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August 8, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Obama Authorizes Airstrikes in Iraq to Counter Islamic Militants (White House)
    President Barack Obama announced Thursday: "Today I authorized two operations in Iraq - targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death."
    "I said in June - as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq - that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it."
    "In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces."
    "To stop the advance on Erbil, I've directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city."
    See also Islamic State Accused of Capturing Yazidi Women in Iraq and Forcing Them to Convert - Gil Shefler (Washington Post)

Islamic State Captures the Largest Dam in Iraq - Alissa J. Rubin and Tim Arango (New York Times)
    Sunni militants captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, as their advances in the country's north set off fearful rumors in Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital.
    The dam, which sits on the Tigris River, provides electricity to the city of Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory.
    In a statement, the Islamic State vowed to continue its offensive. "Our Islamic State forces are still fighting in all directions, and we will not step down until the project of the [Islamic] caliphate is established, with the will of God."

ISIS Moves on Lebanon - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    At the end of July 2014, the civil war in Syria spilled over into Lebanon when a coordinated coalition of jihadist insurgents from Jabhat el Nusra and ISIS attacked Arsal in the Bekaa Valley.
    Lebanon sees itself today at war with the jihadists. Hizbullah has already declared that its forces will back the army, and all political factions have expressed their support to the army.

View Map: Rocket Launch Sites in Gaza (Israel Defense Forces)
    Hamas fires rockets from everywhere in Gaza.

    See also Photo: Rockets Fired at Israel from Gaza Residential Areas (Israel Defense Forces)
    Buildings in Gaza were not targets until they were used to target Israeli civilians.

The Gaza Numbers Game - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
    18% of the rockets fired by Hamas - about 600 rockets - were fired from schools, hospitals, mosques, and cemeteries.
    14% of the rockets fired by Hamas actually fell inside Gaza. That's more than 450 rockets.
    Before Israel is blamed for every bit of damage done inside Gaza by rocket fire, a calculation must be made of the damage inflicted by Hamas itself.

Israeli Army: Nearly All Gaza Rockets Self-Made (AFP)
    "The vast majority of rockets fired by Hamas at Israel over the past month were homemade, only a small minority were Fajr 5 made by Iran," a senior Israeli military official said Thursday.
    The Gaza manufacturers of these rockets used "water pipes" of different diameters for the bodies of the rockets, filling them with explosives made from materials such as products used in agriculture, the official said.

Palestinian Official: Hamas Executed Former Leader for Spying for Egypt - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Palestinian sources reported Thursday that Ayman Taha, a senior Hamas member who was instrumental in founding the group, was executed by Hamas via firing squad after being accused of spying for Egypt.

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Gaza Is Not About to Become an Islamic State - Matthew Levitt (New Republic)
    U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, "If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse." The good news is, he's wrong.
    The extreme Salafi-jihadi groups in Gaza exist at the fringes of Palestinian society. They will find it far more difficult to seize power in the first place, much less govern if in power.
    These groups lack the grassroots political, charitable and social services that are the backbone of Hamas.
    Gazan Salafi-jihadis are more concerned with violent methods of establishing a transnational Islamic state, while Hamas has consciously focused its efforts on creating a Palestinian state that is Islamist in nature, not a transnational caliphate.
    So long as Gaza is not left as a festering wound and a political vacuum, there is no reason for hysterical predictions of an Islamic State in Gaza.
    The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Hamas' Absurd Claims of Victory - Steve Huntley (Chicago Sun-Times)
    If the picture in Gaza of collapsed buildings, demolished homes and rubble everywhere is victory, what would defeat look like?
    Hamas claims the 3,000 rockets it launched vanquished Israel. But nearly all of those rockets missed their targets or were shot out of the sky by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.
    If the deaths of hundreds of Hamas terrorists - 900 by an Israeli count - is success, what would defeat look like?
    This Gaza war was a disaster for Hamas. The civilian deaths and injuries that did occur were the sole responsibility of Hamas' total disregard for the safety of the people it ruled.

Will the ICC Investigate Turkish Settlement Activity in Cyprus? - Eugene Kontorovich (Washington Post)
    A group of Cypriot refugees and a European parliamentarian have recently filed a complaint with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, alleging Turkey has violated the Rome Statute by directly or indirectly deporting or transferring its civilian population into occupied territory in northern Cyprus.
    The Republic of Cyprus has joined the complainants in accusing Turkey of war crimes.
    Turkish settlement activity has "reached new heights" in the past decade according to a Wikileaked cable from a U.S. ambassador, with as many as 18,000 settlers arriving every year (apparently not counting "natural growth").
    Here there is an allegation of war crimes on the territory of the European Union itself. Will the ICC investigate? Don't hold your breath.
    The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

Useful Reference:

The Gaza War 2014: Handbook on the Conflict (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Resume Rocket Fire as Cease-Fire Ends - Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren
    A 72-hour truce in the Gaza fighting expired at 8 a.m. Friday as Palestinians fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, signaling Hamas' refusal to extend the lull and its desire to apply pressure for its demands to be met at talks in Cairo. In response, the Israeli military said it had targeted "terror sites" across Gaza. Israel had said it was willing to extend the truce unconditionally.
        Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said: "The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted. Hamas' bad decision to breach the cease-fire will be pursued by the IDF. We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security for the State of Israel."
        Indirect talks underway in Cairo appear to have yielded few results. Israel is demanding measures to prevent Hamas from rearming and, eventually, the demilitarization of Gaza. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Orders Army to Hit Back at Gaza after Rockets Fired into Israel - Rory Jones
    As the Gaza truce ended Friday, warning sirens rang in several towns and cities in southern Israel as rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of ignoring an offer for the cease-fire to be extended, and said the military had orders to respond "forcefully" to the Palestinian fire. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Gaza Rocket Fire Wounds Israeli Civilian, Soldier on Friday - Yoav Zitun
    Palestinians in Gaza fired more than 35 rockets and mortars at Israel within four hours after the end of the cease-fire on Friday. A rocket struck near the entrance to a community in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council, injuring Dr. Nachmi Paz, 71, the director-general of Sapir Academic College, as well as a soldier. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Vows to Restart War If Israel Does Not Meet its Demands - Sudarsan Raghavan
    Hamas officials at a public rally vowed Thursday to never give up arms and to reignite war if Israel does not accept their demands to lift an economic blockade of Gaza, while supporters chanted, "Blow up, blow up Tel Aviv." With a turnout of a few thousand people, the demonstration was much smaller than the massive crowds Hamas has attracted in the past.
        "The war is not over yet," Mushir al-Masri, a top Hamas official, told those gathered. "Our fighters are still in the field, in their frontline positions. Our tunnels still exist, and they reach into Israeli territory. If Israel doesn't agree to our demands, we will come there." Masri declared that Hamas had defeated Israeli troops during the war. (Washington Post)
  • Netanyahu: The Battle Against Islamic Militants "Will Soon Come to a Theater Near You"
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday in an interview with Sean Hannity that the threat from Islamic militants is real, and will spread to other countries if the terrorists are not stopped. "This is a danger I've been pointing to, it's not a spin, it's not a whim, it is a clinical diagnosis of a pathological movement that is sweeping our area but will soon come to a theater near you and it has to be stopped now."
        Netanyahu said the militants are under Iran's "nuclear umbrella," adding, "If Iran itself can intimidate the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, then we bring history into a different threshold altogether."  (Fox News)
  • Gaza Talks in Cairo: Cease-Fire May Be All that Israel and Hamas Can Agree On - Howard LaFranchi
    As Israel and Hamas sit down at indirect negotiations in Egypt aimed at delivering a lasting cease-fire, both sides are out to get an agreement that is different from past accords. But neither side is ready to accept the other's chief demands.
        Israel is determined to secure an agreement that rules out any possibility of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rearming themselves, with guarantees of tight controls on what enters Gaza. Nathan Brown at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says Hamas will resist disarming unless forced to do so. Moreover, ending the blockade and opening up Gaza "is very unlikely to happen except perhaps in a very limited way."
        One proposal calls for assigning the Palestinian Authority, which is governing the West Bank, the task of monitoring any opened crossings into Gaza. Eric Trager at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says, "Sure, the U.S. would like to see the PA restored in Gaza, but the question is one of capability....Nothing suggests they have the experience and expertise to undertake this kind of [border] monitoring." Trager adds that, judging by what some Hamas officials have said since the cease-fire took hold Tuesday, "This, for Hamas, is not in any way the last war."
        At the Security Council in New York Wednesday, the deputy permanent representative for the U.S., Rosemary DiCarlo, said the U.S. wants to see an accord that resolves "the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way" by "permanently" dismantling tunnels and ending rocket fire into Israel, while allowing Gaza to "receive the goods necessary to advance its economic development."  (Christian Science Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Arabs See Gaza War Stoppage as Hamas Victory Despite Destruction - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Key Hamas backer, Qatar, through the popular Al Jazeera media channel, supported Hamas' narrative on the Gaza conflict, with its website continually leading with pictures of Palestinian victims and alleged Israeli atrocities. The Al Jazeera website carried the tag, "Gaza triumphs" for articles dealing with the war.
        The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which tends to support Hizbullah and Iran, ran a headline: "Gaza Triumphant." Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy, said Wednesday that "Hamas turned out to be a much more effective fighting force than was expected, and...Hamas wasn't destroyed....Hamas' survival will be spun by its leaders as evidence of victory."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Foreign Journalists Reveal Hamas' False Front - Daniel Bettini
    Foreign reporters leaving Gaza have revealed what Israel has claimed all along - that Hamas is firing out of population hubs and near UN facilities. "We saw the Hamas men," a Spanish reporter admitted. "But had we dared point the cameras at them, they would have opened fire at us and killed us."
        One reporter explained that Hamas never allowed foreign reporters access to military sites attacked by Israel, creating an impression that all the victims were civilians. Moreover, Hamas demanded that press photographers not document the launching of rockets out of populated civilian areas. (Ynet News)
  • 23 Hamas Militants Survive Weeks in Collapsed Tunnel
    23 fighters from Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades survived after being rescued from a tunnel that collapsed at the beginning of the Gaza war, Hamas said in a statement on Wednesday. "Rescue teams dug the area to extract the fighters and they were surprised to find us alive," said W.A., a member of the Brigades. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas West Bank Head Indicted for Planning Wave of Terror Attacks - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The head of Hamas in the West Bank since 2010, Riad Natzer, who was recently arrested, was indicted on Thursday in the Judea and Samaria military court for organizing possibly dozens of terrorist cells for a wave of kidnappings, suicide bus bombings and attacks on settlements. Arrested on May 27, Natzer is accused of raising more than NIS 1.5 million for terrorist operations, buying weapons for his operatives and organizing them into cells - each trained for a different kind of terrorist activity. Natzer recruited many operatives, and his arrest led to the arrests of dozens of those operatives. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Gaza War - Casualty Figures

  • Caution Needed with Gaza Casualty Figures - Anthony Reuben
    In the Gaza conflict, most news organizations have been quoting from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on numbers of Palestinians killed. If the Israeli attacks have been "indiscriminate," as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed three times as many civilian men as women.
        IDF Spokesman Capt. Eytan Buchman said "the UN numbers being reported are, by and large, based on the Gaza health ministry, a Hamas-run organization." He noted that "when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations." "Hamas also has given local residents directives to obscure militant identities."
        "It's important to bear in mind that in Operation Cast Lead [in December 2008-January 2009], Hamas and Gaza-based organizations claimed that only 50 combatants were killed, admitting years later the number was between 600-700, a figure nearly identical to the figure claimed by the IDF." The writer is head of statistics at BBC News. (BBC News)
  • Hamas Warns: Don't Divulge Information about Fighters Killed in Gaza War
    On Aug. 5, the Hamas Ministry of the Interior in Gaza issued an announcement warning the Palestinians not to divulge information about "resistance" casualties during the war. That was because Israel was collecting all the information and reports [about casualties] and would use them as evidence to "justify its crimes against [Palestinian] civilians."  (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Examination of the Names of Palestinians Killed in the Gaza War: Half Were Terrorists
    We have examined the first 300 names on the Palestinian Health Ministry's lists. Out of 289 names of those killed that we were able to identify, terrorist operatives constitute about 49% and non-involved civilians constitute about 51% of the names. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Hamas' Phony Statistics on Civilian Deaths - Alan M. Dershowitz
    It's a mystery why so many in the media accept as gospel Hamas-supplied figures on the number of civilians killed in the recent war. Hamas claims that close to 90% were civilians. Israel says that close to half were combatants. Even human rights group antagonistic to Israel acknowledge, according to a New York Times report, that Hamas probably counts among the "civilians killed by Israel" the following groups: Palestinians killed by Hamas as collaborators; Palestinians killed through domestic violence; Palestinians killed by errant Hamas rockets or mortars; and Palestinians who died naturally during the conflict.
        It is lazy and dangerous for the media to rely on Hamas-approved propaganda figures, which in the past have proved to be extremely unreliable. (Gatestone Institute)

  • The Gaza War - Perspectives

  • Israel's Conduct in Gaza Is a Model for Other Nations - Peter Wehner
    During his press conference Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked: "Do you feel your actions, Israel's actions, were proportionate?" Netanyahu pointed out that Israel has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure civilian casualties. Netanyahu then posed a question to the journalist. What would you do in a similar situation, in which your nation was being attacked by 3,500 rockets and your territory was being infiltrated by terrorist death squads?
        The BBC reported on Feb. 14, 1945: "British and U.S. bombers have dropped hundreds of thousands of explosives on the German city of Dresden....Last night, 800 RAF Bomber Command planes let loose 650,000 incendiaries and 8,000 lb. of high explosives and hundreds of 4,000 lb. bombs in two waves of attack. They faced very little anti-aircraft fire." According to, the Allied firebombing raids killed as many as 135,000 people.
        My point isn't to condemn Great Britain (or the U.S.). My point is that in war, terrible things happen and innocent people die. By historical standards Israel has conducted itself in its conflict with Hamas with remarkable care and decency. I'm not sure there are many parallels to it. The way Israel has handled itself in this conflict is a model for other nations to follow. (Commentary)
  • American Intervention in the Gaza Conflict - Shmuel Sandler
    American intervention in the Gaza conflict has been difficult to understand. Washington acted against its own strategic interests in prodding Israel to pull back from clubbing Hamas, and in involving Turkey and Qatar - the lawyers and financiers of Hamas - in the ceasefire negotiations, while snubbing Egypt.
        The Obama administration has failed to recognize the emergence, importance and opportunities presented by an axis of moderate pro-American Middle East states that developed during the recent crisis. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, many Gulf states (with the exception of Qatar), and Israel all shared similar interests in this conflict, as did Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority. They all sought the dramatic weakening of the radical Islamic, Iranian-backed Hamas. Yet Washington declined to support this emerging bloc.
        U.S. behavior towards Egypt is worrying. The Obama administration seems incapable of dealing squarely with Egyptian President Al-Sisi because he deposed the Muslim Brotherhood government. Perhaps Washington was seized with the thesis that views the Muslim Brotherhood as a pragmatic actor and a potential ally against more extreme iterations of Islam.
        This could also explain the Obama administration's misperception of the AKP, Turkey's ruling party, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Strangely, Obama befriends a rabidly anti-Western and openly anti-Semitic leader. The writer is a senior research associate at the BESA Center and professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The UN Handmaiden of Hamas - Claudia Rosett
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is one of the UN's most perverse, destructive creations. In Gaza it essentially functions as Hamas' handmaiden. During the clashes of recent weeks as Israel sought to stop rocket attacks by Hamas and to destroy its terror tunnels, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl publicly condemned Israel, accusing the Israelis of "serious violation of international law."
        Hamas controls UNRWA's staff unions in Gaza, where in 2012 a Hamas-affiliated slate swept 25 of 27 seats. The 30,000 staff on the payroll are almost all Palestinian. With a budget topping $1 billion, the agency's welfare programs relieve Hamas of many of the costs of servicing the enclave it controls as its launchpad for terror.
        In 2011 the agency opened an office in Washington run by two former U.S. government insiders: Matthew Reynolds, previously the State Department's assistant secretary for legislative affairs, and Chris McGrath, previously a media-events director for Sen. Harry Reid. Thus, U.S. tax dollars fund UNRWA officials now lobbying in Washington to obtain yet more money for an agency entwined with the rocket-launching, tunnel-digging rulers of Gaza. The writer is journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Are IDF Tactics on Solid Legal Ground? - David Horovitz
    Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and professor of international law at Hebrew University, said the key to the rule of proportionality is that "you try to minimize" civilian casualties. In this respect, Israel was unique in that it issues warnings, "which no other air force does," before striking at critical targets.
        Will Israel's "careful" approach now ensure that it is vindicated in the looming wave of UN probes and possible war crime suits? "It is irrelevant in terms of public relations," Sabel said. But Israel would be on firm legal ground "if the issue were to come to a neutral court of law."
        Sabel does not anticipate Israel finding itself before the International Criminal Court, because the Palestinians know that were they to accept the court's jurisdiction, as they would be required to do, they too would be subject to its authority. "And Hamas deliberately and flagrantly ignores the rules of war."  (Times of Israel)
  • The Media's Role in Hamas' War Strategy - Richard Landes
    The IDF has found a Hamas training manual that advises its combatants to use civilian shields. Hamas' war strategy works like this: 1. Attack Israel's civilians to provoke a counter-attack. 2. Hide behind Palestinian civilians while forcing them to stay, guaranteeing that the return fire wounds or kills civilians. 3. Encourage Western news media to play up the civilian suffering. 4. Conjure a firestorm of outrage around the world that eventually pressures Israel into desisting from counteroffensive measures.
        The Hamas strategy is win-win. If the Israelis abort a strike to avoid civilian casualties (as they often do), then Hamas is spared the blow. If an Israeli strike causes civilian casualties, Hamas has dead babies to parade before the cameras. The writer is a professor of history at Boston University.  (American Interest)
  • Expert: IDF Fulfilled All Ethical Requirements in Gaza - Naama Lansky
    The Israel Defense Forces carried out Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in compliance with ethical requirements, according to Israel Prize laureate Professor Asa Kasher, who helped formulate the IDF Code of Ethics. "Every battalion commander has an officer in charge of locating civilians, and everything is overseen by too many lawyers, who help direct the operation on the ground. The number of casualties is irrelevant - it does not speak of omissions or any wrongdoing on the part of the IDF."
        Israel is facing a torrent of aggressive criticism because "there are people whose perspective is very shallow. They are shown photographs of a destroyed house and a doll's severed leg, photographs that are sometimes even from Syria, and they cry out. They do not understand anything and they feel the need to express a shallow sort of good-heartedness that has them momentarily identifying with the underdog."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Hamas' Psychological Military Strategies Against Israel - Irwin J. Mansdorf
    Hamas openly states that it is committed to Israel's elimination. While militarily limited, Hamas employs functional psychological strategies to weaken Israel. As documented in manuals used by Hamas fighters, Palestinian civilian casualties and property destruction are tolerable for Hamas because they serve to engender support for their fighters. This can result in pressure on Israel to cease military operations and then to negotiate cease-fire terms to Hamas' advantage.
        Israel has been able to withstand much of Hamas' psychological strategy of using civilian deaths to improve its military position. It is important that this strategy not succeed in providing Hamas with tangible gains through misuse of legitimate humanitarian concerns. Humanitarian concern for civilian non-combatants by the media, governments and NGOs is a psychological tool that allows "enabling" of Hamas behavior. The writer is a clinical psychologist and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • In Defense of Zionism - Michael B. Oren
    Without hesitation, Israelis proudly responded to the call-up for reserve duty in the Israel Defense Forces, ready to defend their nation. They risk their lives for an idea. The idea is Zionism. It is the belief that the Jewish people should have their own sovereign state in the Land of Israel.
        The Zionist movement sprung from a 4,000-year-long bond between the Jewish people and its historic homeland, an attachment sustained throughout 20 centuries of exile. This is why citizens of Israel willingly take up arms. They believe their idea is worth fighting for. The writer was Israel's ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013. (Wall Street Journal)
  • 2,000-Year-Old Trove of Ancient Coins Found in Israel
    A 2,000-year-old trove of rare bronze coins from the Second Temple period was discovered in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Tuesday. The discovery was made after pottery shards discovered several months ago, during construction to widen the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, led archaeologists to continue their excavation.
        "The hoard, which appears to have been buried several months prior to the fall of Jerusalem, provides us with a glimpse into the lives of Jews living on the outskirts of Jerusalem at the end of the rebellion," said IAA excavation directors Pablo Betzer and Eyal Marco. Inside a buried ceramic box researchers found 114 bronze coins dating to the fourth year of the Great Revolt by the Jews against the Romans. The discovery was announced on the Ninth of Av, the Hebrew date where Jews commemorate the destruction of the Second Temple. (Fox News)
  • View: Stunning Mosaic Found at Ancient Galilee Synagogue - Ilan Ben Zion
    Jodi Magness, a professor of Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her team found a stunning mosaic this summer depicting a group of elephants at the fifth-century synagogue in the Galilee village of Huqoq. The first section of the mosaic floor was found in the summer of 2012, revealing depictions of Samson setting the Philistine's fields ablaze with the aid of unfortunate foxes. In 2013 a panel was revealed showing Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza. (Times of Israel)

U.S. Must Strongly Affirm Israel's Right of Self-Defense - Peter Berkowitz (RealClearPolitics)

  • Israel's Operation Protective Edge is a complex and costly military undertaking designed to degrade Hamas' capacity to launch missile bombardments and use cross-border attack tunnels to kill Israeli civilians. The defensive war, which was forced upon Israel in July when Hamas escalated rocket attacks and sent terrorists into southern Israel through the tunnels, has exacted a terrible price.
  • Many pundits and politicians leapt to the conclusion that because Hamas has suffered much greater losses, Israel's response was disproportionate. The assumption that proportionality involves a rough equality of losses - or is violated when harm is caused to civilians - is superficial. And it has no foundation in international law.
  • The international laws of war provide that the use of civilian areas for military purposes causes them to lose their immunity from military attack. Consequently, under the laws of war properly understood, most of the Palestinian civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza are presumptively Hamas' responsibility.
  • Israel is the only nation in the world subjected to scrutiny and slander for protecting its own civilians from military attacks launched from outside its borders. The legacy of the Goldstone report (2009) also threatens the United States. Simply put, it incentivizes terrorists to dress as civilians, hide among civilians, launch operations from civilian areas, and use civilians as human shields. It's a future roadmap for jihadists devoted to war against the United States.
  • Therefore, U.S. leaders should seek opportunities to reaffirm Israel's inalienable right to self-defense, condemn Hamas' flagrant violations of the international laws of war, underscore Hamas' responsibility for civilian casualties in Gaza and the reduction of swathes of the strip to rubble, firmly oppose the recently established UNHRC commission of inquiry, and defend Israel's right and responsibility to conduct its own investigations of all credible allegations of unlawful military conduct by its combatants.

    The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
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