Will Hamas in Gaza Stop Aiding ISIS in Sinai? - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
The recent ISIS attack against Egyptian soldiers in northern Sinai revealed that Hamas has enabled the movement of terrorists through the smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Sinai to join the ranks of the Islamic State, and from Sinai to Gaza to enable them to hide, train, and receive medical care in Gaza hospitals.
The attack occurred while a Hamas delegation was in Cairo to discuss greater cooperation with Egypt.
If Hamas cannot prove to Egypt that it can control the movement of terrorists between Gaza and Sinai, Egypt will stop providing fuel for electricity generation in Gaza and will keep the border crossing closed.
Many of the ISIS terrorists in Sinai came from the ranks of Hamas and are skilled in using weapons, preparing explosives and digging tunnels. They provide serious reinforcement to the fighting abilities of ISIS.
Moreover, ISIS terrorists who have fled from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq have recently joined the ranks of ISIS in Sinai.
The writer is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television.
How Long Will the Southern Syria Ceasefire Last? - Elizabeth Tsurkov (Jerusalem Post)
Southern Syria has been a relatively quiet front of the civil war since 2015.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters make up a majority among the rebels.
In the wake of the ceasefire in southern Syria, the rebels will likely launch another offensive against Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid, the local Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate, which controls the western Daraa countryside.
The Syrian regime will probably exploit the ceasefire to move much-needed troops to other fronts as it races to capture as much territory as possible from ISIS in eastern Syria.
This ceasefire, like previous ones in Syria, is unlikely to hold and the Assad regime will not be punished for violating the deal.
The regime and its allies Iran and Hizbullah see strategic and symbolic importance in controlling areas along the border fence with Israel on the Golan Heights.
The writer is a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking.
Israel Boosts Power Supply to Palestinian Cities in West Bank - Hezi Sternlicht (Israel Hayom)
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Monday signed a deal under which Israel will increase the power supply to Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
As part of the deal, a new electrical substation was inaugurated near Jenin on Monday that will transmit 60 megawatts of electricity purchased from the Israel Electric Corporation.
The internationally-funded substation is one of four to be operated in the area by a PA-owned transmission company.
Thousands of Chinese Laborers to Work in Israel - Zhao Ruixue (China Daily)
6,000 Chinese laborers are being recruited for construction projects in Israel.
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- Israel to Establish "South Syria Army" to Stop Iranian Expansion - Nazir Majli
Israel is planning to establish a Syrian army on the border with the Golan Heights and Jordan to stop Iranian expansion, according to informed Israeli sources. Sources said that the idea is beginning to form in accordance with the U.S.-Russian agreement to a ceasefire in southern Syria and prevent Iranian troops, Hizbullah and other regime-affiliated militias from controlling the region. Israel has allies there, including the Druze "Fursan al-Joulan" militia and some sides that claim to be part of the Free Syrian Army.
- UN Report Highlights Hamas Failure in Gaza - Luke Baker
A decade after the Islamist group Hamas seized Gaza, the situation is deteriorating "further and faster" than was forecast only a few years ago,
the UN said in a new report. "Across the board we're watching de-development in slow motion," UN official Robert Piper said in an interview on Tuesday. "Every indicator, from energy to water to healthcare to employment to poverty to food insecurity, every indicator is declining. Gazans have been going through this slow motion de-development now for a decade." (Reuters)
See also UN Report Highlights Hamas Abuses in Gaza - Ben Cohen
A new UN report released on Tuesday notes, "Upon seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has increasingly tightened its grip on power, including by executing, maiming and jailing opponents and suppressing dissent....Hamas has committed human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly as well as a campaign of arbitrary arrests, harassment, torture that even lead to death in custody. Certain associated armed groups, such as members of the Qassam Brigades, were also responsible for extrajudicial kidnappings, beatings and murders of political opponents." (Algemeiner)
See also Report: "Gaza - 10 Years On" (UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process)
- Qatar Agrees to Combat Terrorism Financing under Deal with U.S. - Carol Morello and Kareem Fahim
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday signed an agreement to work with Qatar to track down sources of funding for terrorism.
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- U.S. Envoys Meet Palestinian Officials in Jerusalem - Michael Wilner
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and lead U.S. Mideast negotiator Jason Greenblatt met with a senior Palestinian negotiating team at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The Palestinian delegation included chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, General Intelligence chief Majid Faraj, and Abbas' economic adviser Muhammad Mustafa. (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF Troops Come Under Attack in West Bank, Two Palestinians Killed in Return Fire - Yoav Zitun and Elior Levy
IDF troops came under attack at the Jenin refugee camp overnight Tuesday by Palestinian terrorists throwing dozens of explosives. The troops returned fire, killing two terrorists and wounding a third.
- Netanyahu Asks Irish Foreign Minister Why His Country Supports NGOs Seeking Israel's Destruction - Herb Keinon
After meeting with visiting Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Tuesday,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that he asked the foreign minister "why Ireland helps NGOs that call for the destruction of Israel." Ireland provides millions of euros to NGOs operating in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and - alongside Sweden - has for years been among the staunchest critics of Israel inside the EU.
Netanyahu "expressed his dissatisfaction over Ireland's traditional stance and told the foreign minister that his country does not condemn Palestinians for incitement and for glorifying those who commit terrorist attacks." He noted that many European countries overlook the core of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, "the Palestinians' refusal to recognize the state of the Jews." (Jerusalem Post)
- Saudi General Sees Egyptian-Jordanian Umbrella for Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Smadar Perry
Dr. Anwar Eshki, a retired general in the Saudi army who runs a Middle East Center for Strategic Studies, held talks with Dr. Dore Gold, who served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's advisor. Eshki wouldn't have allowed himself to talk to Israel without receiving the green light from the highest authorities in Riyadh. Last week, the Saudi general was interviewed by the German newspaper Deutsche Welle.
Eshki said the islands of Sanafir and Tiran in the Red Sea are being transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia only after a sweeping commitment was received to allow Israeli ships to sail freely in the Tiran Straits. According to Eshki, transfer of the islands turns the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty into an international agreement which binds Saudi Arabia and will serve as a basis for future collaboration. But, he said, there will be no normalization until Israel works to solve the situation with the Palestinians.
He said that any solution reached by the parties would be sponsored by Jordan (in the West Bank) and Egypt (in Gaza), creating a sort of Egyptian-Jordanian umbrella and getting the two countries involved in the solution. Whatever the Palestinians accept will be accepted by Saudi Arabia, he said. In other words, Saudi Arabia is willing to give up the Arab peace initiative. Saudi Arabia would also agree, according to Eshki, to postpone Jerusalem's division to the last stage of the talks, to prevent the negotiations from reaching a deadlock.
- Israel Grapples with Iran's Growing Military Presence in Syria - Yaakov Lappin
President Assad's recent victories are setting the stage for the continued spread of Iran and its network of Shi'a proxies in Syria. Tens of thousands of Iranian-backed Shi'a militiamen are currently operating across Syria under Iranian command. Israel is closely monitoring the Syrian arena, on the lookout for a renewed Iranian attempt to set up bases of attack or attempts by Hizbullah to move into southern Syria.
In Syria, Iran commands 6,000 Hizbullah fighters, 7,000 Iraqis and 20,000-30,000 Afghan Shi'a combatants, as well as 100,000 Shi'a militiamen in Iraq. The Iranians also built up a pro-Assad militia of local Syrians, called the National Defense Forces, which has tens of thousands of members.
Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, expressed hope that the U.S. could work with Russia to create Iran-free zones in southern Syria. But Israel cannot rely on America stopping Iran in Syria. "Israel must be ready, if the U.S. won't take steps vis-a-vis the Russians [to curb Iran]," he said. "Israel must see an Iranian presence on its border as a casus belli [justification for war]." (JNS.org)
- Russia Needs Iran, Whose Forces Ensure the Assad Regime Survives - Prof. Eyal Zisser
With the ceasefire in southern Syria, the trickle of errant shells into Israeli territory has come to a halt, and a deceptive silence has returned to the Golan Heights border. American and Russian military officials met in Amman in recent weeks to delineate the separation lines between the area to remain under the control of the regime and the areas, including near the border with Israel, where rebel control will be maintained. With Washington's blessing, Russia has turned into a kingmaker in Syria.
The Russians need Iranian forces in Syria to ensure Assad's continued rule. As a result, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could attempt to keep the Iranians out of Syria. The establishment of a rebel-controlled buffer zone that keeps the Iranians away from the border with Israel and Jordan is a significant tactical achievement. But it is a temporary achievement that does not change the big picture in Syria, which is being filled with the colors of Iran and the militias it supports. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
It's Time for the U.S. to Stop Paying for Palestinian Terrorism - Sander Gerber and Noah Pollak (Tablet)
- The Palestinian Authority is using Western aid money to pay salaries and benefits to terrorists and their families, including terrorists who have killed Americans. Congress, through the Taylor Force Act, is attempting to address this problem.
- The Taylor Force Act would condition one stream of U.S. aid to the PA on the cessation of its terrorist payment program. This stream of aid - the Economic Support Fund (ESF) - averages around $250 million per year.
Two other streams of aid - $400 million to UNRWA and $70 million for security assistance - are untouched by the bill.
- Starting in fiscal year 2015, the U.S. began reducing, dollar for dollar, ESF aid to the PA based on the PA's spending to support terrorists, but the amount is classified, apparently to help the PA save face. Yet the PA payment program has grown as terrorists who carried out stabbing and car-ramming attacks during the 2015-2016 upsurge in violence, plus their families, have been added to the rolls.
- U.S. aid policy has at best insulated Palestinians from the consequences of their political choices, and at worst has rewarded them for hate, violence, and rejectionism. The Taylor Force Act intentionally poses a simple choice to the PA: Work toward peace, or continue promoting terror.
- The PA laws specifying payments and benefits for terrorism must be repealed, and the ministries that administer the program must be dismantled.
- The U.S. cannot provide unchecked aid to an entity that is rewarding the murderers of our citizens with cash payments and celebrating them with street parades.
Sander Gerber is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Noah Pollak is a political consultant active on the Taylor Force Act.
See also U.S. Senate to Hold Hearing on Taylor Force Act Wednesday - Michael Wilner (Jerusalem Post)
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