Cuba Releases Jewish American Aid Worker Alan Gross after Five Years in Prison (AP)
Alan Gross has been released from a Cuban prison after five years, as part of an agreement that also includes the release of three Cubans jailed in the U.S., U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access for Jewish communities as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Report: ISIS Executes 150 Women for Refusing to Marry Militants (Anadolu-Turkey)
"At least 150 females, including pregnant women, were executed in Fallujah by a militant named Abu Anas Al-Libi after they refused to accept jihad marriage," Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights said Tuesday.
Gaza Posters Depict Hanging of PA Leader Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Posters depicting the hanging of PA President Mahmoud Abbas appeared in Gaza on Thursday, describing him as a "dictator" and a "traitor."
In Gaza, Rehabilitation Is Slow - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Three months after the war in Gaza, tens of thousands of residents are still residing in UNRWA facilities and others are housed in tents - in the middle of winter.
The $5 billion pledged at the international conference in Cairo exists only on paper.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has blamed Hamas for the delay due to its refusal to transfer control of the border crossings to his Presidential Guard, despite promising to do so.
Hamas has been "caught" several times collecting taxes on cement entering Gaza under the recovery mechanism, and only threats to halt the transfers stopped the taxation.
Britain to Build Permanent Middle East Military Base in Bahrain - Chris Johnston (Guardian-UK)
Britain will set up a permanent military base in the Middle East for the first time in more than four decades, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
Four minesweepers have operated from the Mina Salmon port in Bahrain, but the new facility will also be a base for much larger ships including destroyers and aircraft carriers.
The rise of Islamic State, fears over Iran, and ongoing instability in the region contributed to the decision to establish the new base, which is adjacent to a more substantial U.S. facility, home to the Fifth Fleet.
Hamas Militant Killed, Four Injured, in Gaza "Work Accident" (Jerusalem Post)
A Hamas militant was killed and four others were injured in an explosion in Gaza on Thursday.
Israel Radio said the explosion was likely due to a "work accident" during the preparation of explosives.
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- Jordan Submits Palestinian UN Resolution Calling for Israeli Withdrawal from West Bank - Somini Sengupta
A draft Security Council resolution by the Palestinians sets a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel and is aimed at the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank. But the Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, stopped short of pressing for a swift vote. The move seemed more aimed at sending a political message to Palestinians back home than spurring the Security Council into action. (New York Times)
See also Text of Draft UN Resolution on Palestinian State (New York Times)
See also Israel Calls Palestinian UN Draft a Gimmick
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday described as a gimmick a Palestinian-proposed UN Security Council draft resolution. "Certainly this will not hasten an agreement because without Israel's consent, nothing will change," he said. "It would be better if the Security Council dealt with matters truly important to the citizens of the world, such as the murderous attacks this week in Australia and Pakistan, or discuss events in Syria and Libya, and not waste time on the Palestinians' gimmicks." (Reuters)
- Islamists Rout Syrian Government Troops - Mousab Alhamadee
The Assad regime sustained a major setback in northern Syria this week with the loss of two major military bases. The big winner was al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, which captured an enormous arsenal.
Of the 1,000 regime troops stationed at the Wadi al Deif and al Hamidiyah bases, only about 500 had reached the city of Hama to which the troops withdrew, about half of them wounded. A source in the Free Syrian Army estimated that 350 regime troops had died in the fighting, and rebel commanders claim to have captured more than 200.
Nusra fighters hit regime tanks using American-supplied TOW missiles they'd captured last month when they ousted the U.S.-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front in Idlib province. (McClatchy)
- Most Palestinians Accuse Abbas of Silencing Dissent - Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh
Two-thirds of Palestinians say they are afraid to criticize Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll published last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Security agents routinely monitor social media and send threats or complaints to some of those criticizing Abbas. Critics say that after a decade in power, Abbas is overseeing a largely authoritarian system with shrinking room for dissent.
"We face an autocratic regime that doesn't believe in any freedoms, in freedom of unions or freedom of speech," said Jihad Harb, a Fatah member. "The people are now terrified. They don't speak up, fearing reprisal." Ahmed Assaf, a Fatah spokesman, responded, "If you look around and see what is going on in the Arab world, you realize how much freedom we enjoy here." (AP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Geneva Conference Criticizes Israel - Lazar Berman
126 countries that are parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention met in Geneva on Wednesday to rebuke Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The U.S., Israel, Canada and Australia did not attend the conference.
(Times of Israel)
See also Israel Slams Geneva Convention Conference
The conference that convened Wednesday in Geneva is another example of a multilateral mechanism falling victim to an anti-Israel agenda, moving the parties away from negotiations and undermining the universality and integrity of the Geneva Conventions. It sends President Abbas the message that unilateral action is preferable to direct negotiations with Israel. However, it won't stop Israel from implementing its primary obligation to its citizens - to provide them with security and protect them from merciless and fanatic terrorists, who do not hide their desire to see Israel wiped off the map of the Middle East. There cannot be one law for the Jewish state and another for all other states.
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Israeli IS "Leader" Says Caliphate Will Rule over Jews
The supposed leader of Islamic State supporters in Israel told Israel Channel 10 on Wednesday he believed the group would one day rule Israel, and said Jews would only be allowed to remain under Islamic caliphate rule if they adhered to the Islamic way of life. Abu Kassem said Israel was currently home to 4-500 Islamic State supporters.
Asked how Jews would be treated, Abu Kassem said they would allowed to live here "but you will live like I want you to. You will live here as a Muslim. If you don't oppose me there's no problem." (Times of Israel)
- Questions for the Geneva Convention Meeting - Eugene Kontorovich
Switzerland on Wednesday convened a conference of State Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss the law of occupation as it pertains to Israel. Art. 49(6)'s prohibition of "deportation and transfer" into occupied territory could certainly do with elucidation. Indeed, an examination of movement into occupied territory in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Western Sahara, and Cyprus would be both timely and instructive. Needless to say, this is not what the state parties will be discussing.
The state parties apparently regard Israel as occupying Gaza and all of the West Bank, despite the removal of Israeli troops from those areas and the existence of an independent Palestinian administration there. However, occupation in all other contexts requires the occupying power to displace and actually function as the governing authority, conditions that do not apply in Gaza and large parts of the West Bank (Area A). An International Committee of the Red Cross manual states: "Occupation ceases when the occupying forces are driven out of or evacuate the territory." The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. (Washington Post)
- Hamas and the Decision by the European Union Court - Alan Baker
With the procedural decision by the EU General Court to annul the inclusion of Hamas on the EU list of terrorist organizations, Hamas described the move as a stunning victory. Yet the Court decision should not be seen as proof of the legitimacy of Hamas, nor as ultimate recognition by Europe of its status. This decision is nothing more than an internal, procedural issue within the EU, and makes no substantive change in the designation of Hamas and the freezing of its funds by the EU.
One may assume that EU authorities will take into consideration the clear evidence that exists regarding the terrorist nature, motivation and activities of Hamas. Hamas bombarded Israeli civilian towns and villages this summer with more than 4,000 rockets. Hamas used its own civilians, including families, homes, children, schools, hospitals and mosques, as shields for rocket emplacements and terror headquarters. The writer served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Palestinian-Israeli Incitement Can and Should Be Curbed, Especially Now - David Pollock
The omnibus spending bills just passed by the U.S. Congress include one potentially significant provision on the issue of incitement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena: a reiteration of the requirement that the Palestinian Authority act to end its official incitement against Israel as a condition for continued U.S. funding. This provision should be enforced, not evaded as has been the case until now.
Funding need not be cut completely, but a meaningful concrete penalty for official incitement should be imposed. In addition, the U.S. should work to incorporate clear and binding language against incitement in any eventual UN Security Council resolution. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Netanyahu to Europeans: Stop Rewarding Palestinian Intransigence (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Foreign Press Corps on Wednesday:
- The decision of the European court in Luxembourg on Hamas, the
resolution of the EU Parliament in Brussels on Palestinian statehood, and
the call from Switzerland to investigate Israel for supposed violations of
the Geneva Convention all point to a spirit of appeasement in Europe of the very forces that threaten Europe itself.
- I know that some in Europe say that they are frustrated with
the situation in the Middle East. We in
Israel are frustrated too. We are
frustrated that our Palestinian neighbors refuse to recognize the right of
the Jewish people to a state of their own at the time that they're asking
for us to recognize their right to have one.
- We're frustrated that our
Palestinian neighbors continue to incite against Jews and the Jewish state,
creating a climate of hatred and violence. We're frustrated that they refuse
to negotiate seriously about our legitimate security concerns.
- Removing the terrorist
designation of Hamas is a grave mistake. Hamas is a ruthless terrorist
organization with a proven track record of brutal terror attacks against
innocent civilians, and not only Israelis: hundreds of Palestinians have been murdered by them.
Just this year,
Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers. It launched thousands
of rocket attacks indiscriminately at our children, at our civilians.
- Does Europe hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for its coddling of
extremism? Does it demand that the Palestinian Authority break its signed
pact with Hamas? Does Europe call for an end to outrageous official
Palestinian incitement against Jews and the Jewish state?
The sad truth is that Europe is largely silent on these questions and when
it raises its voice, it's typically in the other direction.
should the Palestinian leadership demonstrate responsible behavior if its extremist behavior is rewarded time and again by European parliaments?
Parliamentary recognitions do nothing to advance
peace. These declarations merely reinforce Palestinian
intransigence, pushing peace further away. Instead of
rewarding Palestinian intransigence, the European democracies should support
the one and only democracy in the Middle East - the State of Israel.
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