U.S. Navy Was Secretly Prepared to Seize Iranian Weapons - Barbara Starr (CNN)
The U.S. Navy had secret orders to be "prepared to act" to stop the Klos C cargo ship carrying Iranian arms destined for Gaza, CNN has learned. The ship was eventually stopped in the Red Sea by Israeli naval forces.
American navy ships in the region secretly tracked the cargo down the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and then to the Red Sea.
Wounded Ukrainian Protesters Brought to Israel for Treatment - Ben Sales (JTA)
At least 7 Ukrainians who were severely wounded in clashes with police on Feb. 18-19 were airlifted to Israel on March 7 for medical treatment.
The logistics and funding were arranged through private initiatives.
Hamas Terrorist Commander Killed in Gaza "Work Accident" - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
A Hamas commander in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades was killed Saturday in Gaza and nine others were injured, two seriously, when an explosive device accidentally blew up,
Palestinian sources said.
Israel: EU Can Examine Palestinian Prisoners' Conditions If Israel Can Examine European Prisons - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Elmar Brok, last week asked to send a special delegation to examine the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
A source in the Israel Foreign Ministry said the request was coordinated with Palestinians seeking to promote an anti-Israel campaign on the issue.
Therefore, in response, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel's ambassador to the EU to agree only if an Israeli delegation is allowed to visit prisoners in EU jails to examine their conditions.
Israel's Jewish Birth Rate Up, Arab Birth Rate Down - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
171,207 babies were born in Israel in 2013, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.
Jewish births increased 1.3% to 127,101 over 2012, while the number of births among Israeli Muslim Arabs declined by 5.5% to 34,766.
21 out of every 1,000 Jewish women gave birth in 2013, compared to 18.3 in the year 2000, while 24.8 Arab women gave birth in 2013, compared to 35 in 2000.
Egyptian TV Station Under Fire for Promoting Tourism to Israeli Arab Town - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
A state-owned Egyptian television channel featured a segment last week about the Arab-Israeli town of Jisr az-Zarqa, near Haifa.
The broadcast triggered much criticism within Egypt and an investigation has been launched.
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- Hagel Congratulates Israeli Defense Minister on Iranian Arms Shipment Seizure
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon Thursday and received a briefing on Israel's interdiction operation in the Red Sea that seized an Iranian shipment of advanced weapons bound for terrorist organizations operating in Gaza.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the secretary congratulated Yaalon on the operation's success and reiterated the U.S. commitment to holding Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities in the region. "Secretary Hagel made clear that illicit actions by Iran are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran's UN Security Council obligations," Kirby added.
(American Forces Press Service)
- Arab League Rejects Israel as Jewish State
The Arab League, meeting in Cairo on Sunday, backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of Israel as a "Jewish state."
League chief Nabil Elaraby called on Arab countries to take a "firm stand" against Israel's demands.
"The council of the Arab League...emphasizes its rejection of recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish state'," Arab foreign ministers said in a statement.
- Al-Qaeda-Inspired Jihadi Groups Gaining Strength in Gaza
Abu Bakir al-Ansari, a leader of one of Gaza's secretive jihadi groups, told AP in an interview that the al-Qaeda-inspired movement now has several thousand armed fighters in Gaza, posing a formidable threat to both Israel and the area's Hamas rulers.
Gaza's Salafis support al-Qaeda's campaign of global jihad, but are not believed to have direct links with the global terror network. An Israeli expert on al-Qaeda, Aviv Oreg, estimated there were up to 1,000 Salafi fighters.
Abu Bakir confirmed that his group was behind the death of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian pro-Palestinian activist killed in Gaza in April 2011. He also claimed that 100 Gazans have gone to Syria to battle the Assad regime, and 10 have been killed so far. (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Unloads 40 Rockets from Iranian Weapons Ship
On Sunday, the IDF unloaded 40 M-302 rockets with a range of up to 160 km., 180 mortar shells, and 400,000 Kalashnikov bullets from the Klos C Iranian weapons ship that was detained in the Red Sea on March 5. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said, "Each one of these rockets poses a threat to the safety of the citizens of Israel. Each bullet and each rocket that was discovered had an Israeli address." "There are many other missions ahead of us," he added.
(Israel Defense Forces)
- Palestinian Killed after Attacking IDF Soldier at Jordan Border Crossing - Itamar Sharon
A Palestinian who attacked an IDF soldier at the Allenby Bridge crossing on the Israeli-Jordanian border
was shot and killed on Monday. (Times of Israel)
- Hizbullah Families: Our Sons Are Cannon Fodder for Assad - Daniel Siryoti
Families of Hizbullah fighters in south Lebanon are growing increasingly angry that their sons are being sent to fight and die for Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported. Anger has recently grown stronger due to the large number of casualties Hizbullah has sustained during battles in the northern suburbs of Damascus.
A senior member of the Shiite community in Lebanon told Lebanon's Al-Mustaqbal: "Our sons are cannon fodder for Assad." The mother of one new Hizbullah recruit said, "As long as our sons were recruited for the sake of the resistance and fight against the Zionist occupation - there is a purpose. But I don't want my son to participate in the massacre of Muslims by other Muslims." (Israel Hayom)
See also Rebels Say Hizbullah Sustaining Heavy Casualties in Syria Battle
While Syrian government aircraft pounded the rebel stronghold of Yabroud on Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
said that Hizbullah has sustained more than 120 killed and wounded during the fighting over the last several weeks.
- Iran's Secret Weapons - Editorial
The rockets that had been loaded on a freighter in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and were destined for Gaza, which were intercepted
Wednesday by Israeli naval commandos, would have put most major Israeli cities within striking distance. The seizure of the ship is a reminder that the aims and methods of Iranian foreign policy remain unchanged despite the alleged moderation of President Hassan Rouhani.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Iran would not close its reactor in Arak as part of a nuclear deal with the West. The only practical purpose for that reactor is to produce plutonium for atomic weapons. If the Administration won't draw conclusions from what the Iranians do in secret, is it too much to ask that it draw conclusions from what they say in public?
(Wall Street Journal)
- The Amazing Coincidences of Iran's Javad Zarif - Claudia Rosett
Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ridiculed the seizure by Israel of Iranian munitions in the Red Sea, implying it was a public relations stunt timed to the AIPAC meeting in Washington. But the time lines surrounding this shipment are intriguing. From details of this latest Iranian munitions-smuggling saga, it can be gleaned that while Zarif was in Vienna, standing next to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the freighter, secretly stuffed with weapons, was already enroute from Iran toward the Red Sea.
According to the Lloyd's List Intelligence shipping database, the Klos C
arrived at Iran's Bandar Abbas anchorage about Jan. 23, lingering there for almost a fortnight - the window for the weapons to be stashed onboard - and departed about Feb. 3. On Jan. 24 - as the rockets were being loaded - Zarif along with Rouhani was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, telling an audience, "We can prepare for a better future by opening our minds and our hearts, and avoiding old stereotypes." By Feb. 2 - as the Klos C prepared to leave Iran - Zarif was meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich. (Forbes)
Netanyahu to EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton: Ask Iran about Its Gaza-Bound Arms Ship (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Netanyahu: Iran Has Not Changed - Shlomo Cesana (Israel Hayom)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday:
"The Iranian weapons ship reached Israel last night. The operation to seize the ship had two goals: Preventing the delivery of deadly weapons to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which would have directly endangered Israel's citizens, and exposing the true face of Iran, which was behind this weapons shipment."
- "I call this to the attention of Catherine Ashton, who is now visiting Tehran. I would like to ask her if she asked her Iranian hosts about this shipment of weapons for terrorist organizations, and if not, why not. Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran. I think that it would be proper for the international community to give its opinion regarding Iran's true policy, not its propaganda."
See also Netanyahu: Talk of Peace Deal Premature Given Palestinian Inflexibility - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview after returning from the U.S.: "The smuggling of the missiles was an Iranian covert operation that we discovered, caught and stopped. Beyond catching the dangerous missiles, this is a message to the world."
- "Despite the Iranian denials, despite the smiles and imaginary moderation emanating from Iran, this is still the same Iran and it hasn't altered its murderous conduct in any way....Right now the battle is over the truth, and the truth is Iran is a country that breaks all the rules. It is important to expose Iran's true face."
- Asked about the framework agreement on Israeli-Palestinian peace, Netanyahu said:
"It is an American document with negotiation proposals that the sides can address. This is not an Israeli document, and it is certainly liable to include things that Israel will not agree to and will object to. But this document, if it is indeed presented, will be a platform for discussing the renewal of negotiations, which are expected to last about a year if the Palestinians come around and finally agree to enter talks. I cannot say for certain, they are currently not showing any signs in this direction."
- Speaking after his return from the U.S., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel's Channel 2 TV that talk of a peace deal was premature, given that the Palestinians did not seem ready to make any concessions toward a final-status agreement.
- "First let's see if they are even willing to negotiate. From what I see, they are very far from this. They think they can continue with their acts of refusal - to go with demands to the United Nations and to distance themselves from the question of what their concessions are, how will they recognize a Jewish state," he said.
- Netanyahu added that while he wanted peace, it was not clear to him that the Palestinians did, given that they had not adjusted their positions as part of talks.
"The question of whether there will be an agreement must first and foremost be posed to the Palestinians," he said. Moreover, the prime minister told Channel 10 that Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty.
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