Syria Withdraws Large Numbers of Troops from Golan Heights - Martin Chulov and Harriet Sherwood (Guardian-UK)
The Syrian government has withdrawn several thousand soldiers from the Golan Heights in recent weeks to battle fronts closer to Damascus, Western diplomats said.
"They have moved some of their best battalions away from the Golan," said a Western diplomatic source.
Separate media reports in Israel suggest the Syrian redeployments could amount to as many as two divisions - up to 20,000 soldiers.
Rebel groups have moved into the vacuum, and Israel fears that jihadists will use the area as a staging ground for attacks on territory it controls.
Syrian Human Rights Group: 8,785 Regime Troops Killed (AP-Washington Post)
The Syria-based Violations Documentation Center, a human rights group, said Monday that 8,785 Syrian troops have been killed in two years of fighting.
More than 70,000 people have died since Syria's crisis erupted in March 2011.
Crowd Attacks Residence of Iranian Diplomat in Egypt (Press TV-Iran)
A crowd of protesters attacked the residence of Iran's charge d'affaires to Egypt Mojtaba Amani in a suburb of Cairo on Friday, in protest at the warming relations between the two countries.
The crowd tried to scale the walls and break into the building, but was blocked by the police.
Amani said the crowd was mostly comprised of Salafis as well as supporters of the militants fighting in Syria.
Egyptian Army Continues Crackdown on Gaza Tunnels - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
The Egyptian army continues to demolish the tunnels that link Gaza and Sinai. After destroying some 250 last month, the army flooded another 76 tunnels with sewage, after locating them by means of satellite information, probably in cooperation with the U.S.
Dozens of trucks that arrived at the tunnels had to return to El-Arish, resulting in a wave of price rises in Gaza and economic damage to the Hamas government, which collects fees for the transfer of goods through the tunnels.
Hamas Accuses Western Spies of Gaza Operations (AFP)
Hamas accused Western and Arab spy agencies on Saturday of operating in Gaza and said it had a list of alleged collaborators.
"Gaza is swarming with Western intelligence agencies, such as the American, British, French and German services," said Mohammed Lafi, an internal security chief, quoted on the Hamas interior ministry website. He also pointed a finger at unnamed Arab intelligence services.
Hamas, branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU, on March 12 set a one-month ultimatum for alleged Palestinian "collaborators" with Israel to surrender in return for leniency.
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- Iran Nuclear Talks Fail with No Resumption Date Given - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Jonathan Tirone
Iran and world powers failed to reach an accord on Iran's nuclear program in talks that ended Saturday in Kazakhstan. "We've talked in greater detail than ever before," with a "real back and forward between us," though the two sides "remain far apart in substance," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. While Western officials said it is for Iran to make the first concessions, Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili said the other countries "weren't ready" to accept Iran's proposal. A U.S. official said Iran is only offering minimal steps and expecting too much in return. (Bloomberg)
See also Israel: Iran Must Be Given Deadline of Weeks to Halt Enrichment - Ori Lewis
"Sanctions are not enough and the talks are not enough. The time has come to place before the Iranians a military threat or a form of red line, an unequivocal red line by the entire world, by the United States and the West...in order to get results," Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said. "We warned beforehand that the way in which these talks are being conducted is a ploy to gain time, the Iranians are talking and laughing their way to a bomb while enriching uranium."
"What is currently happening in Korea serves to demonstrate to us all...how urgent it is to stop Iran's nuclear (activity)," Steinitz said.
"North Korea was somehow allowed by the international community to gain nuclear weapons and it is threatening to use (them) against South Korea, Japan and even the United States. Imagine what could happen within two or three years not only to Israel but to Europe, the United States and the whole world if the fanatical and extreme regime in Tehran attains nuclear weapons." (Reuters)
- Turkey Presses Israel for More to Restore Ties - Jay Solomon
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday that Israel needed to take further steps in order restore full diplomatic ties, including a complete lifting of economic restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza. American officials are worried the Turkish diplomat's position could lead Ankara to stall in mending ties and provide Prime Minister Erdogan with an issue to continue attacking Israel. Erdogan has said he plans to visit Gaza in May.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Hackers Fail in Cyber-Attack Targeting Israel - Ian Deitch
A weekend cyber-attack campaign targeting Israeli government websites failed to cause serious disruption, Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, of the government's National Cyber Bureau, said Sunday. "So far it is as was expected, there is hardly any real damage," he said. "Anonymous doesn't have the skills to damage the country's vital infrastructure....It wants to create noise in the media."
Shlomi Dolev, an expert on network security at Ben-Gurion University, said Israel is well prepared to deal with the attacks. "It is good training for our experts." (AP)
See also Israeli Cyber Activists Attack Anti-Israel Hackers - Yaakov Lappin
Israeli hackers responded to a campaign to launch cyber-attacks on the country's websites and Facebook accounts by breaking into the server hosting a major anti-Israeli hacking nerve center OpIsrael.com, which was run by the Anonghost hacking group.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Stops to Mark Holocaust Remembrance Day - Gavriel Fiske and Aaron Kalman
Israel stood still for two minutes on Monday morning in memory of the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.
Traffic, schools and workplaces came to a halt as the official siren sounded nationwide at 10 a.m. At the Knesset, the names of relatives, friends and acquaintances of legislators and their families who were victims of the Holocaust were read out from the podium. (Times of Israel)
See also below Observations: Holocaust Remembrance Day
- Israel Does Not Foresee Breakthrough During Secretary of State Kerry's Visit - Attila Somfalvi
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for meetings in Israel and the PA on Sunday. However, Israeli officials are skeptical that his meetings will lead to any breakthrough in the Mideast peace process at this stage. The officials said that Israel will not meet the Palestinian demand for a map with clear borders before talks can resume. "We will agree to put borders on the table when we know what we are getting from the Palestinians," one official said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is convinced that security is of paramount importance in the negotiations in light of instability in the region.
Israel is slated to insist on strict security arrangements, a demilitarized Palestinian state, a waive of the right of return, Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people's right for their own state, and Israeli military control of the Jordan Valley. (Ynet News)
See also Israel Won't Hand Kerry List of Concessions - Aaron Kalman
Any gestures made by Israel before returning to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority would weaken its position, government officials said over the weekend, adding that Israel would not deliver to Secretary of State John Kerry a list of concessions, as requested by the PA, before talks resumed.
(Times of Israel)
- Hamas-Linked Terror Cell Behind Temple Mount Attacks - Ben Hartman and Yonah Jeremy Bob
The Israel Security Agency arrested five members of a Hamas-associated terror cell for a series of attacks on the Temple Mount after Friday prayers on March 8, including throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at security personnel.
All of the suspects are "identified" with Hamas, and most of them live in the Shuafat neighborhood in Jerusalem. The Palestinians threw several firebombs at security forces, setting policeman Binyamin Kortzki on fire, the indictment said.
- North Korea Events Complicate Nuclear Talks with Iran - David M. Herszenhorn and Rick Gladstone
"Iran has inevitably been drawing lessons from how the world is dealing with North Korea," said Valerie Lincy, executive director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. "I would imagine the lessons they're drawing are not the ones the Western powers would like: That you can weather sanctions, and renege on previous agreements, and ultimately if you stand fast, you'll get what you're looking for." (New York Times)
See also Analysts: North Korea Crisis Could Spur Action on Iran - Sim Sim Wissgott
With North Korea issuing apocalyptic threats of nuclear war, world powers "are now even more anxious not to have with Iran a situation like the one we have with North Korea," said Oliver Thraenert, head of the Centre for Security Studies at ETH Zurich.
Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said, "The P5+1 will be even more mindful of the need to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis before it gets to the stage of North Korea and possessing a nuclear weapon, which would make the situation in Iran ever so much more complicated and dangerous." "The North Korea situation will surely confirm the view in Israel that Iran cannot be allowed to produce nuclear weapons. And that whatever it takes should be undertaken to prevent that." (AFP)
- Op-Ed Stirs Row over Palestinian Rock-Throwing - Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg
In an op-ed piece in Ha'aretz on Wednesday, Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote that "throwing stones is the birthright and duty" of Palestinians. Her words elicited a flood of angry reactions in Israel on Thursday, including from the mother of a 3-year-old Israeli girl who was critically injured last month in a West Bank road accident triggered by stone-throwing. Another writer noted the case of a 1-year-old boy who, along with his father, was killed under similar circumstances in 2011.
Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator and longtime advocate of Palestinian statehood, joined the chorus of critics, a sign of a broad Israeli consensus on the issue: "Stone-throwing is not a 'birthright and duty'...but an act of violence that can lead to death, disability and injury." Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said stone-throwing cannot be considered a legitimate form of protest because "people are being killed, people are being injured." (AP)
Holocaust Remembrance Day - 2013
- Netanyahu: We Won't Put Our Fate in the Hands of Others - Sam Sokol
During the state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The murderous hatred against the Jews that has accompanied the history of our people has not gone away, it has simply been replaced by murderous hatred against the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and our ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves."
"At no stage will we surrender our fate in the hands of others, even the best of our friends." "The deepest meaning of the State of Israel" is that Israel prevents the Jewish people from "returning to a situation where it is too late. We will not stand helpless against our enemies again." (Jerusalem Post)
- Germany Tracks Down 50 Suspected Auschwitz Guards - Ofer Aderet
Germany plans to open investigations into 50 guards from the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, on suspicion of being accessories to murder.
Kurt Schrimm, head of the Central Office of the State Justice Administration for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, said investigators already have the names and addresses of suspects. They live in Germany and their average age is 90.
The investigation was made possible as a result of the recent legal precedent set by the trial of camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was convicted in 2011 in Germany of being an accessory to the murders of 28,000 Jews in the Sobibor extermination camp.
See also Auschwitz Escapees Warned World of Mass Murder - David B. Green
April 7, 1944, is the day on which Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler began their escape from Auschwitz, a process that resulted in a detailed report that provided the world with a first-hand account of the systemic mass murder taking place there. (Ha'aretz)
- Warsaw Ghetto Survivor in Israel Recalls Uprising - Aron Heller
Two days before the uprising that came to symbolize Jewish resistance against the Nazis in World War II, 14-year-old Aliza Mendel was ordered to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto.
"They told me I was too young to fight," said Aliza Vitis-Shomron, now 84. "They said, 'You have to leave and tell the world how we died fighting the Nazis. That is your job now.'"
She's been doing that ever since, publishing a memoir about life in the ghetto and lecturing about the revolt. While nearly all her friends perished, she survived and made it to Israel.
Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust of World War II, wiping out a third of world Jewry. Israel's annual Holocaust memorial day coincides with the Hebrew date of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Before the war, a third of the city's population was Jewish.
- Yad Vashem's Quest to Identify Holocaust Victims - Cynthia Wroclawski
One of central missions of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, has been to recover the identity of every victim of the Holocaust. The Shoah Victim's Names Recovery Project has so far identified 4.2 million Shoah victims. In the areas of the former Soviet Union, some 1.5 million Jews were simply shot to death where they lived. There were no lists or records.
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