Report: How Israel Spied on Russian Ships in Syria - Wilson Dizard (New York Post)
Israeli commandos sneaked onto an island near the Syrian port of Tartus to plant sophisticated camera equipment that looked exactly like the indigenous rocks, while avoiding detection by the Syrians, the American Navy and a British monitoring station.
Until their discovery by locals last month, the rocks had let the Israelis observe Russian vessels and others in the port.
Historic Damascus Synagogue Looted and Burned (JTA)
The 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in Damascus was looted and burned to the ground, according to reports on Sunday.
The synagogue is said to be built on the site where the prophet Elijah anointed his successor, Elisha, as a prophet. It had been damaged earlier this month by mortars reportedly fired by Syrian government forces.
Report: France Ready to Add Hizbullah to Terror List - Yoel Goldman (Times of Israel)
The French government is ready to add the armed wing of Hizbullah to the EU list of terrorist organizations, according to a report Friday in the London-based Arab daily al-Hayat.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reportedly informed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of Paris' decision on Wednesday.
The decision was made in light of Hizbullah's apparent responsibility for a terrorist attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last summer, as well as because of the support Hizbullah provides to Syrian President Assad.
Report: Iran's Qods Force Monitored Bulgarian Synagogue - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
According to a 2013 Washington Institute for Near East Policy report titled Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran's Shadow War with the West, by Matthew Levitt, "within days after the explosion in Burgas, Bulgarian authorities reportedly caught an Iranian Qods Force operative engaged in surveillance of a synagogue in Sofia, the country's capital, Israeli intelligence officials disclosed.
Is Norway Funding the Murderers of Israelis? - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Post)
Norway's three largest opposition parties have asked for an investigation into Norwegian financing of the Palestinian Authority, seeking to clarify the funding of Palestinian salaries paid to convicted terrorists.
Norway contributes about $50 million annually to the PA.
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- Israel Taps an Offshore Natural Gas Field - Isabel Kershner
Israel moved closer to energy independence on Sunday as natural gas from the Tamar reservoir in the Mediterranean Sea, 56 miles west of Haifa, began flowing to a terminal in the Israeli port of Ashdod. The Tamar field will supply 50 to 80% of Israel's natural gas needs over the next 10 years.
(New York Times)
See also Israel's Navy Gears Up to Protect Gas Fields - Ari Rabinovitch
Israel's new offshore gas platforms offer its enemies an obvious target. Israel Navy Captain Ilan Lavi, head of the navy's planning department, said, "The gas fields are a strategic asset and Israel will defend them." "We have to build an entire new defensive envelope," he said, citing possible threats such as boat bombs, drones, submarine vessels, rockets and missiles.
- Iran Cools Nuclear Work as Vote Looms - Jay Solomon
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to keep Iran's nuclear program within limits demanded by Israel for now, according to senior U.S., European and Israeli officials, in a move they believe is designed to avert an international crisis before the Iranian elections in June. International negotiations aimed at containing Iran's nuclear program resume Friday in Kazakhstan in what will likely be the last round of diplomacy until after the elections. U.S. officials are doubtful of any major breakthrough in those talks.
Iranian nuclear officials have kept the country's stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity below 250 kilograms (550 pounds), the amount needed - if processed further into weapons-grade fuel - to produce one atomic bomb. This is also the amount Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN in September that the world should prevent Iran from amassing, through a military strike if necessary.
"Based on the latest IAEA report, Iran appears to be limiting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium by converting a significant portion of it to oxide," said a senior U.S. official. "But that could change at any moment." U.S. and Israeli officials believe Iran's moves represent a delay, rather than a change of heart, and that other actions are accelerating the pace at which the country could create weapons-grade fuel.
(Wall Street Journal)
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- IDF: Israel's Enemies Have Put the Entire Civilian Population on the Frontline - Amos Harel
Since 4,200 rockets rained down on Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, all are now well aware that every military campaign will be accompanied by massive rocket and missile fire into Israel's populated areas. Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, the IDF's Home Front Commander, said in an interview:
"Our enemies have...adopted an attrition approach....They are arming themselves with rockets and missiles whose only purpose is to strike at the Israeli civilian rear."
"Before 2006, Hizbullah was capable of launching 500 warheads at Metropolitan Tel Aviv. The reason that didn't happen is that the Iranian-made Fajr rockets were destroyed by the air force on the first night of the war, and the longer-range Zelzal rockets were destroyed in the days that followed. At present, Hizbullah has the capacity to launch about 10 times that number, with the warheads both heavier and more accurate....I am preparing for a scenario in which more than a thousand missiles and rockets a day are fired at the civilian rear."
"That kind of war will not be worthwhile for the other side," he says. "Israel is capable of inflicting serious damage on its enemies on a scale of hundreds of percent more than they are capable of inflicting on us....The adversary will have to choose if he wants to see heaps of rubble when he comes out of the bunker at the end of the war."
- Egypt Becoming a Nightmare for Muslim Brothers - Zvi Mazel
Having survived 80 years of persecution to achieve power democratically, the Muslim Brotherhood suddenly finds itself the focus of widespread popular hatred. Never have Egyptians been in such dire economic straits and civil disobedience is rampant. Demonstrations calling for getting rid of Morsi and of the Brotherhood are held on a daily basis in Cairo and in cities all over the country.
Elections held in student unions throughout the country saw Brotherhood candidates defeated by independent candidates. Elections to the key Journalists Syndicate saw the victory of Diaa Rashwan, head of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and a bitter opponent of the Brotherhood. In other words the Brotherhood is losing both the youth and the elites. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Egypt.
See also Short of Money, Egypt Sees Crisis on Fuel and Food - David D. Kirkpatrick
Egypt is running out of the hard currency it needs for fuel imports. The shortage is raising questions about Egypt's ability to keep importing wheat.
Farmers already lack fuel for the pumps that irrigate their fields, and they say they fear they will not have enough for the tractors to reap their wheat next month before it rots in the fields.
(New York Times)
See also Price of Subsidized Cooking Gas in Egypt Jumps 60 Percent - Bassem Abo Alabass (Ahram-Egypt)
- Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Filling Pro-Western Military's Ranks with Islamists - Bill Gertz
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated government recently allowed members of the Brotherhood and hardline jihadists to join Egypt's military academy for the first time. According to U.S. officials, intelligence reports say the government of President Morsi is covertly taking steps to take control over the pro-Western military and the police forces.
The head of the military academy, Ismat Murad, said the new batch of Islamist students included Morsi's nephew, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. The Brotherhood is also planning to restructure the Egyptian Interior Ministry and place Brotherhood members in key ministry positions. (Washington Times)
- Islamist "Cleansing" of Christians in Mideast - Ralph Peters
Islamist terrorists and fanatics are methodically exterminating the 2,000-year-old Christian civilization of the Middle East through oppression, threats, appropriations and deadly violence. Christianity's greatest thinkers, greatest monuments and greatest triumphs for its first 1,000 years rose in the Middle East. But today, the end is in sight.
In Iraq, the country's Christian population, estimated at up to 2 million a decade ago, has fallen by half - perhaps by three-quarters.
Over 2 million Christians in Syria dread Islamist terror and religious cleansing.
Two-thirds of the West Bank's and more of Gaza's Christians have been driven out. They're now a small minority even in Bethlehem. Christians in Iran? Gone. Turkey? Almost gone. Saudi Arabia? Once-thriving Christian and Jewish populations were finished off centuries ago.
Egypt has the region's largest remaining Christian population, at least 10 million Copts. With rare exceptions, they've long been confined to squalid quarters and treated as third-class citizens. Now the Salafist fanatics have been unleashed.
(New York Post)
The Best Red Line for a Nuclear Iran - Ray Takeyh (Washington Post)
Iran's path to the bomb is contingent on its ability to produce vast quantities of low-enriched uranium while introducing a new generation of high-velocity centrifuges. Both are being produced at an unimpeded pace at the Natanz enrichment plant.
- The lax nature of the Non-Proliferation Treaty's basic inspection regime makes it an unreliable guide to detecting persistent diversion of small quantities of fuel from an industrial-size installation. Meanwhile, Iran's mastery of advanced centrifuges will give it the ability to build secret installations that can quickly enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality.
- Iran's problem all along has been that its illicit nuclear activities were detected before it could assemble such a surge capacity. To mitigate this danger, Iranian diplomats insist that the West recognize its right to enrich, in order to give Iran's nuclear apparatus legal cover. It is more justifiable for the U.S. or Israel to bomb illegal Iranian installations than those legitimized by all the permanent members of the Security Council.
- The best means of disarming Iran is to insist on a simple and basic red line: Iran must adhere to all the Security Council resolutions pertaining to its nuclear infractions.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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