Western Officials Fear Retaliation for Airstrikes in Syria Attributed to Israel - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
The weekend airstrikes near the Syrian capital reportedly carried out by Israel have heightened concerns about terrorist attacks on Israeli tourists or Jewish civilian targets by Hizbullah in the coming weeks, perhaps far outside the Middle East, U.S. officials and experts say.
"I expect more of the 'shadow war' we're already seeing - soft targets, tourists - and targeting senior current or former Israeli officials," said Matthew Levitt, a former counterterrorism adviser and analyst at the Treasury Department and the FBI. "It's already happening, and it will happen even more."
See also Hizbullah's Quandary over Retaliation for Syria Airstrikes - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
Assad Agents Settle Scores with FSA in Jordan Refugee Camps - Alex Rowell (NOW-Lebanon)
Built for 60,000 Syrian refugees, Jordan's Zaatari Camp now houses over 160,000, with hundreds of new arrivals every night.
Refugees said the Syrian regime has sent mukhabarrat [secret police] into the camp to keep tabs on Free Syrian Army (FSA) opponents, disrupt Jordanian efforts to maintain security, and foment disorder in general.
"The mukhabarrat have bases here in the camp," said Ahmad, a refugee from Daraa. "Mostly they just collect information, but sometimes they attack people. There was an FSA general living in the camp, for example, who they assassinated."
Ahmad said the Jordanians caught the perpetrators and handed them over to the FSA - who killed them.
Israel's Red Line in Syria - Dexter Filkins (New Yorker)
When it comes to Syria, Israel is fighting a different war than the one that the U.S. would likely involve itself in.
If the U.S. were to intervene, it would almost certainly do so to stop the Assad regime from massacring its own people or from using chemical weapons on a large scale.
Israel, in short, is trying to stop Hizbullah. Syria is the crucial bridge between Hizbullah and its patron, Iran.
The Iranian regime helped create Hizbullah in the early 1980s. Without Iranian weapons, money, and advisers, it's hard to imagine that Hizbullah could exist at all.
Jerusalem Day Features:
Video - Jerusalem: 4000 Years in 5 Minutes (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Video: Israel's Right to Build in Jerusalem - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center)
Test Yourself: How Much Do You Know about Jerusalem?
May 8 marks the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
Test your knowledge of Jerusalem's current events and history with a short, interactive quiz.
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- Netanyahu Affirms Israel Right to Self-Defense in China Trip - Calev Ben-David
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday visited the Ohel Moishe Synagogue in Shanghai, which once served 30,000 Jewish refugees, and thanked China for sheltering Jews during World War II. "Today we have a state of our own, an army of our own. We need not beg to be saved. We can defend ourselves," he said.
Netanyahu is in China until May 10 on a trip meant to open the Chinese market to Israeli companies and press for tougher action over Syria and on Iran's nuclear program. (Bloomberg)
- Iranian Terror Goes Global: Bold New Tactics for Tehran's Shadowy Quds Forces - Jacey Fortin
On Monday two suspects were convicted in Kenya of planning to set off explosions in several cities.
Kenyan officials say they are members of the Quds Force, a covert arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC).
The shadowy group has changed its tactics over the past two years, morphing from a sophisticated intelligence agency that empowered other groups to do its bidding to a rather haphazard perpetrator of violent attacks in its own right. Several of its recent attempts have been at least partly foiled around the world, from Kenya to India to Thailand. (International Business Times)
- Hizbullah Takes Risks by Fighting Rebels in Syria - Anne Barnard
Recruited and trained to battle Israel, Hizbullah's Lebanese Shiite guerrillas are pushing more and more deeply into a very different fight in neighboring Syria, against fellow Arab Muslims trying to topple President Assad.
On Tuesday, Syrian opposition activists reported that rebels had killed 15 Hizbullah fighters in Qusair.
Hizbullah is struggling to preserve credibility at home as it fights to preserve Assad's rule in Syria, and the crucial arms pipeline he provides. Hizbullah has already paid a political price for its Syria stance. Supporting Assad's brutal crackdown has already destroyed its reputation in the wider Arab world as a champion of the underdog. Now it is stoking anger at home, where rivals say that Hizbullah has betrayed promises to use its arms only to defend Lebanon. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Top PA Official: Israel "Is Our Main Enemy, Resistance Is Still Our Agenda" - Elhanan Miller
Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary general of Fatah's Central Committee and former head of Arafat's Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, told Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen on May 1 that "resistance in all of its forms" remains Fatah's strategy against Israel, and defined the Jewish state as "the main enemy" of Arabs and Muslims. "At this stage, we believe that popular resistance - with all that it entails - is effective and costly to the other side [Israel]."
He criticized Arab inaction on behalf of the Palestinian cause and called on Arabs to take part in "the liberation of Jerusalem." (Times of Israel)
- Locusts Descend on Southern Israel - Ilana Curiel
Millions of locusts were spotted on Monday in various locations across southern Israel. Locusts first arrived in Israel in the beginning of March, when hundreds of thousands of acres were sprayed. With the new outbreak, there could be severe implications for the Israeli vegetable market. The Agriculture Ministry said that such an event has not been documented since 1915.
- Israel's Real Target Is Not Syria But Hizbullah - Michael Herzog
Israel has no interest in getting drawn into the Syrian quagmire. Its target is strategic weapons destined for Hizbullah in Lebanon.
On the one hand, Israel appreciates the potential benefits of President Assad's departure, which would be a blow to Iran and Hizbullah. On the other, the Syrian mess is empowering Islamists and jihadists, who may later threaten Israel directly, ending nearly 40 years of quiet on the Israeli-Syrian border.
Israel believes that while other countries might intervene to prevent proliferation of chemical weapons, in stopping the transfer of conventional weapons, it is on its own. It expects only tacit political support for its actions from the U.S. and Europe, which so far it has received.
After Iran itself, its client Hizbullah is Israel's most dangerous foe. It fired thousands of rockets at Israel during the 2006 Second Lebanon War and it has been targeting Israelis in a global terror campaign. Israelis see a high chance of another round with Hizbullah in the future. While the war in Syria has given Hizbullah the opportunity to upgrade its arsenal, it has also given Israel the opportunity to deal with the challenge.
IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog has held senior positions in the office of Israel's minister of defense.
- China Can Posture, But It Can't Bring Peace to the Middle East - Karl Vick
In talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Chinese President Xi Jinping brought up a four-point plan to bring the century-old Israel-Arab conflict to an end.
"The Chinese are trying to be Europeans," says Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. "They want to be global actors, and the way to be global actors is to claim that you have something to offer. They have good trade relations with Israel, but there's a huge gap in terms of understanding the perceptions of the region."
The reality, Steinberg says, is that no country except the U.S. is trusted enough by both sides to serve as broker to peace talks.
The Chinese proposal "is not really a plan, just a collection of slogans trying to satisfy everybody," says Yitzhak Shichor, a specialist in Asian studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"I don't think China has the tools, it doesn't have the connections, it doesn't have the legacy of long-term involvement in the Middle East. I think it's going to take time for China really to offer something that will be acceptable to all sides." (TIME)
See also Why China Is Welcoming Both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas - Peter Ford (Christian Science Monitor)
- The Debate over Syria - Dexter Filkins
On April 25, Syrian medical technician Majid Daraya was sitting at home in the city of Daraya, near Damascus, when he heard an explosion. On the southern horizon he saw a blue haze. Seconds later came another blast and another blue haze. Within a few minutes, his eyes began to burn, and he felt sick to his stomach. He walked to the local hospital where he worked as an anesthesia specialist. When he arrived, dozens of people were streaming in, choking, vomiting, crying, saliva bubbling out of their mouths. The victims were suffering from chemical poisoning, but none died. On the way home, Majid saw birds, goats, chickens, and stray dogs writhing on the ground. Others were dead.
Joseph Holliday, a former Army intelligence officer who has studied the conflict for the Institute for the Study of War, in Washington, said, "Assad has been extremely calculating with the use of force, increasing the levels of violence gradually, so as not to set off alarm bells....First it was artillery. Then it was bombing. Then it was Scuds. A year ago, he wasn't killing a hundred people a day. He's introducing chemical weapons gradually, so we get used to them." "Assad appears to be testing the tactical value of his chemical arsenal," said Gary Samore, who until February was President Obama's chief adviser on weapons of mass destruction. "He's testing the political limits, too."
Joshua Landis, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma, doubts that the Alawites will be able to build a state on the Mediterranean coast where they predominate, after Damascus falls to a newly empowered Sunni majority. "Once the Sunnis take power, they are going to want the coast, and right now the Alawites have it. The elegant solution, for them, is ethnic cleansing....The Sunnis will pick one little town, maybe two, and kill everyone. The rest of the Alawites will not stick around and wait to see what happens. They will all go to Lebanon." (New Yorker)
Israel Celebrates Jerusalem Reunification Day - May 8
- Jerusalem: The Jewish Nation's DNA - Nadav Shragai
When celebrating Jerusalem Day, let's talk about the nature of our connection to the city, from the time of King David, through the First and Second Temples, to modern independence in 1948, through the Six-Day War, and up to today. We need to talk about our birthright to this city of ours.
Our connection to it is rooted in our religious faith, in our history, and in two thousand years of recollection and longing. The Jewish presence in Jerusalem never ended. As former Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, "More than Israel watches over Jerusalem, Jerusalem watches over Israel."
Jerusalem is the DNA that runs through the veins of Jewish people all over the world. Jerusalem was a magnet to us, a compass, a glue, the weave forming the Jewish people's most characteristic memory. Without Jerusalem our nation would never have been resurrected here in Israel.
Islam, which now claims Jerusalem and its holy places, entered the scene some 2,000 years after Israel became a nation. The Palestinians - who are claiming eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Temple Mount, as their capital - only began to define themselves as a nation within the last century. Jews have lived in Israel for the past 3,300 years. Throughout this time, Jerusalem has always been the Hebrew capital. (Israel Hayom)
- Jerusalem Mayor Sees One Jerusalem, Undivided, Open to All, Controlled by Israel - David Horovitz
In an interview, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said:
"When Jews came to the Land of Israel, each tribe had a piece of the territory, except Jerusalem. It was not divided among the tribes. For a thousand years, it was managed as a city that all people came to, and they felt, 'Wow, the city belongs to me as much as it belongs to the other tribes.' And Jews and non-Jews alike that used to come to Jerusalem felt respect...for people different from them."
"Not one city in the world that was ever divided stayed functional....The vast majority of the Arab residents in Jerusalem do not want the city divided." (Times of Israel)
- Jerusalem: Steeped in History, Politics and Religion - Rick Steves
Before Columbus, many maps showed Jerusalem as the center of the world.
While the Muslims have worshipped there since around the mid-600s, the first Jewish temple was built in Jerusalem in 925 BCE. And when debating who most belongs in Jerusalem, many are quick to note that Jerusalem is mentioned 676 times in the Bible but not once in the Koran.
Since 1967, the city has been united with all religions having access to their various sacred places.
- Jerusalem's Population - Gavriel Fiske
Jerusalem Day is a holiday commemorating the reunification of the city during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Jerusalem's population at the end of 2011 was 804,400, including 499,400 Jews, 281,100 Muslims, and 14,700 Christians,
according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.
In 2011 the average Jewish woman in the capital had 4.24 children. The average Muslim woman in Jerusalem had 3.71 children.
(Times of Israel)
- Archaeological Discoveries Reveal Jerusalem's Jewish History - Judy Lash Balint
As tens of thousands visit the Old City for Jerusalem Day, new excavations are being uncovered and opened to the public, expanding understanding of events in the center of the Jewish universe.
Old City expert Rabbi Barnea Selevan describes excavations at the back of the Western Wall plaza, where part of a Roman colonnaded street dating back to the 2nd century CE has been uncovered. "There's no question they're from First Temple times." Seals from the Temple were found nearby. The walls, according to some archeologists, are from homes that were abandoned but not destroyed by the Roman onslaught on Jerusalem in 70 CE.
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