ISIS Holds Terrified Civilians as Human Shields in Syrian City of Raqqa - Bassem Mroue and Lori Hinnant (AP-Denver Post)
Residents of the Syrian city of Raqqa live in terror, trapped as a massive human shield in the Islamic State's capital ahead of the final battle with U.S.-backed forces.
All men have been ordered to wear the jihadis' garb of baggy pants and long shirts - making it difficult to distinguish Islamic State militants from civilians.
Report: Houthi Rebels Flying Iranian-Made "Kamikaze Drones" into Surveillance Radars - Christopher Diamond (Defense News)
Houthi rebels appear to be using Iranian-made drones to ram Saudi and UAE missile defenses in Yemen, according to a report by the group Conflict Armament Research.
The UAE reports that rebels have been flying the drones into the radar sets of the Saudi-led coalition's Patriot missile systems.
The Decline of the "Lone Wolves" Myth - Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (Foreign Affairs)
Over the past nine months, the public understanding of terrorist strikes has demonstrably shifted away from declaring single-attacker incidents to be the work of so-called lone wolves.
There is growing awareness that such individuals are often in communication with other militants.
In several prominent cases, the lone attackers communicated with ISIS operatives, often based in Syria.
Swedish Government Funds BDS Initiative in France (NGO Monitor)
A report published on March 29 by a coalition of French and Palestinian pro-BDS organizations calls on the French government to "pressure" French financial institutions to divest from Israeli banks, communication, insurance, and utility companies.
The report was funded by the Swedish government and the logo of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) appears on the publication.
The French government has also directly given hundreds of thousands of euros for projects and core funding to each of the NGOs involved in writing the report.
Islamic State Beheads Two for "Sorcery" in Egypt's Sinai (Reuters)
Islamic State's branch in Egypt's Sinai posted a video on Tuesday depicting the beheading of two elderly men the Islamist group said it had found guilty of practicing witchcraft and sorcery.
Islamic State uses the term "sorcerers" to refer to adherents of Sufism, a non-violent form of Islam that has been practiced for centuries.
Tel Aviv's Trash Is Being Turned into Fuel (Reuters)
A new waste collection plant has begun processing half the trash in Tel Aviv, turning much of it into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF).
Recyclables like paper and metals are separated out and the rest is mostly turned into high energy RDF that is sent to Israel's main cement factory, where it is burned instead of petroleum, a less environment-friendly fossil fuel.
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News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- U.S. General Calls Iran "Destabilizing" Force, Suggests Disrupting Regime by Military Means - Jeff Daniels
Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that Iran is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today and has increased its "destabilizing role" in the region.
"We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt through military means or other means their activities," he said. "We need to look at opportunities where we can expose and hold them accountable for the things that they are doing....Our concern is not with the people of Iran, it is with their revolutionary government." (CNBC)
See also Centcom Commander Briefs Congress on Regional Threats - Jim Garamone (U.S. Department of Defense)
- U.S. Envoy Attends Arab League Summit in Jordan
The U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt attended the Arab League Summit this week in Jordan as an observer and held a round of bilateral meetings with Arab leaders. Greenblatt focused on how tangible progress could be made toward advancing a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Greenblatt made clear that he was not in the region to impose ideas or peace plans on others. He reiterated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties.
(U.S. Embassy in Jordan)
- U.S. UN Ambassador Haley: "Boycott North Korea, Sanction Iran, Divest from Syria - Not Israel"
Speaking at a meeting at the UN opposing the Palestinian-led "Boycott, Divest and Sanctions" (BDS) movement that targets Israel, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said:
"How tragic is it that, of all countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel. We should boycott North Korea. We should sanction Iran. We should divest from Syria, not Israel. It makes absolutely no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice." (U.S. Mission to the UN)
- Thousands of U.S. Combat Troops Are Back on the Ground in the Middle East - Doyle McManus
Without much public notice, thousands of U.S. combat troops are back on the ground in the Middle East: roughly 7,000 in Iraq, almost 1,000 in Syria, another 2,500 in Kuwait. Those troops aren't only special operations forces; they include artillery teams fighting in Iraq and a helicopter unit that has flown behind Islamic State lines in Syria.
James F. Jeffrey, a former ambassador (and former Army officer) who's advising the administration, told me, "This is more - not only more troops, but more willingness to use them. It's a change of maybe 20%, but it's an important 20%." (Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel to Cut $2 Million from UN Funding Due to "Obsessive Bias Against Israel" - Herb Keinon
In response to the anti-Israel resolutions passed last week in the UN Human Rights Council, Israel will cut $2 million from money it has allocated to the UN and give it instead to programs in developing nations that support it in international organizations, the Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday.
This is in addition to the $6 million that Jerusalem slashed in January in the aftermath of the passage of anti-settlement Resolution 2334 in the UN Security Council. The ministry said that this decision is part of an Israeli campaign to change the "obsessive bias against Israel at the UN and in its agencies." (Jerusalem Post)
- Abbas Calls on Arab League to Endorse His Demand that Britain Apologize for Balfour Declaration - Jack Khoury
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, addressing the Arab League summit in Jordan, called on the Arab states to endorse the Palestinian demand that Britain apologize for the Balfour declaration of 1917 which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Mandatory Palestine.
- New Moves toward a Peace Agreement Must Consider Israeli Public Opinion - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
A March poll by leading Israeli pollster Dr. Mina Tzemach found a decrease in support among Israeli Jews for withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The poll indicates that the Israeli public does not agree to Palestinian demands for an independent state on all the territory of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, with its capital in Jerusalem. Therefore, it is difficult to see how any agreement is currently possible.
The poll reflects the suspicions Jewish Israelis have of Palestinian intentions and their awareness of the resulting security dangers, especially in light of the current realities in the region.
The poll results should clarify for those who wish to promote an agreement that if they want to succeed, the first step needs to be to increase the trust among the Israeli public for any agreement. The only way to achieve this is to attempt to have the Palestinians change their narrative, to stop their one-sided moves against Israel in international forums, and to stop paying salaries to terrorists and lauding them as heroic role models. The writer was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Poll: Israeli Support for Palestinian State Hits Historic Low, Israelis Losing Hope in Palestinians' Ability to Strike Peace Deal - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
- Nazi SS Commander Himmler Sent Palestinian Mufti "Warm Wishes for the Continuation of Your Battle until the Big Victory" - Joy Bernard
Israel's National Library has uncovered a telegram written by SS commander Heinrich Himmler and sent to the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini in 1943, in which the Nazi leader expressed his support for the Palestinian struggle against the Jews.
Himmler, one of the main masterminds behind the Nazi regime's plan to exterminate all of Europe's Jews, wrote, "The joint recognition of the enemy, and the joint battle against him, are what creates the firm allegiance between Germany and freedom-seeking Muslims all over the world....In this spirit, I am happy to wish you on the...anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, warm wishes for the continuation of your battle until the big victory." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Nazis and the Holocaust:
The Origins, Nature and Aftereffects of Collaboration - Jeffrey Herf (Jewish Political Studies Review)
- The Role of Iraqi Security Forces in Defeating the Islamic State - Michael Knights
Last week saw Iraqi security forces (ISF) entering the northwestern quadrant of Mosul, the last quarter of the city still under Islamic State control. The main forces fighting ISIS in Iraq are the central government's ISF, which include the Counter-Terrorism Service, the army, and the Federal Police. Next are the Kurdish forces: the Kurdistan Regional Government's Peshmerga military units and their police counterparts, the Zerevani. Third are the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Shiite volunteer militias that include some Iranian-backed Shiites who had fought the Iraqi government in prior years.
Iraqis and Kurds have largely liberated themselves in this conflict, doing the vast majority of the actual fighting on the ground (with powerful and indispensable assistance from the coalition). The pervasive misunderstanding that the Kurds have carried a disproportionate burden in the fighting was exacerbated by the relative ease of reporting from KRG territory. In fact, the ISF fought more battles and liberated more cities than other forces.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Lessons on Iran from North Korea's Nuclear Threat - Dr. Emily B. Landau (Institute for National Security Studies)
- After years of failed negotiations, followed by eight years of an Obama administration policy of "strategic patience," North Korea is today a nuclear state, on the verge of being able to threaten the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped ICBM.
- When restrictions on Iran's nuclear infrastructure expire under the JCPOA nuclear deal, Iran will be stronger than it was before the negotiations began and will have a much more advanced nuclear infrastructure. Iran, virtually unhindered, is also rapidly developing its own ballistic missile program.
- There is no short-term benefit from the JCPOA if these initial years are not used effectively to confront Iran for the sake of the long term.
- Putting pressure on Iran is a proven path to altering its behavior in the nuclear realm - it is the toughness of the biting sanctions from 2012 that brought Iran to the table in 2013.
- Replacing the pressure tactic with hopes of change in Iran - especially when pinned on the strengthening of President Rouhani - is misguided: the Iranian president has not demonstrated significant moderation either internally or with regard to Iran's regional behavior.
- If the P5+1 continue to celebrate the JCPOA-induced delay while relaxing their vigilance and pressure, they will ultimately face a nuclear threat as intractable as that of North Korea.
The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the INSS.
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