Turkish Group Behind Gaza Flotilla Suspected of Links to Al-Qaeda (AP-Washington Post)
Turkish anti-terrorism police carried out raids in six cities on Tuesday, detaining at least five people with links to al-Qaeda, including two employees of the government-supported Islamic charity group IHH, which sent the Mavi Marmara ship to Gaza in May 2010.
The anti-terrorism police chief for Kilis was removed from his post hours after the raid, a sign that the government was hitting back at police who carried out the raid.
The counter-terrorism police chief in Van who coordinated Tuesday's raids was also reassigned to another post.
IHH secretary general Yasar Kutluay blamed Israel and supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the operation.
Syria Murdering Palestinians by Starvation - Hussein Ibish (Now Lebanon)
The population of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria was 250,000 three years ago. It has now shrunk to 18,000 famished and shivering souls.
Last weekend, at least 41 Palestinians died as a result of food and medicine shortages, and their numbers grow daily. Rights groups said that 8 more Palestinians died on Tuesday.
The international community and the Arab world have done virtually nothing in response.
Withdrawal to the 1967 Lines Will Not Put an End to the "Occupation" - Yoel Ben-Nun (Ynet News)
Many times I have asked decent and educated Palestinians, who have nothing to do with terror, when the "Israeli occupation" began.
All, without exception, said in 1948. Therefore, even the 1967 lines will not put an end to the occupation. They see the entire State of Israel as "occupation."
In Arab and Palestinian culture, peace means justice. Compromise cannot be considered as peace since it means only a partial restoration of rights.
Any agreement will be completely canceled if it becomes clear that the Palestinian terror against the "occupation of 1948" will continue.
Palestinian Prime Minister Stopped for Speeding on Tuesday (Jerusalem Post)
The convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was stopped for the second time in one day on Tuesday evening near Tapuah Junction, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
Hamdallah was pulled over for speeding on Tuesday morning while driving between Ramallah and Nablus, according to Israel Radio.
See also Palestinian PM's Convoy Hit Israelis Last June - Noam Dvir (Ynet News)
An Israeli man sustained serious injuries on June 29, 2013, in a head-on collision between a private car and a vehicle travelling in the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
The accident took place at the Tekoa Junction in the West Bank after the Palestinian vehicle veered into the opposite lane.
Filipina Caregiver Wins Israeli Talent Show Competition (Times of Israel)
Rose Fostanes, 47, a Filipina caregiver, won the "X-Factor Israel" singing competition on Tuesday, establishing herself as a national phenomenon.
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- Rouhani Calls Nuclear Pact a Western "Surrender" - Oren Dorell
"Do you know what the Geneva [nuclear] agreement means? It means the surrender of the big powers before the great Iranian nation," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a crowd in Khuzestan province. "The Geneva agreement means the wall of sanctions has broken."
See also Rouhani Boasts on Twitter of U.S. "Surrender" to Iran (Fox News)
- New Iran Agreement Includes Secret Side Deal, Tehran Official Says - Paul Richter
Key elements of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers are contained in an informal, 30-page text not yet publicly acknowledged by Western officials, Iran's chief negotiator Abbas Araqchi disclosed Monday.
When officials from Iran and the world powers announced that they had completed the implementing agreement, they didn't release the text of the deal, nor did they acknowledge the existence of an informal addendum.
The side agreement deals with such important details as the operation of a joint commission to oversee how the deal is implemented and Iran's right to continue nuclear research and development during the next several months.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denied Monday that there was any secret agreement.
(Los Angeles Times)
- Hamas Training Future Fighters across Gaza - Fares Akram
Dozens of high school students scrambled among the sand dunes in Gaza in recent days, learning how to shoot AK-47 rifles, crawl under barbed wire and jump over burning tires at a boot camp run by Hamas. The six-day program enrolled 13,000 boys at a dozen sites across Gaza over the past week, with trainers from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades.
Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, told participants at a graduation ceremony on Tuesday that theirs was "the generation that will achieve the liberation and independence" of Palestine. Osama Shehada, 15, said he wanted to study engineering to learn how to make bombs and explosives to target Israel.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Defense Minister Ya'alon Apologizes for Comments about Kerry - Gil Hoffman
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon apologized on Tuesday for comments he made about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his diplomatic efforts.
"The defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary, and he apologizes if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister," a Defense Ministry statement read. "Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary Kerry. We appreciate Secretary Kerry's many efforts towards that end."
A report in Yediot Ahronot triggered the diplomatic incident, quoting Ya'alon as saying in private meetings that Kerry's diplomatic efforts stemmed from an "incomprehensible obsession" and that the U.S. security plan was "not worth the paper it was written on."
See also Ya'alon Incident: Journalist Broke Rules of Background Briefing - Barak Ravid
While reaffirming his commitment to working closely with Kerry on Tuesday, Ya'alon did not deny making the remarks. Circles close to him said that Shimon Shiffer, the Yediot Aharnot journalist who quoted the defense minister, had broken the rules of a background briefing.
- Abbas Applauds after Minister Calls for Jihad in Jerusalem - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Jihadi fighters should not be fighting in Syria but should go to Jerusalem, PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash said in front of Mahmoud Abbas in a speech broadcast on PA TV on Jan. 13, 2014. "The direction for Jihad is well-known and clear....Jerusalem is the direction, Jerusalem is the address." Abbas, who was in the audience, applauded.
(Palestinian Media Watch)
- Iran Honors Hizbullah Commanders - Further Details - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
In November 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehghan as Minister of Defense. Dehghan had been the commander of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon in 1983 and was responsible, on Iran's behalf, for carrying out the bombing attack on the U.S. Marine barracks and on the French paratrooper base in Beirut. The Hizbullah commander who directly oversaw this mission was Imad Mughniyeh, who, according to one eyewitness account, watched the attack from the roof of a building. This week Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif paid his respects at Mughniyeh's grave.
In January 2014, Minister of Defense Dehghan eulogized Hassan Laqis, who established Hizbullah's missile unit. As Dehghan's own bureau chief in Lebanon, it is reasonable to surmise that Laqis, like Dehghan, played an active role in the planning and execution of the fatal blast at the Marine barracks in Beirut, activity that is now winning praise in Rouhani's Iran. The writer is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Iran Continues Campaign to Become Leading Regional Power - Walter Russell Mead
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Lebanon this week, where he laid a wreath at the tomb of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh. Zarif then met with Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of Hizbullah. Iran is using the discussions on its nuclear program to project an image of moderation even as it dramatically steps up its campaign to establish itself as the leading power in the Middle East.
While officials from the P5+1 countries congratulate each other on an "interim agreement" and a "temporary freeze" on Iran's nuclear enrichment program, Iran is stepping up its military and economic support for Hizbullah, the Assad regime in Damascus, and Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Franklin Roosevelt once said that you can't turn a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. (American Interest)
See also U.S. Condemns Iran Decision to Put Wreath on Hizbullah Leader's Grave (Reuters)
- Palestinians Move to Breach Peace Process - Tom Wilson
Despite having made a commitment to refrain from taking actions to pursue statehood unilaterally during the course of the current U.S.-sponsored negotiations with Israel, on Monday PA leader Mahmoud Abbas chaired a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee to discuss contingency plans to do precisely that, months before negotiations are due to conclude in April.
Under the framework for the current round of talks, Israel agreed to release a cohort of convicted terrorists and in return the Palestinians would halt their campaign to gain membership in an increasing number of UN agencies. Since negotiations began in July, Israel has stood by its part of the agreement and so far released 78 Palestinian prisoners. The fact that the Palestinians are already making contingency plans for the failure of the talks is an indication of just how much faith they really have in these negotiations reaching any kind of successful conclusion.
- The Day After:
If Israel Withdrew to the 1967 Lines, What Then? - Aryeh Tepper
The main grievance in the Arab-Muslim world is not that in 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank, but that in 1948 the Jews built a state upon "Palestinian" land.
This narrative ignores inconvenient facts like the ancient Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, the Arab refusal to accept the UN partition plan, which the Israelis accepted, the war that the Arab states then initiated in 1948 in order to destroy the incipient Jewish state and throw the Jews into the sea, and the subsequent expulsion of nearly one million Jews from Arab countries.
The governing perception in mainstream Arab-Muslim discourse is that the establishment of the State of Israel was a crime, and to accept the existence of the State of Israel is to acquiesce to that crime. Thus, the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines would be characterized as a historic betrayal. And the U.S. would be blamed for pushing Palestinian leaders to betray the Palestinians' right to return to their homes in present-day Israel. The writer is a visiting scholar at the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem.
How the Nuke Deal Looks to Iran - Benny Avni (New York Post)
- Iran's been busy in the weeks between the November signing of the nuclear deal in Geneva and Sunday's signing.
- Tehran continued to grow its nuclear program, reportedly introducing a new generation of centrifuges to its facilities in Natanz and Fordow, and vigorously building its Arak heavy-water facility.
- It added 1,000 pounds to its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 5%, and 66 pounds to its 20% stock, getting it close to breakout capacity.
- International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were turned away when they sought to visit the Parchin military base, where the IAEA indicates that Iranians are experimenting with ways to weaponize nukes.
- And while the U.S. claims it can undo the rollback of Iran sanctions at any time:
- Next month, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is to visit Tehran to ink a trade pact worth up to $50 billion a year, which would give Turkey access to Iran's oil and open a major regional market for Iranian goods.
- Iran is also negotiating an oil-for-goods deal with Russia, worth $1.5 billion a month.
- Meanwhile, Tehran insists that the November deal affirms its Allah-given right to enrich uranium, while top Iranian figures emphasize that they'll never halt their nuclear program.
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