Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 19, 2004

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In-Depth Issue:

Tests Confirm Sarin in Iraqi Artillery Shell - Liza Porteus (FOX News)
    Tests on an artillery shell that blew up in Iraq on Saturday confirm that it contained an estimated 3-4 liters of the deadly nerve agent sarin, Defense Department officials said Tuesday.

Jordan: King Did Not Call for Arafat's Abdication (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Jordan's royal court said Tuesday, "News agency reports of a New York Times interview quoting King Abdullah calling on Yasser Arafat to look into the possibility of abdicating are inaccurate."
    King Abdullah did not refer to Arafat's post but rather his position on the peace process, a court official insisted.

The Iran-Hamas Connection - Richard Z. Chesnoff (New York Daily News)
    A top-secret report prepared by senior Mideast intelligence sources says Iran has recently stepped up its efforts to train and arm a widening range of terrorists, many of whom pose direct threats to Western targets, including in Iraq.
    One terrorist cell from the Palestinian Hamas gang had originally gone to Afghanistan for training, then retreated to Iran after America's Afghan offensive.
    According to intelligence sources, Hamas leaders working out of a base in Saudi Arabia instructed the cell to remain in Iran, join forces with militants from Iraq and Lebanon, and transfer money and false passports to them.
    In exchange, the Hamas cell underwent training in Iran in the making and remote activation of explosives.
    In January, Hamas cell members traveled to Sudan to procure more than 600 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer chemical al-Qaeda likes to use in its explosives.
    Another Hamas activist rounded up dozens of cell phones to be used for the remote detonation of bombs.
    The explosive devices were then smuggled from Iran to the Balkans and Greece.

Israeli Arab Soccer Team Wins State Cup Championship (Ha'aretz)
    Bnei Sakhnin on Tuesday became the first Israeli Arab team to win the State Cup Final when it crushed Hapoel Haifa 4-1 at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
    Prime Minister Sharon offered his congratulations and said he was certain Bnei Sakhnin would represent Israel honorably in European matches.

Useful Reference:

The Demolition of Palestinian Structures Used for Terrorism - Legal Background (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Weapon Smuggling Tunnels in Rafah (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Weapon Smuggling Through the Rafah Tunnels - a graphic presentation (IDF)

Key Links

Media Contact Information

Back Issues

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Bush: Defending the Security of Israel Serves the Cause of America
    President Bush told the AIPAC convention on Tuesday, "By defending the freedom and prosperity and security of Israel, you're also serving the cause of America. Our nation is stronger and safer because we have a true and dependable ally in Israel....A free, prosperous and secure Israel is in this nation's national interest." Israel is "a small country in a tough neighborhood. The Israeli people have always had enemies at their borders and terrorists close at hand. Again and again, Israel has defended itself with skill and heroism. And as a result of the courage of the Israeli people, Israel has earned the respect of the American people."
        "The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. Israel is a democracy and a friend, and has every right to defend itself from terror." (White House)
        See also Bush Asserts Israel's Right to Self-Defense (New York Times); Bush Backs Israel's Defense (Washington Post)
  • White House Expressing Understanding for Israel's Position on Gaza
    The Bush administration is softening its criticism of Israel's tactics in Gaza aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons to Palestinian terror groups. "We understand their explanation, but we still find the violence troubling," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
        Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said in at least 30 instances Palestinians themselves took the roofs off their houses, apparently in an effort to get compensation. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Security Council Debates Israeli Actions in Gaza
    Arab nations Tuesday introduced a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Israel stop the demolition of homes in Rafah in Gaza, while the U.S. proposed major amendments aimed at balancing the resolution. The U.S. draft would call on Israel to respect its obligations under international law, "including its obligation not to undertake demolition of homes as a punitive measure." It would also call on the PA to take "immediate action" against terrorist groups and end the smuggling of illegal weapons into the West Bank and Gaza. (AP/Newsday)
  • Top Shiite Cleric Rebuffs Rival's Call to Arms
    Iraq's supreme Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, demanded Tuesday that all armed forces leave the holy city of Najaf and called on fellow Shiites not to join in a bloody uprising there against U.S. forces. It was his first public effort to end a weeks-old rebellion mounted by the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Rafah Operation Preempts Imminent Katyusha Delivery to Gaza - Gideon Alon
    The current IDF operation in Gaza was sparked by an impending large delivery of antitank rockets, Katyushas, and perhaps even shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles that could be a strategic threat to Israeli aircraft - all waiting on the Egyptian side of the border for an available tunnel, military sources said Tuesday. Since the destruction of two armored personnel carriers and the killing of 11 soldiers last week was perceived by the Palestinians as a major victory, it was also important that Israel take action to prevent any military momentum from developing on the Palestinian side.
        Egypt, a sovereign state with powerful and effective security services, is doing almost nothing to prevent weapons shipments. Yet the exact opposite approach can be found in Jordan, which conducts extensive, intensive, and aggressive activity against smuggling and infiltrations along the Israeli-Jordanian border. Amman has made its border with Israel a closed military zone, and IDF officers have watched as Jordanian soldiers took out terrorist cells. (Ha'aretz)
  • Anti-Terrorism Operation in Rafah Continues - Amir Buhbut and Marwan Athamna
    The IDF's anti-terrorism operation in Rafah is proceeding as planned, focused on getting as many terrorists as possible, and shutting down the tunnels used to smuggle ever growing amounts of arms and ordinance. Palestinian sources report 20 killed and 36 wounded. IDF forces are progressing slowly, for fear of explosive devices or ambushes. (Maariv International)
        See also IDF Destroys Home of Hatuel Family Murderer in Rafah - Margot Dudkevitch
    IDF troops operating in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah demolished Tuesday the home of Ibrahim Ahmed, the Islamic Jihad terrorist who murdered Tali Hatuel and her four daughters near the Kissufim crossing in Gaza on May 2. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Responsible for Children's Death in Rafah
    The Palestinians claimed Tuesday that a young brother and sister were killed by IDF fire. However, a preliminary inquiry by the IDF indicates that they were apparently killed by a bomb placed by armed Palestinians. IDF sources said, "The bombs set by armed Palestinians next to the mosque and the school strengthen our estimation that the two were hurt by a bomb of this type."
        IDF sources emphasized that the civilian population in Rafah also has suffered from the gangs involved in the smuggling tunnels, and some have even assisted Israel in revealing tunnels. "This operation is very important to the residents of Rafah," a senior officer said. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew)
  • IDF Deploys Humanitarian Aid Center in Rafah - Amir Buhbut and Marwan Athamna
    The IDF is in constant contact with Palestinian officials and with international aid groups to coordinate passage of ambulances, medical equipment, and other necessary supplies in Rafah. The IDF allowed the passage of trucks loaded with dozens of tons of humanitarian aid into Rafah. A special humanitarian aid center is active 24 hours a day handling Palestinian, Israeli, and international requests. (Maariv International)
  • Palestinians Wound Two in West Bank Shooting Attack
    Palestinian terrorists fired shots at an Israeli car near Ma'ale Shomron, east of Kalkilya in the West Bank on Tuesday. Two of the vehicle's occupants were moderately wounded. According to reports, occupants of the attacking car fired at the Israeli vehicle when overtaking it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Looks to Secure Gaza Prior to Pullout - Ilene R. Prusher
    The Israeli army's massive military campaign in the southern end of the Gaza Strip is an attempt to create a buffer zone that would make it harder for Palestinian militant groups to get new weapons and ammunition via underground tunnels. The timing for the operation is bolstered by the argument that Israel can put itself in a more secure position now and prevent heavier attacks on its soil later. Israeli officials say that they are trying to minimize the number of Palestinian homes destroyed in order to clear the area, but insist they had no choice but to launch this operation. According to Israeli media reports, the weapons flowing in through the tunnels are now being used for attacks on Israeli soldiers and citizens, and also to arm a future Hamas force that may try to take over the Gaza Strip in case of an Israeli withdrawal. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Immigrant Muslims Surprised at Wahhabi Domination of U.S. Mosques - Stephen Schwartz
    Immigrant Muslims in the U.S., until very recently, seldom expected to find American Islam operating under the thumb of the "Wahhabi lobby." Most of them knew an Islam in which Saudi-backed Wahhabism sought to make inroads, but encountered considerable resistance from traditional Islam. When they got to America, they discovered that Islam is completely dominated by Wahhabism in only two major countries in the world: Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Some 80% of the main mosques in America are controlled by Saudi Wahhabis.
        Back home, from Morocco to Malaysia, the ordinary Muslim could attend a normal mosque and avoid Wahhabism. Here in the U.S., Wahhabism and its variants seemed to be shoved down the believers' throats. When anti-Wahhabi factions organize to take their mosques back, violence or the threat of it is often the result. (Tech Central Station)
  • Observations:

    Chief of Staff: "Only IDF Can Secure Gaza" - Nina Gilbert (Jerusalem Post)

    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday:

    • There is "no other force besides the IDF" that can prevent Gaza from being flooded with weaponry that threatens Israel.
    • Ceding control of the Philadelphia route would result in Gaza becoming "inundated with weaponry" that would pose difficulties for Israel in the future.
    • There is a "great quantity of weapons" that smugglers are waiting to transfer into Rafah, part of an upgrade that includes Katyushas, and anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
    • The 12-km long corridor along the Egypt-Gaza border, which is only 70-100 meters wide, is abutted by homes along about 4 km in the Rafah area.
    • Most of the weapons reaching Sinai are financed almost entirely by Iran, in operations conducted via Palestinian groups in Damascus and Hizballah in Lebanon. Weapons are also coming from Saudi Arabia and Africa.

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