand their vision during scopes to detect more cancerous polyps and other risks.
Peer Medical's chief executive, Avi Levy, said he hopes the merger helps "commercialize this breakthrough technology."
A research and design center will be housed in Caesarea, Israel, and a manufacturing plant is to be established in Germany.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Fears Raised over Syria's Uranium Stockpile - James Blitz
Nuclear experts in the U.S. and Middle East have raised concerns about the security of up to 50 tons of unenriched uranium in Syria.
David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said:
"There are real worries about what has happened to the uranium that Syria was planning to put into the Al-Kibar reactor shortly before the reactor was destroyed in 2007." Experts have concluded that Al-Kibar would have needed about 50 tons of natural uranium fuel to become operational.
Such a stockpile would be enough to provide weapons-grade fuel for five atomic devices.
Some government officials have raised concerns that Iran, which urgently needs uranium for its nuclear program, might try to seize Syria's stockpile. Their fears have been triggered by signs of movement at what they allege is a secret uranium conversion facility at Marj al-Sultan near Damascus.
The officials said: "Syria is almost certainly in possession of good quality uranium of the type that Iran has been trying to acquire on the international market for years. It would certainly be possible to transfer this from Syria to Iran by air." (Financial Times-UK)
- U.S. Bank Hacks Were Work of Iranians, Officials Say - Nicole Perlroth and Quentin Hardy
The attackers hit one American bank after the next. As in so many previous attacks, dozens of online banking sites slowed, hiccupped or ground to a halt before recovering several minutes later. The skill required to carry out attacks on this scale has convinced U.S. government officials and security researchers that they are the work of Iran. "There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks," said James A. Lewis, a former official in the State and Commerce Departments and a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Discusses Israel-U.S. Cooperation on Syria with U.S. Lawmakers - Herb Keinon
In recent days Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has discussed intelligence cooperation regarding Syria's chemical weapons with visiting U.S. legislators.
He met with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday, as well as a delegation on the same day of seven visiting Republican congressman led by Darrell Issa (R-Cal.).
A government official said it was important that "all the actors in Syria understand that this is a very sensitive issue not only for Israel, but for the entire international community." He said "irresponsible behavior" with the chemical weapons would not be tolerated.
The official noted, "We were not speaking this way two or three weeks ago," and that there were "reasons for our concerns." (Jerusalem Post)
- Navy, IDF Evacuate Stranded Citizens amid Winter Storm - Sharon Udasin
Rescue services were called into action Tuesday to help stranded residents throughout Israel, after flooding from an ongoing storm that has hit the entire country.
In the Haifa area, IDF helicopters and crews from the air force rescue unit rescued 15 people stuck on the roof of a building in Baka al-Gharbiya amidst rising water.
In Bat Hefer near Netanya, 14 families were evacuated after the overflowing Schem River flooded some 300 homes. In nearby Hadera, the navy helped several families escape the flood in rubber boats.
- Peace Index Poll: Israelis Want Peace Talks But Don't Believe They Will Succeed
In a survey conducted Dec. 31 to Jan.
2 by the Dahaf Institute, Israelis were asked: What is your position on holding peace negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority? 69% in favor, 26% opposed.
Do you believe that negotiations between Israel and the
PA will lead to peace in
the coming years? 33% believe, 65% don't believe. (Tel Aviv University and Israel Democracy Institute)
- Arab Spring's Side Effects: Threats Against Israel - Guy Bechor
One of the side effects of the "Arab Spring" virus are the threats and insults directed at Israel. All of the Mideast's leaders - including both the "moderates" and the "extremists" - are threatening or cursing Israel, be it Ahmadinejad or Erdogan, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian rebels, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. But there is no connection between Israel and the dire economic and social situation in the Arab world; ethnic groups against ethnic groups; tribes against tribes; religions against religions; violence and blood.
The new Arab leaders are well aware of Israel's military and economic strength. This is just another attempt to use Israel in order to direct Arab rage outward. The stability of the regimes should be measured according to the amount of threats they make against Israel. The weaker the ruler is, the more threats he will make. The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
- Israel's Arabs: Deprived or Radicalized? - Efraim Karsh
Thanks to Israeli health care, the average Israeli Arab male can expect to live longer than his American and many European counterparts.
Since Israel's founding, its Arab population has grown tenfold, while the number of Arab schoolchildren has multiplied by a factor of 40. During the past twelve years, relative investment in Arab education has far exceeded that in the Jewish sector.
Contrary to the image of cramped neighborhoods and acute land shortages, population density in Arab localities is substantially lower on average than in equivalent Jewish locales. Since the late 1990s, the unemployment rate in Israel's Arab sector has been consistently lower than in Jewish development towns in the periphery. Allocations to Arab municipalities are now on a par with, if not higher than, subsidies to the Jewish sector.
Thus, the Arab sector's growing defiance of the state, its policies, and its values is not rooted in socioeconomic deprivation but rather in the steady radicalization of the Israeli Arab community by its ever more militant leadership. The writer is Professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College and Principal Research Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
(Israel Affairs-Middle East Forum)
- Jabhat al-Nusra, a Leading Islamist Group Fighting Assad in Syria - Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake
Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) is a Syrian jihadist group fighting against Bashar al-Assad's Ba'athist regime, with the aim of establishing an Islamist state in Syria. With approximately 5,000 members, JN has often been described as the most effective group fighting in the conflict. There are a number of similarities between JN and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which serves as evidence of their shared history beginning in the early 2000s.
The short-term strategy of JN is primarily military-focused, although preparations are being made for long-term sustainability of the group, including the organization of a humanitarian support group and the procurement of heavy weaponry.
JN has overestimated the level of its popular support in Syria. They see themselves as representatives of Syria's Sunni population, which is a dangerous falsehood. Even among the rebels, only a minority shares their ideology and goals, with many others calling for a democratic system of government rather than an Islamist state.
Patience, Not Panic, on Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)
- There is a view that only tough love from Washington and European capitals - in the form of a dictated peace plan or other such ultimatum - can salvage any hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and ultimately secure Israel's own survival. But analysts who fret that the Israeli election will diminish prospects for peace have confused cause and effect.
- Heightened security worries sparked by Iran and the upheaval in the Arab world, compounded by fading hopes for peace with the Palestinians after four years of backsliding in the peace process, have fueled the electoral shifts that will be manifest in the Jan. 22 results.
- A Dahaf poll from December 2012 indicates that Israelis increasingly believe that concessions will not bring real peace. 83% did not believe that even a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- This pessimism about peace has undoubtedly fueled a view that "defensible borders," not a peace agreement, is the surest route to actually achieving peace. 61% of Israelis express that view, compared to 49% who did so in 2005.
- Right now, only 39% of Israelis believe that they can rely upon the U.S. to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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