Russia Claims It Killed Islamic State Leader Baghdadi in Airstrike (AP-Los Angeles Times)
The Russian military said Friday that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian airstrike on May 28.
The Russian defense ministry said the air raid that targeted an ISIS meeting near Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters.
The U.S. could not confirm the report.
Palestinian Government Bans News Sites Critical of Abbas - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP-ABC News)
The Palestinian government in the West Bank on Thursday blocked 11 news websites affiliated with Hamas and other political rivals critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.
PA Withholding Medical Shipments to Gaza - Adam Rasgon (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian Authority has not sent any shipments of medicine or medical equipment to Gaza for more than three months, causing severe shortages, diplomatic sources say.
Consumerism Is Rampant in Ramallah - Michael Jansen (Irish Times)
Ramallah in the West Bank is a bustling, traffic-snarled city of modest skyscrapers, with thousands of empty flats, cafes, restaurants, shops and office blocks.
After a day of Ramadan fasting, West Bankers and Palestinian Jerusalemites pour into Ramallah to partake of swinging night life.
Palestinian civil servants and prosperous businesses prop up the economy and fill the merchants' coffers.
Consumerism is rampant. Malls have sprung up in every quarter.
Meanwhile, Gaza is in severe recession. Only 10% of its two million residents has access to safe drinking water and there is a severe shortage of electricity.
See also Photos: Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israel Tackles Illegal Palestinian Quarrying in Nature Reserve - Efrat Forsher (Israel Hayom)
Israel on Wednesday confiscated illegal Palestinian quarrying machinery in a nature reserve in the Judean Desert, near the Dead Sea.
The Palestinians have significantly increased quarrying over the past few months in the upper part of Daraga ravine, systematically destroying the ecosystem in a rare nature reserve.
Marco Ben-Shabbat, head of the Civil Administration's inspection unit, said, "In recent months we have identified the construction and attempted construction of dozens of quarries in the area, by greedy individuals who simply go from one place to the next in search of places to dig up."
"It's unthinkable that a place that has been uninterrupted for 2,000 years was harmed in this way in a matter of months."
He noted that the Civil Administration had contacted the Palestinian Authority in an effort to have it prevent the damage to the nature reserve without Israeli intervention, but to no avail.
Israel Nabs Arab Antiquities Thieves - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
Two Arab antiquities thieves from Nazareth were arrested while attempting to plunder an underground archeological site in the ancient city of Tzipori in the Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Monday.
Video: Israeli Commandos Drill in Cyprus - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
400 soldiers from the Israeli army's Egoz commando unit conducted training exercises in Cyprus this week in cooperation with the Cypriot army.
The soldiers rehearsed military operations in abandoned villages and military bases and conducted combat training at sites that simulated tunnels.
An Egoz reserve company, as well as dozens of soldiers from a Cypriot commando unit, played the role of the "enemy forces" in the exercise.
Ten Blackhawk helicopters took part in the exercises, along with 200 members of the Israel Air Force.
Members of the Yahalom army engineering unit and dogs from the Oketz canine unit were flown in.
The mountains and hills in the area are similar to the Mount Lebanon range in Lebanon.
See also IDF Prepares for Possible Infiltration from "ISIS Land" opposite the Southern Golan Heights - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
Israel Turned Deserts Green, There Is No Reason Kenyans Should Go Hungry - Eliud Kibii (The Star-Kenya)
Israeli Ambassador Yahel Vilan discussed Israel's assistance to Kenya in agriculture, especially the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project in Tana River.
Vilan called the pilot project a success that will help transform Kenyan agriculture.
"The goal of Galana is...to ensure every farmer in Kenya sees how these technologies can work here. We have seen governors and ministers going to Israel and saying it is working there and they want to see it working in Kenya."
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- Senate Passes Sweeping Sanctions Bill Targeting Iran, Russia - Richard Lardner
Republicans and Democrats joined forces in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, voting 98-2 to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes Iran and Russia with an array of financial penalties. Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions in order to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups. Senators insisted the new Iran sanctions won't undermine or impede enforcement of the nuclear deal reached with Tehran two years ago.
The Senate bill imposes mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure also would apply terrorism sanctions to the Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo. (AP-Chicago Tribune)
- From Tehran to Beirut: Shia Militias Aim to Firm Up Iran's Arc of Influence - Martin Chulov
Iranian general Qassem Suleimani helped lead units of the Popular Mobilization Front (PMF), a Shia militia which has chased Islamic State from
territories in northern Iraq, carving out a new swath of influence from Mosul to the Syrian border. In May, PMF leaders told their senior members a land corridor that would give Iran a supply line across Iraq and Syria and into Lebanon had been rerouted through their area of operations. (Guardian-UK)
- Modern Language Association Votes to "Refrain" from Backing Israel Boycott - Scott Jaschik
By a large margin, members of the Modern Language Association have voted to "refrain from endorsing the boycott" of Israeli universities that has been pushed for years - including within the MLA - by advocates for Palestinians.
After the measure to refrain from endorsing the boycott was sent to the full membership for approval, the MLA announced Wednesday that the measure passed by a vote of 1,954 to 885.
Russell Berman, a professor in the humanities and German studies at Stanford University, said, "This is a good outcome for the MLA and for higher education. It affirms the principle that scholars should not boycott scholars. The MLA membership does not want to be pulled into political controversies that have little or nothing to do with the mission of the association." (Inside Higher Ed)
See also Another Stunning Loss for Anti-Israel Academics - Jonathan Marks (Commentary)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinians to Claim Tomb of Patriarchs at UNESCO - Tovah Lazaroff
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee is set to debate registering the Old City of Hebron - including its Tomb of the Patriarchs - as part of the "State of Palestine," when it meets from July 2 to 12 in Krakow, Poland. "This is a new front in the war over the holy places that the Palestinians are trying to ignite as part of their propaganda campaign against Israel and the history of the Jewish people," Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "This is a clear continuation of the attacks and hallucinatory, outrageous votes in UNESCO regarding Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall."
The Tomb and the city of Hebron is the second holiest site in Judaism, after the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, he noted. The Bible clearly records its purchase by Abraham. He said registration of sites jointly used by Israelis and Palestinians should wait until there is a final status agreement that ends the conflict. To register the site to one party prior to such an agreement will only deepen the conflict. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Conference of Presidents Urges UNESCO to Reject Palestinian Moves on Hebron
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Thursday urged UNESCO to reject Palestinian attempts to "hijack the agenda" of the upcoming World Heritage Committee meeting in order to designate the city of Hebron as a "World Heritage Site in Danger." It called the Palestinian claim to the Tomb of the Patriarchs "replete with false information and baseless charges."
Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and executive vice chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein pointed out that Palestinian officials have repeatedly hailed the "cooperation of Israeli authorities responsible for the security of these holy sites in Hebron and public safety arrangements for worshippers at the Cave," and Palestinian religious leaders "have publicly acknowledged Israeli respect for freedom of worship for all and expressed appreciation for the sensitivity shown by the Israeli authorities." (Times of Israel)
See also UNESCO's Recent Resolution on Jerusalem - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus Meet on Energy Development - Herb Keinon
The leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus said on Thursday at a summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, that they would speed up planning for a pipeline channeling gas to Europe from the gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the pipeline would connect the three countries, as well as Italy. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Prime Minister Netanyahu at Holocaust Museum Site in Thessaloniki
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday:
"Thessaloniki is a famous city in Jewish history and in Greek history and these histories were intertwined from the fourth century BCE....My father was a great scholar of the Spanish Inquisition and he often talked to me about where did the Jews go and many of them went here, and of course half this city, by the beginning of the 20th century, was composed of Jewish people."
"The Nazi fire destroyed about 95% of this extraordinary and proud Jewish community [but]...didn't destroy everyone." On "the Island of Zakynthos...the German commander said: 'Give me a list of the Jews' and the Bishop and the Mayor brought a list of the Jews, their two names. They said: 'This is our Jews. Take us.' We honor these two great heroes among the righteous among the nations in Yad Vashem, an institution that will work with this museum."
Prime Minister Netanyahu then attended a ceremony in which the son of a survivor of the 1953 earthquake on the island of Cephalonia read a letter of gratitude - which was written by survivors - to the State of Israel for the assistance of the Israeli navy. Israeli navy vessels were among the first to reach the island following the earthquake.
(Prime Minister's Office)
- Palestinian Public Are Tactical Moderates, But Strategic Militants - David Pollock
According to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion on May 16-27, 2017, 63% of West Bankers and 70% of Gazans
want more jobs inside Israel. 55% in the West Bank and 57% in Gaza also say "Palestinians should encourage direct personal contacts and dialogue with Israelis." Around half want Israeli companies to employ more Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza. Among West Bankers, 55% say Hamas should preserve a cease-fire with Israel. Among Gazans, that figure rises to 80%.
We asked: "Regardless of what's right, the reality is that most Israeli settlers will probably stay where they are, and most Palestinian refugees will not return to the 1948 lands." 60% of West Bankers and 46% of Gazans agreed with that assessment.
Nevertheless, these relatively pragmatic views on tactics and expectations do not translate into acceptance of Israel's legitimacy. Fewer than 10% of Palestinians say that "Jews have any rights to this land." The survey asked whether "the conflict should not end...until all of historic Palestine is liberated." West Bankers picked continued conflict over permanent peace by 55% to 35%. Gazans opted for permanent peace over continued conflict by 47% to 44%. Two years ago, in May 2015, Gazans, too, favored continued conflict over peace by a two-to-one margin. But since then, many Gazans have probably come to regret the lasting damage of the 2014 war and shifted their views.
The majority believe that ultimately, "the Palestinians will control almost all of Palestine," either because "God is on their side" (40%), or because "they will outnumber the Jews" eventually (20%). The writer, a fellow at The Washington Institute, served as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- When Palestinians Are Hopeless, Terror Declines; When Hopeful, Terrorism Increases - Hillel Frisch
The common mantra that Palestinian hopelessness increases terrorism and that the prospects for peace decrease it has always been fake news. Palestinian terrorism invariably rises in tandem with their hopes of gaining the upper hand. The Oslo "peace" process was thus accompanied by a precipitous increase in Palestinian terrorism. The more Israel made concessions to the Palestinians, the higher the terrorist toll climbed. The tendency to rebel increases not when all appears lost, but when prospects for the rebellious appear to be improving but the improvement does not meet rising expectations.
The moral is that there must be a significant majority on both sides ready to make necessary concessions well before any "peace" process is attempted.
The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the BESA Center.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- The Palestinians' Real Tragedy: Failed Leadership - Khaled Abu Toameh
Under the regimes of the PA and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules are different. Such criticism is considered a "crime" and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.
This is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting after the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago. Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where freedom of expression is non-existent. The Palestinians in the PA-controlled West Bank and Hamas' Gaza can only look at their neighbors in Israel and envy them for the democracy, free media and rule of law.
Palestinian media in the West Bank serves as a mouthpiece for PA leaders and refrains from reporting any story that may reflect negatively on Abbas or his cronies. In Gaza, criticism of Hamas is almost unheard of and could land those responsible in prison. Even posting critical or controversial postings on social media is considered a serious offense under the PA and Hamas. In the past few years, dozens of Palestinian journalists, bloggers, academics and political activists have been imprisoned or summoned for interrogation by the PA and Hamas over their Facebook postings.
International human rights organizations prefer to look the other way in the face of these human rights violations by the PA and Hamas. Moreover, "pro-Palestinian" activists in the West do not seem to care. The only wrongdoing they see is on the Israeli side. By ignoring the plight of the suppressed Palestinians, these "pro-Palestinian" activists are actually aiding the PA and Hamas in their efforts to silence the voices of dissent and criticism.
- IDF General Naveh: Gaza Disengagement Proved that Terrorism Has Nothing to Do with Settlements - Mati Tuchfeld
Former Head of IDF Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh said in an interview he believes that the 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza failed to give Israel any security or diplomatic advantage.
"If the disengagement from Gaza contributed anything to history, it did so by proving that terrorism has nothing to do with the settlement enterprise, and by proving that an eviction of this nature cannot be carried out in such a way again. There was no advantage to this eviction. None. Zero. Nothing has changed for the better there. It had no added value to security or to anything else. It was a frustrating event that left a feeling that it was all for nothing."
An initiative in the Knesset proposes to allow the residents of the four northern Samaria settlements evicted in 2005 - Kadim, Ganim, Homesh and Sa-Nur - to re-establish their communities. Unlike the Gush Katif communities in Gaza, which were razed immediately after the disengagement, the four Samaria communities were left standing, turning into ghost towns in an area that remains under IDF control. While Naveh agrees that Homesh and Sa-Nur should be resettled for security reasons, he believes the resettlement of Kadim and Ganim should be re-examined.
- The Balfour Declaration Was Not the Isolated Act of a Single Nation - Martin Kramer
In issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, considered as the beginning of Israel's legitimation by other nations, Britain could not have acted alone because it belonged to a wartime alliance. The Allied powers, especially Britain and France but also Russia, Italy, and later America, were fighting together. Their policies had to be coordinated. It would have been unthinkable for Britain to have issued a public pledge regarding the future of territory yet to be taken in war without the prior assent of its wartime allies.
In expressing a broad consensus of the Allies, it might be seen as roughly comparable to a UN Security Council resolution today. The writer teaches Middle Eastern history at Shalem College in Jerusalem and is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Setting the Record Straight on Jerusalem - Erez Linn
"They're trying to take your identity," former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold says at the beginning of an innovative presentation on Jerusalem that includes 3D technology launched this month in the U.S. He wants to present the world with the facts about Jerusalem, the most volatile issue in any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, just before the efforts to renew the peace process gather steam.
He thinks that if serious negotiations for a permanent peace agreement do get underway, it will become necessary to "prepare international public opinion as well as Jewish opinion throughout the world and explain why we're insisting that Jerusalem remain united and under Israeli sovereignty."
"In the years following Camp David, we saw how not only Arafat, but also Abbas and others on the Palestinian side would tell Israel, 'Prove that you had a Temple [there],'" he says. "There are respected professors who ask that question....Think about the young Jewish people who get to the best universities in the U.S., and suddenly a professor gives them this book [that treats the Temple as a myth]."
"Jews were always making their way back to Jerusalem....In the Middle Ages there was such a large flow of Jews reaching Jerusalem that...the Vatican was afraid that they would upset the religious balance." (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli "Eye in the Sky" Drone Can Watch 80 Sq. Km. in Real Time - Cheyenne MacDonald
Israeli defense-tech firm Elbit Systems will unveil the SkEye WAPS drone system at the 2017 Paris Airshow. The "eye in the sky" drone camera can zoom into multiple regions of interest while still recording the surrounding area and capture high-resolution images of areas up to 80 sq. km. The system can show "back in time" footage within the coverage area and up to 10 individual regions can be analyzed at once. If the camera spots something unusual, it will alert commanders.
"Elbit Systems' SkEye WAPS system is a game changer in homeland security missions, enabling forces to analyze and retrace the steps of terrorists and criminals in an extremely large area, providing them with timely and valuable data in life-threatening situations," said Bezhalel Machils, Elbit Systems' President & CEO.
- Movie Review: "Destination Unknown" - Concentration Camp Survivors Build New Lives
Ed Mosberg still has his concentration camp uniform. His teenage years were spent in the Krakow ghetto, then the nearby Plaszow concentration camp, then as a slave laborer in the Mauthausen-Gusen camp in Austria, and finally the Hermann Goering factory in Linz. On 5 May 1945, with their Nazi captors on the point of defeat, he and his fellow slaves were ordered into dynamited caves. They lived because the dynamite failed. Mosberg's family of 16 had already been murdered. The opening scene of a new Holocaust documentary, "Destination Unknown," shows Mosberg in uniform in 2015, back at Mauthausen for the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation.
Mosberg is 92 now. At Plaszow he saw the notorious, sadistic commandant Amon Goth. "Amon Goth, I worked in his office, so I saw what he was doing. He did this for pleasure. To take dogs, and let the dogs rip up the people. He stood and was shooting people from the balconies. When he was walking through the camp, you knew that somebody would get killed." Goth was put on trial, then hanged by the Allies.
"I saw killing all the time. When they liquidated the ghetto. How they were beating people, shooting them, I was there. I saw it." The Holocaust may seem like it could fade into history. But not while Ed Mosberg remembers.
See also Video: Documentary Examines Struggle of Holocaust Survivors to Move On (Reuters)
Marking 50 Years of Rule, President Rivlin Calls on World to Recognize Golan as Israel (Times of Israel)
- As Israel marked the fiftieth anniversary of its military victory in the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War, President Reuven Rivlin called Thursday for global recognition of Israeli rule there.
- "The nations of the world must formally recognize that the Golan is an integral part of the State of Israel, and is essential to our existence as a people."
- "The Golan Heights are strategic to the State of Israel's ability to exist as a people able to safeguard its borders."
- Rivlin said that in light of regional developments such as the ongoing civil war in Syria, "it seems to me there are none who would disagree that the Golan is a strategic part of the State of Israel....The internal Israeli debate about the Golan, if there was one, has ended."
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