Egyptian Army Demolishes Homes along Gaza Border - Ashraf Sweilam and Maggie Michael (AP)
With dynamite and bulldozers, Egypt's army demolished dozens of homes along its border with Gaza on Wednesday, after the military ordered residents out to make way for a planned buffer zone meant to stop extremists and smugglers.
The move comes after extremists attacked an army checkpoint near Sheikh Zuweyid town last week, killing 31 soldiers.
Tanks and armored vehicles sealed off the Egyptian border town of Rafah as thick gray smoke rose in the sky each time demolition charges went off and another house was toppled.
See also North Sinai Border Area Evacuation Begins - Ahmed Eleiba (Ahram Online-Egypt)
The official decision to form a buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza was not a surprise, as it comes following a request issued two months ago.
Most of the residents belong to the Al-Barahma, Al-Kanabra and Salah El-Din clans. They have been consulted on the appropriate compensation for their evacuation, according to North Sinai Governor Abdel-Fattah Harhour.
Islamic State Executes 46 Sunni Opponents in Captured Iraqi City - Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim (Washington Post)
Islamic State gunmen on Wednesday publicly killed 46 members of the Albu Nimr tribe in a city square in the city of Hit, which the Islamic State seized this month.
A local resident said, "They gathered them in al-Bakir Square at 11 a.m. today, hands bound, and shot them all." Pictures distributed on pro-Islamic State social media showed bodies lined up on the pavement.
The resident added that dozens of tribesmen had already been killed in Islamic State prisons before Wednesday's slayings.
Israel's Air Force the Best in the World, Study Finds (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's military is the most powerful in the Middle East, while its air force ranks second to none globally, according to a study conducted by military experts for Business Insider.
"Pilot to pilot, airframe to airframe, the Israeli air force is the best in the world," said Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
"Israel also has one of the region's most battle-ready armies, a force that has fought in four major engagements since 2006 and has experience securing a few of the most problematic borders on earth," the report read.
Turkey was ranked the second most powerful military in the region, followed by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, and Egypt.
See also The Most Powerful Militaries in the Middle East - Armin Rosen, Jeremy Bender and Amanda Macias (Business Insider)
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- Israeli Temple Mount Activist Shot by Arab in Jerusalem - Joshua Mitnick
American-born Yehuda Glick, a prominent proponent of greater Israeli control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of the ancient Jewish temple, was shot at close range by an Arab gunman on Wednesday after addressing a conference on the subject at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
Palestinian leaders, among them President Abbas, have called on Palestinians to protect the site "by any means" against Jewish activists - drawing accusations of incitement by Israeli leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said this week there would be no changes to the status of the site.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Islamic Jihad Member Suspected in Shooting of Israeli Activist Killed by Police - Daniel K. Eisenbud
Israeli police killed Islamic Jihad member Moataz Hejazi, 32, on Thursday after he fired at them while resisting arrest in eastern Jerusalem hours after the attempted assassination of an Israeli activist, police said.
Hejazi had spent 11 years in an Israeli jail and was released in 2012.
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, the spokesman for the Joint Committee of Temple Organizations, remained in serious condition at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
- White House Rejects Insults of Netanyahu - David Jackson
The White House is distancing itself from insulting comments that unnamed officials made about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Certainly that's not the Administration's view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive," said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President have forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the President hosted the Prime Minister in the Oval Office....The U.S.-Israel relationship remains as strong as ever, our security bonds have never been greater, and the ties between our nations are unshakable. We remain fully and firmly committed to Israel's security."
See also U.S. Jewish Leaders: Hold "Senior Administration Official" Accountable for Insulting Comments - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement Wednesday that it was "deeply concerned by a number of recent public and private criticisms, personal insults and inappropriate characterizations emanating from official sources."
It welcomed statements from the administration distancing the White House from comments cited by columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The Atlantic, and called for "the person responsible to be held to account...by the administration." (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel's UN Ambassador: The People of Israel Are Not Occupiers in Jerusalem - Lazar Berman
Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor defended construction in Jerusalem on Wednesday, telling an emergency Security Council session that "the people of Israel are not occupiers and we are not settlers. Israel is our home and Jerusalem is our eternal capital." "There are many threats in the Middle East, but the presence of Jewish homes in the Jewish homeland has never been one of them," Prosor emphasized. "Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character."
He also blasted the Palestinian Authority for objecting to Jews visiting the Temple Mount. "You don't have to be Catholic to visit the Vatican. You don't have to be Jewish to visit the Western Wall. But the Palestinians would like to see the day when the Temple Mount is only open to Muslims."
"Let me tell you just how much the PA cares about holy sites: In Nablus, which has been under the control of the PA since 1995, the grave of the biblical patriarch Joseph was reduced to rubble. In Bethlehem, also under PA control, violent extremists have looted and desecrated the Church of the Nativity."
(Times of Israel)
See also Palestinian Incitement on the Issue of Jerusalem (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Ya'alon: Abbas Responsible for Escalation in Violence and Terror
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday that the attempted murder of Israeli Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick is another phase of the escalation of violence by Palestinians against Jews and the State of Israel. He said that when PA President Mahmoud Abbas spreads lies about the Jewish right to the land and to practice religion, the result is terror, like what happened to Glick.
- IDF: Possible Hizbullah Has Tunneled across Border
Israel believes Hizbullah has probably dug tunnels across the border from Lebanon in preparation for any future war, although it has no conclusive evidence, Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, commander of Israeli forces on the Lebanese and Syrian fronts, told Army Radio on Wednesday. "We have to suppose as a working assumption that there are tunnels. These have to be looked for and prepared for." (Reuters-Ynet News)
- Many Arab Governments Assert the Superiority of Islam - Brian Whitaker
Compulsion in religion is the ideological foundation stone of ISIS and Islamist movements in general. Believing they have superior knowledge of God's wishes for mankind, such groups feel required to punish those who fail to comply with the divine will. Bombing ISIS and banning Islamist movements may suppress such movements for a while, but it does nothing to address the ideological problem. Unless the question of compulsion in religion is tackled head-on, they will resurface later or similar groups will emerge to replace them.
As far as many of the Arab public are concerned, discriminating against members of the "wrong" faith is not only acceptable, but the right thing to do. Most Arab states share ISIS's approach to compulsion in religion. ISIS may be more brutal in practice but, basically, they are on the same ground - asserting the superiority of Islam and the legitimacy of religious discrimination.
- Is Lebanon on the Brink of a New Civil War? - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
The Syrian civil war is spilling over to Lebanon's north, heavily populated with Sunni Muslims sympathetic to the fate of their Syrian Sunni brothers fighting Bashar Assad's Alawite regime.
Since late summer, Lebanon has been the target of Sunni jihadists infiltrating from Syria.
Lately the Lebanese Sunnis in the city of Tripoli have rallied to the Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists with the apparent goal of taking over the city. The Lebanese army, using helicopter gunships, succeeded in ousting the insurgents from the historical center of Tripoli after four days of heavy fighting.
The fall of Tripoli would have been the beginning of the disintegration of the Lebanese state.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Palestinians: Stop the Children's Intifada - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian groups are using children from east Jerusalem and the West Bank in what appears to be a new intifada against Israel. These children are being sent to throw stones and firebombs, and launch fireworks at policemen and IDF soldiers, as well as at Israeli civilians and vehicles, including buses and the light rail in Jerusalem.
Human rights groups and UN institutions have chosen to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of children in the fight against Israel. These children are victims of a campaign of indoctrination and incitement being waged by Hamas and Fatah. There are also reports that Fatah and Hamas activists in Jerusalem have been paying children to throw stones and firebombs at Israelis.
The time has come for the international community and media to demand that Palestinian groups stop hiding behind children.
Expert: No Indication of Iranian Reversal on Nuclear Ambitions - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
- There is "absolutely no indication that Iran has any intention of making a strategic U-turn" in its nuclear ambitions, Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said last week, noting that Iran is at the nuclear breakout point already.
- While Iran is not increasing uranium stockpiles, Landau noted, "it is retaining the vast stockpile of LEU [low enriched uranium] that it had on the eve of the interim deal [signed in November 2013]. And it is continuing research and development on more and more advanced centrifuges."
- "If it decided to make a dash to the bomb, it could have the fissile material in a matter of months, and it would take some more months to create a warhead."
- "What we hear from Iran on almost all the issues is 'no': No dismantlement of centrifuges; no ceasing of enrichment; no closing the Fordow [uranium enrichment site] or Arak [heavy water plant]; no discussion of weaponization aspects of its nuclear program, and not cooperating with IAEA on outstanding questions."
- Since October 2013, Iran's bargaining strategy has been to get a maximum level of sanctions relief in exchange for the absolute minimal nuclear concessions, and "so far it is doing not badly from its point of view."
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