Syria Sending Militia Fighters to Iran for Training (Reuters)
The Syrian government is sending members of its irregular militias for guerrilla combat training at a secret base in Iran.
"It was an urban warfare course that lasted 15 days. The trainers said it's the same course Hizbullah operatives normally do," said Samer, a Christian member of a pro-Assad militia.
"The Iranians kept telling us that this war is not against Sunnis but for the sake of Syria. But the Alawites on the course kept saying they want to kill the Sunnis and rape their women in revenge," said Samer.
Israel's intelligence chief and a Western diplomat have said Iran is helping to train at least 50,000 militiamen and aims to increase the force to 100,000.
Lebanese Is "Most Dangerous" Suspect in Iranian Spy Cell in Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained new information about the Iranian espionage cell detained while operating clandestinely on Saudi soil.
The Saudi Interior Ministry initially announced that 18 men - one Iranian, one Lebanese, and 16 Saudis - had been arrested while working for a "foreign" intelligence agency.
On March 26 the Saudi Ministry of the Interior announced that the detainees had direct connections with Iran, in the first official accusation of Tehran's involvement.
These developments are part of a series of escalating Iranian espionage activities throughout the Gulf states. Last week in Bahrain, an appeals court upheld a ten-year prison sentence given to a man accused of spying for Iran.
The UAE has likewise convicted one of its citizens of spying for Iran.
Air France Fined for Removing Pro-Palestinian Activist from Flight to Israel (JTA)
A French court on Thursday ordered Air France to pay a $12,800 fine for ordering pro-Palestinian activist Horia Ankour off a flight to Tel Aviv, the L'independant reported.
Ankour, 30, had attempted to fly to Israel from France last April to take part in the Flytilla campaign.
Europe's main airlines canceled some 300 tickets at Israel's request.
An Air France spokesperson said the company was acting in compliance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation which requires airlines to refuse to fly passengers who are "declared inadmissible in the country of destination."
India to Set Up Insurance Fund for Refiners of Iranian Crude - Siddhartha Singh (Bloomberg)
India will set up an insurance fund worth $364 million to cover refiners buying Iranian crude, a move that may help them continue purchasing from Iran.
The fund, to be managed by India's General Insurance Co., will start after the refiners contribute money to it, Indian Banking Secretary Rajiv Takru said in New Delhi Thursday.
Israel's Concept of Security - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
A new book by Prof. (and reserve major general) Itzhak Ben-Israel on Israel's concept of security reminds us that the principles David Ben-Gurion set in the 1950s have not changed, despite changing circumstances.
"When the General Staff meets to discuss a military operation, 80% of the discussion revolves around deterrence," he said.
Israel cannot really overcome its enemies in the long run, he added. Even the great victory of the Six-Day War provided only six months of quiet until the War of Attrition began on the Egyptian front.
"In Israel's conception of security, wars are actually rounds of violence in one long war," he said.
Victory under such circumstances is "to see to it that from one round to the next the enemy's desire to return to the conflict is reduced."
Kidnappers Target Christians in Egypt - Hamza Hendawi (AP)
Ezzat Kromer, a Christian gynecologist in Matai, Egypt, was kidnapped by masked gunmen and held for ransom. His case was part of a dramatic rise of kidnappings targeting Christians, including children, in Egypt's southern province of Minya, home to the country's largest concentration of Christians.
Kromer, a father of three, was snatched on Jan. 29 as he drove home. By the next day, his family paid nearly $40,000 to a middleman and he was released.
Church leaders and rights activists blame the atmosphere created by the rising power of hard-line Islamists.
Over the past two years, there have been more than 150 reported kidnappings in the province - all of them targeting Christians, with 37 in the last several months, according to a top official at the Interior Ministry.
Ireland to Build One of Europe's Largest Mosques - Soeren Kern (Gatestone Institute)
City planners in the Irish capital, Dublin, have given the go-ahead for the construction of a massive $50 million mega-mosque complex that will cater to Ireland's burgeoning Muslim population.
Some 30,000 of the 50,000 Muslims in Ireland live in Dublin. In 1991, the number of Muslims in the country was 3,875.
Israeli Marksman Wins Silver Medal at World Tournament - Aaron Kalman (Times of Israel)
Israeli sharpshooter Sergy Rikhter, 23, on Thursday won the silver medal at the first meeting of the 2013 world cup tournament held in South Korea.
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- Iran, Six Powers Meet for Nuclear Talks with Window Shrinking on Diplomacy
Six world powers met with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Friday seeking to curb Tehran's nuclear progress. Another round is scheduled for Saturday.
See also U.S.: "Iran Won't Be Able to Negotiate Seriously until after June Election" (U.S. Department of State)
- Israel: UN Observers Failing Mandate to Track Hizbullah Arms - Dan Williams
UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon have failed to report on Hizbullah armaments as required, Yaakov Amidror, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's national security adviser, said Thursday, arguing that Israel could not rely on foreign intervention for its security. "Has Hizbullah avoided bringing any kind of rocket, missile or other arms into southern Lebanon because UNIFIL is there?" he asked.
"Under their (UNIFIL) mandate, they cannot stop Hizbullah and confiscate its arms, but they can write a report. There has been no UNIFIL report about any weapon of any Hizbullah person since UNIFIL has existed," Amidror said. Israel believes Hizbullah has amassed 60,000 rockets, including 5,000 with heavy warheads capable of hitting Tel Aviv. (Reuters)
- UN Aid Agency Suspends Gaza Distribution after Riot at HQ
The main UN humanitarian agency for Palestinians said on Thursday it was suspending operations in Gaza after demonstrators angered by aid cutbacks stormed its headquarters. Some two-thirds of Gaza's Palestinian population depend on the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Citing budget shortfalls, UNRWA suspended some of its cash handouts, though food distribution in Gaza "will continue unchanged," said Robert Turner, head of the agency's Gaza operations.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Negotiations Have Bought the Iranians More Time - Herb Keinon
North Korea's warning that its military has been cleared to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. should be on everyone's mind as the Western powers sit down again with Iran on Friday in Kazakhstan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. "Today it is more clear than ever before that we simply cannot allow a situation in which a regime that calls for our annihilation obtains the weapons of annihilation....This must be prevented at all costs."
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said, "The extreme regime in North Korea obtained nuclear weapons a short time ago and already a significant nuclear threat is hovering over the citizens of South Korea, Japan and even the western United States. This demonstrates to all of us what are the likely ramifications for Israel, the Middle East and Europe of nuclear weapons in the hands of the extreme regime in Iran."
Israeli officials have low expectations of progress from the Kazakhstan talks. One government official said, "The Iranians have a deliberate strategy of trying to run out the clock." (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel Calls on UN to Condemn Gaza Rockets - Yaakov Lappin
Israeli UN envoy Ron Prosor called on the UN Security Council to condemn the recent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel on Thursday.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prosor wrote, "While children were on their way back to school from the Passover vacation, two rockets landed near Sderot. Instead of rushing to classrooms, these children and their families were forced to rush to bomb shelters." "The time has come for the Security Council to begin to worry for the safety of Israeli citizens as well." (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran's Incitement to Genocide - Michael Gerson
Over the years, Americans have come to discount statements on Israel and Zionism by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Repetition has rendered them unremarkable. Israel must be "wiped off the map." Zionism is a "germ of corruption" that "will be wiped off the face of the earth." The Zionist regime is "heading toward annihilation." "They should know that they are nearing the last days of their lives." "Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear."
After Iran's June election, Ahmadinejad will be out of a job, but the problem is that Ahmadinejad's language is not exceptional within the Iranian regime. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has explained, "The perpetual subject of Iran is the elimination of Israel from the region." "There is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state." This is not merely hate speech. It has the hallmarks of incitement to genocide: the dehumanization of a targeted group and the use of code words to cover genocidal intent.
"How many other states do we know," asks Michael Abramowitz, director of the Center for Genocide Prevention at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, "that talk about other human beings in the way the Iranian leadership speaks of Israelis and Jews? They are conditioning generations of young people in their own country and the broader Middle East to think of Jews as subhuman, which makes acts of terror by groups like Hamas and Hizbullah seem more thinkable." (Washington Post)
See also The Iranian Leadership's
Continuing Declarations of Intent
to Destroy Israel,
2009-2012 - Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum and
Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Kerry's Shuttle Diplomacy - Jonathan S. Tobin
Palestinians fired rockets again into Israel from Gaza this week, showing that the cease-fire Hamas agreed to after Israel's November counter-offensive to stop such outrages may be collapsing. This shows that despite Washington's focus on propping up Abbas as a credible partner for peace, the independent Palestinian state in Gaza still has the ability to veto any hopes for an end to the conflict. The armed terrorist camp in Gaza not only maintains the level of violence on a low if persistent flame, but also keeps the pressure on Abbas to find more excuses to not talk to Israel. The reality of Palestinian politics has an unfortunate way of outstripping American diplomatic initiatives.
The issue of the prisoners is often represented in the international press as one of concern for the fate of Palestinian protesters who have been unjustly jailed by Israelis in order to suppress dissent. But the prisoner who just died is a perfect illustration of just how misleading that assumption can be. The late prisoner was incarcerated for his role in sending a suicide bomber to blow up an Israeli cafe.
The real obstacle to peace isn't Israeli settlements or building in Jerusalem. It is the hate for Jews and Israel that is fueling the rocket fire from Gaza. Instead of trying to mollify Abbas' bogus concerns about prisoners, Secretary of State Kerry, who is returning to the region to push for a renewal of peace talks, would do more to advance the cause of peace were he to address the ongoing fomenting of hatred by the official PA media.
PA propaganda isn't just outrageous; it directly contradicts President Obama's endorsement of the right of Jews to live in peace in their historic homeland. Until that changes, Kerry's shuttle diplomacy will be just a waste of time.
- Is the Iron Dome Effective? - Uzi Rubin
Dr. Theodore Postol, a professor at MIT, has claimed that Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system succeeded in intercepting no more than 10% of the rockets launched by Palestinians in Gaza into Israeli population centers during November's Pillar of Defense operation.
The Israel Air Force, the Defense Ministry and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems have studied each and every interception completely, and the results are conclusive: The Iron Dome's success rate is 80%.
Postol accuses the IDF of concealing the facts by not revealing the location of rockets that fell on Israeli soil that were not intercepted by the Iron Dome, arguing that disclosure of these locations would not pose a security risk. Publicizing the exact location of these hits would help the enemy improve its aim and thereby endanger the lives and property of Israeli citizens.
Postol also claims that the high number of property damage claims proves that the Iron Dome's success rate must be lower than reported, but he did not compare this number with data from previous attacks. In the Second Lebanon War in 2006, 4,000 rockets were launched into unprotected areas in Israel, a quarter of which hit in populated areas. More than 30,000 property damage claims were submitted.
Proportionately, the number of property claims after Pillar of Defense, in which a third of the rockets would have hit populated areas, should have reached 14,400. In actuality, only 3,165 claims were submitted. This is one-fifth of the number that would be expected if the Iron Dome were not operational - further evidence that the system has a high interception rate.
Postol's claim that Israel has not provided the U.S. with accurate data on Iron Dome's performance is ridiculous. Anyone who has had any contact with the U.S. government knows it would never agree to allocate such a large amount of funding to manufacture Iron Dome systems without carefully checking their performance. The writer served as the first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Defense Ministry.
- Obama's Middle East Challenges - James Phillips
Brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement for recent American presidents has been the holy grail of foreign policy. Unfortunately for President Obama, a comprehensive accord is just not in the cards for his second term.
The inconvenient truth is that peace is impossible as long as Hamas retains its stranglehold over Gaza. Hamas is implacably committed to Israel's destruction and well-positioned to torpedo a peace agreement.
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly wants to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But events in the region will likely force him and his boss to focus elsewhere - on Syria and Iran.
Sanctions and diplomatic pressure may not be enough to dissuade Iran from continuing on its present course. Sanctions alone certainly failed to halt North Korea's nuclear program. The U.S. must present a credible threat that it will use military force if Tehran continues its diplomatic stalling tactics. It was no coincidence that Iran froze its nuclear program in 2003 after seeing the Bush administration take military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Iran must be convinced to reverse course once again. It should be required to give up its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, close its Fordow uranium enrichment facility, and accept enhanced international inspections of other nuclear installations.
The writer is the senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation.
- When Will the Press Stop Referring to Jews as "Illegal"? - Adam Levick
The Associated Press will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant" to describe those who migrate to a country in violation of their immigration laws, AP's executive vice president announced Tuesday. Its style guide will no longer permit the use of "illegal" to describe a person - only an action.
We wonder whether serious news organizations will similarly drop the loaded and value-laden term "illegal settler" to characterize Jews who, consistent with the parameters of the Mandate for Palestine, live beyond the 1949 armistice lines. A Google search using the words "illegal Israeli settlers" turns up 727,000 hits, and included references to many mainstream publications. The writer is managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
- Holocaust Survivors to Light Memorial Torches Sunday - Sam Sokol
Six Holocaust survivors are slated to light torches memorializing the 6,000,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis, at the opening Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem Sunday night.
Peretz Hochman fought in the Polish underground against the Nazis during World War II. He made aliya in 1946 and was wounded during the War of Independence. Hochman died on Sunday and his widow, Sima, will represent him.
Baruch Kopold was forced by the Nazis to cover up the mass graves containing most of the Jews of Iwje, Belarus.
After escaping, he made his way to the forest and eventually joined Tuvia Bielski's Jewish brigade.
Otto Dov Pressburger, from Czechoslovakia, was one of the first Jews to be interned in Auschwitz, and witnessed the first experiments in gassing Jews to death in that camp. He was later forced to build the crematorium in Birkenau.
Miriam Liptcher, the only survivor of her family, was rendered barren by experiments conducted by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Her efforts in smuggling food and clothing to fellow inmates in Auschwitz saved many lives.
Dina Ostrover posed as a Ukrainian, using a forged birth certificate. She hid a Jewish couple in the attic of the inn where she was working. She made her way to Israel in 1949, following eight months of detention by the British in Cyprus.
Eliezer Eizenschmidt was a member of the Sonderkommandos tasked by the SS with removing bodies from the gas chambers. He was involved in the planning of a failed revolt against the camp guards. Although he revealed nothing under interrogation, his hair turned white overnight.
- Saved from the Nazis in the Caves of Ukraine - Jordan Hoffman
"No Place on Earth" is a documentary-narrative hybrid about the Sterner and Wexler families who hid from the Nazis in Ukrainian caves for over 17 months.
The story was uncovered by accident. In 1993 Chris Nicola, a non-Jewish cave enthusiast living in New York City, traveled to the newly accessible Ukraine to explore gypsum caves and stumbled upon cups, rags and abandoned toys that convinced him that people had been living down there. He began asking questions. (Times of Israel)
- Turkey Owes Israel an Apology over the Struma - Moti Zimrat
As we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is appropriate to recall a shameful episode involving the Turks that occurred during World War II. On Dec. 16, 1941, the Struma left Romania and headed toward the Land of Israel through the Dardanelles. On board were 103 children, 272 women and 393 men, all Jews fleeing Antonescu's fascist regime in Romania.
Near the coast of Turkey, the engine broke down, and the Turkish authorities towed the Struma to a quarantined section of the port, where the passengers were forced to stay on board.
On Feb. 23, 1942, the Turkish government ordered the boat leave the Turkish port.
When that didn't happen, the boat was tied to a Turkish tug boat and towed out of Turkish territorial waters into the Black Sea, 8 kilometers from the coast. The boat was left there with no food or water, a broken engine, and hundreds of people crowded aboard.
The next morning, a tremendous explosion was heard. Perhaps the boat hit a mine, or was mistakenly hit by a Russian submarine torpedo. The boat immediately sank. Only refugee David Stoliar survived. Not one place in Turkey could be found to temporarily shelter these refugees of fascism. The Turks sent them to their deaths instead.
The Geopolitics of Israel's Offshore Gas Reserves - David Wurmser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The flow of natural gas from Israel's Tamar field in the Mediterranean was inaugurated on March 30, 2013, ushering in a new era in Israel's energy sector. The Tamar field alone represents two decades of consumption, with an estimated 9.7 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas. Israel will not only become independent in being able to supply its own energy needs, but it is likely to become an energy exporter in the future.
- Tamar was only the beginning. The monstrous gas field appropriately called Leviathan is now estimated to contain 18 TCF and could begin supplying gas in 2016. The amount of gas discovered offshore now dwarfs any feasible, projected Israeli demand for at least half a century.
- The Israeli gas discoveries are only part of new gas fields in what is called the Levant Basin, which includes the maritime areas of Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, and even parts of Syria's waters. The Levant Basin could hold 125 TCF of natural gas - about one-third of Russia's gas reserves.
- The most likely short-term destination for Israel's natural gas is Jordan. Connecting Israel's emerging gas grid to Jordan is a relatively inexpensive and simple endeavor.
- Given its geographic proximity, Europe would seem to be the natural export market for Israeli gas. Yet Asia may emerge as Israel's preferred export destination. The Australian firm, Woodside, which acquired about a third of the rights to the Leviathan field, is oriented toward marketing gas in Asia, and envisions building a liquefaction plant to service that trade.
- Israeli officials view a cross-Israel natural gas pipeline connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas as an alternative to the Suez Canal. But an export structure operating directly from Eilat to markets in Asia would face a rising strategic problem: Iran's increasing naval presence in the Red Sea. This will require Israel to establish and expand a Red Sea fleet as well as a significant expansion in the size and capability of its Mediterranean fleet.
The writer served as a consultant to Noble Energy. Earlier, he served as senior advisor on Proliferation and the Middle East to former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, as senior advisor to John R. Bolton at the State Department, and as a research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute.
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