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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
August 9, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Syrian Defense Minister Found Dead (Jerusalem Post)
    Recently sacked Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib was found dead in his home Tuesday, a Syrian opposition website reported.
    Syrian President Assad fired Habib on Monday and replaced him with Chief of Staff Gen. Dawoud Rajha.

IDF Deploys Drones to Protect Gas Fields from Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Air Force has begun using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea out of concern they will be targeted by Hizbullah.
    The Israel Navy has already drafted an operational plan for protecting the offshore gas fields and the decision to deploy drones was made in order to maintain a 24-hour presence over the site.
    Israel's concern is that Hizbullah will try to attack the Israeli gas rigs at sea in explosive-laden ships, or with anti-ship missiles.

Arab States to Head UN in September - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    Lebanon will serve as president of the UN Security Council in September and Qatar will head the General Assembly for one year as of September.

81 U.S. Congressmen to Visit Israel During Recess - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    81 congressmen, about 20% of the U.S. House of Representatives, will visit Israel this month during Congress' summer recess.
    A delegation of 26 Democrats headed by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will be followed by two Republican ones, bringing a total of 55 Republicans. One Republican group will be led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
    Half of the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010 will be making the trip, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC.

Israel Saves Little Hearts in Tanzania (PRWeb)
    A medical team from Israel's Save a Child's Heart has successfully performed the first ever pediatric open heart surgery in Tanzania.
    "There are about 200 sick Tanzanian children who will be examined by the Save a Child's Heart team," says Dr. Akiva Tamir, head of the pediatric cardiology unit at Wolfson Medical Center in Israel. "I am checking over 20 children every day and we all are committed to doing whatever it takes to help them and save their lives."
    8 to 10 pediatric heart surgeries will take place this week in Tanzania. The rest of the children who need operations will be flown to Israel's Wolfson Hospital - with all expenses paid by Save a Child's Heart.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Saudi Arabia Tells Syria: "Stop the Killing Machine" - Andrew J. Tabler and Simon Henderson
    On Monday, after more news of Syrian tanks being used against civilian protestors, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a statement saying: "What is happening in Syria is unacceptable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." He ended his statement by announcing the recall of the Saudi ambassador to Damascus. Within hours, Kuwait and Bahrain had also withdrawn their envoys.
        The U.S. should take advantage of the diplomatic opportunity created by Saudi Arabia. In the past, Damascus has responded to regional and wider diplomatic pressure. Washington should step up its efforts with European and other states to pressure for either reform or change in Syria. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Top Sunni Cleric: Situation in Syria Has Gone Too Far - Roee Nahmias
    Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the chancellor of Al-Azhar University of Islamic Sciences in Cairo, Sunni Islam's top center of religious learning, said in a statement Monday: "Al-Azhar was patient for a long time and avoided talking about the situation in Syria because of its sensitive nature...but the situation has gone too far and there is no other solution but to put an end to this Arab and Islamic tragedy." Al-Azhar "asks Syrian leaders to work immediately to end the bloodshed and to respond favorably to the legitimate demands of the Syrian masses."  (Ynet News)
        See also Syria Comes under Global Reproach for Crackdown on Uprising (AP-Washington Post)
  • Arab League: Don't Expect "Drastic" Steps over Syria
    Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said on Monday the pan-Arab body would use persuasion rather than "drastic measures" to press for an end to violence in Syria. The muted Arab response on Syria has contrasted with the League's backing for a "no-fly zone" over Libya after an uprising began there. "At present we have issued a statement and other countries have issued statements. I know of no one asking for further action for the time being," he said. (Reuters)
  • Syrians Flee to Jordan with Stories of Horror - Dale Gavlak
    Syrians have fled to Jordan with tales of torture and death at the hands of President Bashar Assad's forces. Many Syrians interviewed by the Washington Times told stories of abuse after they were detained during peaceful protests.
        Ibrahim al-Jahamani, 24, said he was picked up by police in Daraa. Police fatally shot his friend and tortured al-Jahamani in a Damascus jail for several weeks. "They beat my head, legs, hands and back. My nose was broken," he said. "We were naked and barefoot. The torture was daily and systematic. They used to tie us with chains. Others were held in a crosslike position. Some were hanged upside down and continuously beaten."  (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Is Willing to Compromise But Palestinians Are Not - Herb Keinon
    Israel is prepared to make concessions, but the Palestinians have shown no indication of a willingness for compromise, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors on Monday. "Six prime ministers, including myself, have come out in support of a Palestinian state, and two offered far-reaching concessions, but this hasn't helped."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ya'alon: Palestinians Have Limited Options at UN - Attila Somfalvi
    Vice Premier and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon said on Monday in reference to the Palestinians' planned UN bid for statehood: "The Palestinians' options are very limited." "The Palestinians don't have the option of the UN Security Council. The most they can aspire to is the General Assembly, and even there - they have the U.S. warning them against the move and threatening to cut their financial aid."
        "Don't expect anything dramatic to happen in September. I hear Abbas speak against violence unequivocally. Yes, he's threatening mass demonstrations on September 20, but on the other hand, he's warning against clashing with Israeli forces. I don't think anything special is going to happen."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Alawites in Syria Cling Desperately to Power - Editorial
    The behavior of the Alawite ruling minority (12% of the Syrian population) conforms with fears it has expressed for 75 years of what majority Sunni rule would mean for them. In 1936, six Alawite notables sent a memorandum to French Prime Minister Leon Blum. To explain why they refused to be annexed to a Muslim Syria ruled by the Sunni majority who regarded them as infidels, they pointed to the treatment of Jews under Islam:
        "The condition of the Jews in Palestine is the strongest and most explicit evidence of the militancy of the Islamic issue vis-a-vis those who do not belong to Islam. These good Jews contributed to the Arabs with civilization and peace, scattered gold, and established prosperity in Palestine without harming anyone or taking anything by force, yet the Muslims declare holy war against them and never hesitated in slaughtering their women and children, despite the presence of England in Palestine and France in Syria. Therefore, a dark fate awaits the Jews and other minorities in case the Mandate is abolished and Muslim Syria is united with Muslim Palestine...the ultimate goal of the Muslim Arabs."
        One of the signatories was Sulayman Assad, father of Hafez and grandfather of Bashar. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Assad Laying the Foundations for a Civil War - Oliver Holmes
    On Sunday, the Syrian army launched a major assault on Deir al-Zor, in a heavily Sunni Muslim tribal area near the Iraqi border. By assaulting the city, Bashar al-Assad risks retaliation from its heavily armed tribes. Assad's first provocative act was the July arrest of a prominent local sheik, Nawaf al-Bashir, who is head of the main Baqqara tribe and a leading figure in the campaign against Assad. Al-Bashir, who commands more than a million Baqqara, told Reuters only hours before his arrest that he was actually trying to stop a tribal armed resistance to a military assault on Deir al-Zor as troops massed around the city.
        Despite being the center of Syria's oil production, Deir al-Zor is one of the poorest regions in the country, as little oil revenue has been reinvested in the desert area. Tribes there have long resented the Assad family, who they see as responsible for decimated agriculture production due to water shortages, which analysts say have largely been caused by corruption and mismanagement of resources. (TIME)
  • In an Ancient Jerusalem Tunnel, Sword, Oil Lamps and Pots from a 2,000-Year-Old War Uncovered
    The excavation of an ancient drainage tunnel beneath Jerusalem has yielded a sword, oil lamps, pots and coins abandoned during a war 2,000 years ago, archaeologists said Monday, suggesting the finds were debris from when rebels hid from Roman soldiers crushing a Jewish revolt during the time of the Second Temple. The tunnel was built two millennia ago underneath one of Roman-era Jerusalem's main streets. After a four-year excavation, the tunnel is part of a growing network of subterranean passages under the modern city.
        When the tunnel opens to the public sometime in the coming months, underground passages totaling about a mile in length will be accessible beneath Jerusalem. The tunnels have become one of the city's biggest tourist draws and the number of visitors has risen in recent years to more than a million in 2010. (Story includes photos.) (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Ancient Artifacts Found in Jerusalem Tunnel (Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Syrian Uprising: Implications for Israel - Eyal Zisser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • In Syria, the story is the emergence of social groups from the periphery and their struggle to gain access to power and take over the center. The emergence of the Baath party and the Assad dynasty in the 1960s involved a coalition of peripheral forces led by the Alawites, but many others joined who came from the periphery. Now, because of socioeconomic reasons, the periphery has turned against the regime.
  • Before the uprising, Bashar al-Assad was supported by the Islamic and radical movements in the Middle East. Most Muslim Brothers supported him in Jordan, Egypt, and Hamas. Now they have turned their back on him, led by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, who reminds them that, after all, Bashar is an Alawite and supported by the Shiite camp.
  • Turkey, under Prime Minister Erdogan, had become a close ally of Syria. But Erdogan has no reservations regarding the possibility that Muslim radicals might come to power in Syria if Bashar falls. On the contrary, the Sunni radicals and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood are Erdogan's close allies, as is Hamas. So Turkey has nothing to lose if Bashar falls.
  • If Bashar falls, the situation is likely to be similar to that of earlier decades, with a very weak central regime. This could lead to border incidents with Israel, but not a war, with terrorist acts that a weak regime cannot prevent.
  • The Syrian opposition will eventually take over and, as in the case of Egypt, they know that their interests lie with friendship with Western countries like the United States, and not with Iran. So in the long run, a new Syrian regime might be better for Israel than this current regime.

    Prof. Eyal Zisser is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and former Head of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History and of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, both at Tel Aviv University.

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