U.S. Troops Carry Out Ground Raid against ISIS in Syria - Liz Sly and Missy Ryan (Washington Post)
U.S. Special Operations troops carried out a ground operation on Sunday near Deir al-Zour, deep in the heart of Islamic State territory in eastern Syria, U.S. officials said Monday.
The troops, who landed in helicopters, spent 90 minutes in the area, then left carrying Islamic State captives and bodies.
A U.S. defense official said that during the operation, aimed at capturing an Islamic State militant, a firefight broke out and the militant, along with another person in the vehicle, was killed. No Americans were injured.
See also U.S. Increases Support for Turkish Military Operations in Syria - Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan (Washington Post)
U.S. aircraft have begun regular aerial intelligence surveillance in support of Turkey's offensive against the Islamic State in northwestern Syria.
16 U.S. Jewish Community Centers Get Bomb Threats in a Single Day (JTA)
Bomb threats were called in to at least 16 Jewish community centers and other institutions in seven states across the south and northeast on Monday. All the alerts were false.
The calls likely came from a single source, said Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, a group affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America that coordinates security for the Jewish community.
Was ISIS Behind the Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem? - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
In principle, ISIS does not support a Palestinian state because ISIS wants to eliminate all Arab states to establish the Islamic caliphate.
Leaflets distributed by ISIS in Jerusalem incite against Christians but make no mention of
the Palestinian campaign that "Al-Aqsa Mosque is in Danger."
In all of ISIS' publications, there has not been a single mention of the Palestinian struggle, Israel, or even Jerusalem.
Biological Cells Engineered to Act as Cardiac Pacemakers - Stuart Nathan (The Engineer)
Researchers from Israel and Canada have obtained promising results from an experimental pacemaker made from natural human cells, and believe this system may overcome drawbacks of electrical pacemakers.
The team used cells called sinotrial (SA) node pacemaker cells, which make up the natural pacemaker system in the heart.
The Israeli team from the Technion and Rambam University Hospital in Haifa, working with experts from the McEwan Center for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto, has devised a protocol for ensuring that embryonic stem cells differentiate into sinotrial node pacemaker cells.
In the journal Nature Biotechnology, the team describes how six of the seven subjects had a normal heart rhythm restored after implantation of the embryonic cells.
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- Iran to Double Military Spending, Develop Missiles - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
Iranian lawmakers approved plans on Monday to expand military spending to 5% of the budget, up from 2% in the 2015-16 budget, including developing long-range missiles, armed drones and cyber-war capabilities.
See also Iran to Get Shipment of Uranium from Russia
Iran is to receive 130 tons of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say. Tehran received a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015 as part of negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal, in a swap for enriched uranium it sent to Russia.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the shipment could be enriched to enough weapons-grade uranium for more than 10 nuclear bombs, "depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon." (AP-USA Today)
- U.S. Navy Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Vessels in Strait of Hormuz - Anthony Capaccio
A U.S. Navy guided-missile naval destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian rapid-attack craft in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday after the armed speedboats manned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards ignored warnings, Captain Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman, said Monday.
The Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan "at a high rate of speed with their weapons manned as the ship was transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz." After the Iranians ignored repeated warnings, the U.S. ship fired three warning shots from a .50-caliber machine gun.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Israel Taking Steps to Deal with Terrorists - Herb Keinon
During a visit with wounded soldiers from Sunday's truck-ramming attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel is working on three different planes to deal with Palestinian terrorism. The first is defensive: expanding physical barriers at bus stops and hitchhiking posts in the West Bank and Jerusalem. "This has already saved lives, and yesterday the directive was given to expand this even more in Jerusalem," he said. The second is preventive intelligence - to identify these situations in advance. The third is the quick response by soldiers and civilians.
Meanwhile, Israel Radio quoted a Palestinian Authority security source as saying the PA arrested an ISIS-affiliated man in Hebron who planned to carry out a car bomb attack in Israel.
In addition, the PA is said to have arrested 22 Islamic State-affiliated and Salafist men as a precautionary measure after Sunday's Jerusalem terror attack, fearing that they could carry out attacks against Israel or the PA.
See also Four Men Held for Knowing Jerusalem Attacker's Plans - Nir Hasson
A Jerusalem court on Monday extended the detention of four men suspected of having advance knowledge of Fadi al-Qanbar's plans to carry out Sunday's truck-ramming attack that killed four soldiers and wounded 15 others. They include Qanbar's two brothers, a cousin, and the owner of a construction materials firm with which Qanbar worked. Qanbar expressed support for the fighters of ISIS several times on various forums.
- Knife-Wielding Palestinian Terrorist Killed Attacking IDF Force in West Bank - Yoav Zitun and Elior Levy
IDF forces shot and killed a knife-wielding terrorist, Mohammad Al-Salahi, 33, on Monday night after he attacked a group of soldiers in the Far'a refugee camp in the West Bank. (Ynet News)
- Israel Foils Smuggling of Illicit Materials to Gaza - Anna Ahronheim
In December, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinian members of a smuggling ring which had been transporting illicit materials to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, the
Israel Security Agency announced Monday. The smuggled goods, including cameras, drones and communications cables, were hidden inside televisions, washing machines and refrigerators.
- Whitewashing Rafsanjani's Record - Michael Rubin
The New York Times called the death of former Iranian president Rafsanjani "a major blow to moderates and reformists in Iran." The whitewashing of Rafsanjani's record is akin to praising Pol Pot or Fidel Castro. Rafsanjani signed off on attacks like the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires and assassinations of Iranian dissidents worldwide. He also helped birth Iran's covert nuclear weapons program. If Rafsanjani was a moderate, then moderation in the Islamic Republic includes an embrace of incitement to genocide, assassination, torture, and terrorism.
The desire to find moderation and meaning within factional struggles expands beyond just Iran. Talk to European or American diplomats who work in the Middle East about Hizbullah or Hamas and they will describe a nuanced view that divides the movements into hardline and more pragmatic factions. The fact that those moderate Hamas factions still embrace a covenant that calls for genocide against Jews is left unsaid.
Moral clarity is important. Moderates neither engage in terrorism nor endorse it. They do not seek to wipe other nations off the face of the earth. They do not preach religious hatred. Accepting relative moderation only legitimizes different flavors of extremism. The writer, a former Pentagon official who dealt with Middle East issues, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
See also Rafsanjani's Death Strengthens the Revolutionary Guards - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Boycotting Israeli Goods in the West Bank? - Miriam Berger
In Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital of the disputed West Bank,
Palestinian entrepreneur Sameer Khrishi says, "There are a lot of people who do not really care whether it's French or Palestinian or Israeli....What's cheaper?"
The Palestinian Authority cannot endorse boycotts of Israel because of economic agreements in the 1994 Paris Protocol, which followed the Oslo Accord. But in 2010, the authority endorsed boycotts of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinian economist Raja Khalidi, who wrote a recent report on the prospects of a Palestinian boycott, argues that "if there isn't the [Palestinian] productive capacity, it's self-defeating to call for an Israeli boycott....The idea of being proactive in producing alternative Palestinian production sources, it's hard work." (Newsweek)
- Booming Business at the Israel-Gaza Border - Danielle Berrin
Since 2006, Israel has consistently and judiciously provided for Gaza's needs, facing the unique predicament of providing for an enemy that launches rockets into Israel. Israel provides Gaza's civilians with water, gas, electricity, medical supplies, building materials, even butter, with tons of goods passing through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
The Israeli official managing Kerem Shalom told me, "This is a special mission to support an enemy people. Most [Gazans] are innocent, but Gaza is occupied by Hamas terrorists." Business at the border is booming: In 2012, 69,000 trucks delivered goods through the crossing; in 2016, that number rose to 190,000. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
On Palestinian Statehood - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
- Would a Palestinian state serve the cause of Mideast peace? This used to be conventional wisdom, on the theory that a Palestinian state would lead to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
- Today the proposition is ridiculous. No deal between Jerusalem and Ramallah is going to lift the sights of those now fighting in Syria, Iraq or Yemen. Nor will a deal reconcile Tehran and its terrorist proxies in Lebanon and Gaza to the existence of a Jewish state.
- Aren't the Palestinians entitled to a state? Maybe. But are they more entitled to one than the Assamese, Basques, Baloch, Corsicans, Druze, Flemish, Kashmiris, Kurds, Moros, Native Hawaiians, Northern Cypriots, Rohingya, Tibetans, Uyghurs or West Papuans - all of whom have distinct national identities, legitimate historical grievances and plausible claims to statehood? What gives Palestinians the preferential claim?
- Comparisons aside, would a Palestinian state be good for Palestinian people?
A June 2015 poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that a majority of Arab residents in east Jerusalem would rather live as citizens with equal rights in Israel than in a Palestinian state.
- But isn't a Palestinian state a necessity for Israel? Can it maintain its Jewish and democratic character without separating itself from the Palestinians?
- In theory, Israel would be well-served living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state that lived in peace with its neighbors. But Israelis don't live in theory. They live in a world where Israeli prime ministers made good-faith offers of Palestinian statehood and were met with rejection and violence.
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