Hamas and Iran Admit Increased Cooperation - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
Hamas and Iran are working to normalize relations following a steep downturn in ties over the past two years, officials on both sides said this week.
Iran's parliament spokesman, Ali Larijani, told the Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen on Sunday that Iran's relations with Hamas have returned to normal.
Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Iran's Fars news agency on Monday: "The Hamas movement and Iran have taken special measures and we will see many changes in these relations soon."
Iran Expands Tanker Fleet as Sanctions Ease
- Benoit Faucon (Wall Street Journal)
As sanctions restricting the country's trade with the West ease, the National Iranian Tanker Co. has made contact with European oil and shipping companies to resume business with them, its managing director, Ali Akbar Safaei, told the Wall Street Journal this week.
"We have decided to expand our fleet" for transporting oil, liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals, Safaei said.
CIA Director Brennan Says Syria Army Remains Resilient - Barbara Slavin (Al-Monitor)
CIA Director John Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday that Syrian President Assad "probably feels more confident" that his regime will survive as a result of his army's recent performance and the impact of fighting between Islamist rebels.
"Syria has a real army," Brennan said, which has benefited from years of training and equipping by Russia and is "a large conventional military force with tremendous firepower."
Dissident Iraqi Sunnis in Jordan Plot Overthrow of Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister - Jane Arraf
Jordan, long a haven for dissident Iraqi Sunnis, has quietly emerged in the past two years as a base for tribal leaders who say they have launched a new battle to topple Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and to roll back Iranian influence in the region.
Israel to Help Purify Britain's Water - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
Britain's largest water provider, Thames Water, has a deal with Israel's Mapal Green Energy to provide its bubble aeration technology water purification system for use in municipal and regional water supply systems.
In the first stage, Mapal will set up a purification system in Chesham, north of London.
Later, Thames Water will have the option of adding more Mapal systems to its network.
Joint research by Mapal and Thames has shown that the water company could save up to 15 million pounds a year by using Mapal's technology.
Mapal systems have been installed in Israel, Brazil, South Africa and India.
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- Gaza Militants Fire Rocket Barrage at Southern Israel - Quentin Sommerville
Dozens of rockets could be seen being fired at Israel from the southern outskirts of Gaza City on Wednesday, according to an eyewitness. In southern Israel, sirens sounded and those in range were told to take shelter. One rocket landed near a library, another beside a petrol station. It is the heaviest attack in the last two years.
Israeli military spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said militants fired tens of rockets in a coordinated attack. Eight hit urban civilian areas and a number of others were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. (BBC News)
See also IDF Responds after Palestinians Fire 60 Rockets at Israel
The IDF responded with force to a barrage of at least 60 rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday, striking dozens of terror targets from the air and with artillery fire. Residents in the Beit Hanoun area of Gaza said they saw an Israeli artillery strike hit a rocket launcher squad.
See also British Prime Minister Condemns "Barbaric" Missile Attack on Israel - Matthew Holehouse (Telegraph-UK)
- Kerry: Israeli-Palestinian Mistrust at Highest Levels
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress Wednesday that the level of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians "is as large as any level of mistrust I've ever seen, on both sides." "Neither believes the other is really serious. Neither believes that the other is prepared to make some of the big choices that have to be made here." But he insisted that he was hopeful of reaching "some kind of understanding of the road forward" as he seeks to nail down a framework to guide the stuttering Middle East peace talks.
- Kerry: Resumption of Aid to Egypt Would Depend on Reforms in Cairo - Ashish Kumar Sen
Secretary of State John Kerry told the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Wednesday that the Obama administration will soon decide on whether to resume military aid to Egypt, but the
military-dominated Egyptian government must address U.S. concerns that resulted in the aid cutoff last fall. "They need to help us to help them...by implementing some of the reforms that we've been talking with them about with respect to inclusivity, journalists, some of the arrests and so forth," Kerry said. (Washington Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Iran-Backed Terror Groups Firing Rockets at Israeli Civilians
Referring to Wednesday's massive rocket barrage on Israel from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday: "What we're seeing today is Iranian-backed terror groups supplied by Iran with rockets firing at innocent civilians. This is something that no country could tolerate....We must have a peace in which territories adjacent to Israel are not used as launching grounds for rockets and missiles against the Jewish state."
"Secondly, we must make sure that the backer of these terrorists, Iran, doesn't have nuclear weapons and nuclear-tipped missiles. Today we're the targets, but with the ICBMs that they're developing, London would be in range, Washington would be in range." (Prime Minister's Office)
- Gaza Rocket Fire Resumes Thursday - Spencer Ho
On Thursday, Palestinians in Gaza fired additional rockets at Israel. The Iron Dome system downed one rocket over Ashkelon, while two others fell in unpopulated areas. Prime Minister Netanyahu noted Thursday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas did not condemn the rocket fire from Gaza but rather only the Israeli response. (Times of Israel)
- Hamas and Iran Approved Gaza Rocket Fire - Ron Ben-Yishai
We have not seen such a simultaneous barrage of dozens of rockets since November 2012. It was a move initiated by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, likely in coordination with Hamas, which did not even try to prevent the fire. It's impossible that Hamas was unaware of the preparations for the parallel firing of dozens of rockets, so we can comprehend that Hamas gave its silent approval, even if it did not take part in the fire.
The rocket fire was likely related to the capture of the shipment of heavy rockets on the Klos C weapons ship from Iran. Islamic Jihad is the primary Palestinian organization with direct ties to Iran. The seizure of the arms ship required an Iranian response, and Islamic Jihad was probably asked to execute it.
Wednesday's rocket fire was massive quantity-wise, but they only fired short-range rockets, dozens of which didn't even reach Israel.
- Preventing an Iranian Breakout after a Nuclear Deal - James F. Jeffrey and David Pollock
Assuming a final Iranian nuclear agreement is achieved, the task of the U.S. and the rest of the P5+1 to manage the threat of an Iranian nuclear program will not slacken. Thus, the arrangements to encourage Iran to stick with an agreement will be every bit as important as the specifics of an agreement itself.
Furthermore, even with an agreement, the U.S. and its partners will face a long-term Iranian push for hegemony in the Middle East.
In any likely final agreement with Iran, a residual nuclear enrichment program, however undesirable, will likely be permitted. This will necessitate a regime to prevent Iran from breaking out of that agreement to develop nuclear weapons, or exploiting the threat of a breakout for regional intimidation.
Such a regime would require three interlocking components: specific limitations on Iran's program, in order to maximize Iran's prospective breakout time; extensive verification, monitoring, and intelligence capabilities to spot any breakout as soon as possible; and credible response scenarios should a breakout occur. Thus, credibility must urgently be restored to the much-doubted U.S. threat of military force against Iran.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The New Generation of Jordanian Jihadi Fighters - Mona Alami
The Jordanian Salafi-jihadi community is among the biggest contributors of fighters to Syria. The majority of Jordanian jihadis in Syria have joined Jabhat al-Nusra, where two Palestinian-Jordanians, Iyad Toubasi and Mustafa Abdul Latif, occupy leading positions. Iyad Toubasi (Abu Gelebeb) is also the brother-in-law of one of Jordan's better-known Salafi jihadis, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and is believed to have fought with him in Iraq. Syria is significant for the rising generation of Jordanian jihadis currently fighting on the plains and hills of "Bilad al-Sham" (Greater Syria).
They envision a holy war to achieve and expand their transnational Islamic state based on sharia. A starting point to achieve that is winning Syria and then turning back to Jordan to reunify "Bilad al-Sham." Recent clashes on February 17 pitted an armed group entering from Syria against Jordanian border guards. No mention was made as to the nationality of the fighters. There are fears among the Jordanian security agencies that these fighters might be comprised of Jordanian nationals, which would have negative implications for the Hashemite Kingdom's stability. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Britain Has Played a Proud Role in Helping to Secure Israel as a Homeland for the Jewish People - Prime Minister David Cameron (Guardian-UK)
British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday:
- "People come to this parliament from all over the world and talk about how to run your peace process. I will not do that. You know I want peace and a two-state solution. You don't need lectures from me about how to get there." He asked his audience to imagine "mutual recognition of the nation state of the Palestinian people and the nation state of the Jewish people."
- "To those who do not share my ambition, who want to boycott Israel, I have a clear message. Britain opposes boycotts, whether it's trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange....Delegitimizing the State of Israel is wrong. It's abhorrent. And together we will defeat it."
- He said his belief "in Israel is unbreakable and his commitment to Israel's security will always be rock-solid. I understand the concern of Israelis who have seen land that Israel has pulled out of becoming a base for terrorist attacks. And I will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens."
- "From the early pioneers, the men and women of the Palestine Exploration Fund who saw the Jewish history in this land and the possibilities for the future, to the Balfour Declaration - the moment when the State of Israel went from a dream to a plan - Britain has played a proud and vital role in helping to secure Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people."
- "I have led the fight against anti-Semitism and extremism in Britain. We have removed over 26,000 pieces of illegal terrorist content from the Internet, worked with the police and with universities to stop extremists spreading their divisive messages on our university campuses, and we have excluded more foreign preachers of hate on the basis of our strategy for preventing extremism than ever before."
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