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August 19, 2011

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Southern Israel Hit by Terrorist Rocket Fire - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
    At least 12 rockets were fired at Israel's southern communities on Friday, targeting Beersheba, Gedera, Gan Yavne, and other areas nearer to Gaza.
    See also Rocket Hits Ashdod Yeshiva, Ten Wounded - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
    A rocket fired at Ashdod on Friday exploded in the courtyard of a yeshiva and left ten people injured, two seriously.
    See also Iron Dome Missile Defense System Intercepts Two Gaza Rockets (Ynet News)
    Israel's new Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two rockets fired at Ashkelon from Gaza on Thursday.

Two Egyptian Border Guards Killed During Israeli Raid on Gaza Terrorists - Phoebe Greenwood (Telegraph-UK)
    Two Egyptian security personnel were killed during an Israeli raid on militants along the Egyptian-Israeli border, an Egyptian army official has said.
    "An Israeli plane had been chasing militant infiltrators along the border between Taba and Eliat and one Egyptian Central Security officer and a Central Security man were caught in the line of fire," the official said.

U.S. Puts Curbs on Syrian Diplomats - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    After Syria clamped restrictions on the movement of American diplomats there, the State Department has returned the favor, requiring Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha and his staff to provide seven days' notice before travel outside the Washington area, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.
    The retaliatory restrictions went into effect last month after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad imposed limits on the travel of Robert S. Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Damascus who traveled to the restive town of Hama to meet with protesters there.
    Ford was subsequently ordered to remain within a 25-mile radius of the Syrian capital unless he obtained advance permission to travel.

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Israel Won't Augment Ground Forces Despite Mideast Turmoil - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel does not plan to expand military ground forces in response to instability in Egypt and Syria, Israeli officials said on Monday.
    The fall in February of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has triggered concern in Israel for the 1978 peace accord and for the demilitarized status of Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Israel's border.
    One of the Israeli officials helping draft Israel's 2012-2017 defense budget said, "Our current capabilities are sufficient for our foreseeable requirements, though we will be investing anew in training and improving rapid-response mobility to allow for more flexibility during emergencies."
    The U.S. appears keen to show it is closing ranks with Israel: Lt.-Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying the allies would next year hold their biggest joint exercise, codenamed "Austere Challenge."
    See also Egypt, U.S. Cancel Joint Military Exercises - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
    The U.S. and Egypt have canceled the semiannual joint military exercises known as "Bright Star" planned for later this year because the Egyptian military is preoccupied running the government since the ouster of President Mubarak.

PA TV: PA Plans Arab Residential Area in Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Official PA TV broadcast a documentary on Aug. 10 which stated that the PA plans to build an Arab residential area in place of the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, "when they [Israelis] disappear from the picture, like a forgotten chapter in the pages of our city's history."

Al-Ahram Sees Israeli Plot to Harm Egyptian Fertility - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Egypt's official state paper Al-Ahram has claimed that Israeli citizen Ofir Harari, recently accused by Egypt of being an agent of the Mossad, was involved in a complicated plot to "harm Egyptian national interests."
    "According to the public prosecutor's office's investigation, 'Mossad agent Ofir Harari' instructed Jordanian Ibrahim abu-Zaid to set up a company in Egypt which would exclusively import an Israeli hair product, for both men and women, which causes infertility. This in order to completely destroy Egyptian reproduction abilities," Al-Ahram states.

Facebook's Holocaust Problem - Lloyd Grove (Daily Beast)
    Facebook bans hate speech - but allows the proliferation of Holocaust-denial pages, saying it recognizes "people's right to be factually wrong about historical events."
    Facebook's critics argue that Holocaust denial is, by definition, an expression of hatred for the Jewish people.

UK Zionists Fight Anti-Israel Project - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    The Zionist Federation of the UK and StandWithUs UK are taking a stand against the LUSH cosmetics chain for supporting the "OneWorld - Freedom for Palestine" campaign.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Says Assad Must Go, Orders New Sanctions - Scott Wilson and Joby Warrick
    President Obama called Thursday for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, backed by new U.S. sanctions designed to undermine Assad's ability to finance his military operation. "The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way," Obama said in a written statement. "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."
        Obama's first explicit call for Assad to resign culminated months of calibrated diplomacy that has included three rounds of sanctions and a gradual policy shift toward regime change in a nation long at odds with U.S. policy in the Middle East. The sanctions that the Obama administration announced Thursday prohibit the import of Syrian oil and petroleum products, an essential element of Syria's economy. (Washington Post)
        See also Syria Accuses U.S. of Waging "Diplomatic War" (AP-Washington Post)
  • EU Calls on Syria's Assad to Quit, Mulls Broad Energy Sanctions - Laurence Norman
    The European Union for the first time called Thursday on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power as EU leaders also threatened "strong" new sanctions, which could include an embargo on imports of Syrian crude oil and a ban on refined product sales to the country. The bulk of Syria's oil exports go to the EU.
        The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, said in a statement: "The EU notes the complete loss of Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people and the necessity for him to step aside." A separate statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron said they are "actively supporting further strong EU sanctions against the regime of President Assad."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Russia Opposes Western Calls for Syria's Assad to Go - Alissa de Carbonnel and Steve Gutterman (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coordinated Terrorist Attacks on Egyptian Border Kill 8 - Anshel Pfeffer
    Eight Israelis were killed and 30 more wounded during a well-planned terror attack along the Israeli-Egyptian border Thursday. The attack was planned in Gaza by the Popular Resistance Committees and perpetrated by terrorists who crossed from Gaza into Sinai via smuggling tunnels. They then traveled some 200 km. to reach an area of the border protected only by a tattered wire fence, about 15 km. north of Eilat. Israeli forces killed five of the terrorists, and Egyptian soldiers reportedly killed two more. But the Israel Defense Forces estimates that 15 to 20 participated in the attack. IDF officials believe the goal of the attack was to kidnap a soldier.
        Three terrorists armed with rifles, grenades and explosives entered Israel from Egypt and stationed themselves at intervals along the highway. They opened fire on Egged Bus 392, wounding seven passengers, most of whom were soldiers. A few minutes later, an empty bus and several cars arrived. The terrorists opened fire again, and when the bus stopped, one of the terrorists ran up to the bus and activated his explosive belt, killing himself and the driver. The shooting killed four occupants of one car, plus the driver of another.
        At that point, the first soldiers arrived in two vehicles. One vehicle ran down one of the terrorists, killing him. Soldiers in the second vehicle opened fire on the third terrorist. One soldier, Staff Sgt. Moshe Naftali of Ofra, was killed in the ensuing gun battle. After the battle, IDF sappers discovered bombs planted along the road and dismantled them. Hours later, terrorists opened fire at an anti-terrorist (Yamam) unit patrolling the border near the site of the attack, killing one Israeli and wounding another.
        Israel has already accelerated construction of a planned 200-km. high-tech fence along the southern border. Thus far, 45 km. have been finished. (Ha'aretz)
  • Bus Driver Recounts Terror Attack - Revital Levy-Stein
    The driver of Egged Bus 392 saw the car up ahead signaling frantically. Benny Bilefsky, 67, slowed the bus, thinking there had been a traffic accident. Then he saw two Egyptian soldiers in camouflage uniforms at the border fence just 15 meters from the road, where an Egyptian army post stands on the other side. "I thought they were soldiers repairing the fence," Bilefsky recalls. "I slowed a bit, and then I caught a hail of bullets." "I pressed down on the gas pedal, decided not to stop, took my telephone, dialed 100 and called the police."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Bus Driver Prevented Catastrophe - Aviel Magnezi (Ynet News)
  • Two Sisters, Husbands among Terrorist Victims - Raanan Ben-Zur
    Sisters Flora Gez, 52, and Shula Karlinsky, 54, and their husbands, Moshe Gez, 54, and Dov Karlinsky, 58, were on their way to Eilat for the weekend when their car was ambushed and they were killed by a terrorist cell on Thursday. Shortly beforehand, the terrorists ambushed another car: Esther and Joseph Levy were on their way back from Eilat when a terrorist rained bullets on their vehicle, causing it to skid and flip over. Joseph, 57, was killed and Esther suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. Her cousin, Raffi Mauda, said, "She told us that she saw the terrorist and prayed he wouldn't confirm the kill. She essentially played dead for 90 minutes."  (Ynet News)
  • Veteran Anti-Terror Sniper Killed in Attack - Omri Efraim
    Pascal Avrahami, 49, the most veteran sniper in the Israel Police's elite Yamam anti-terror unit, was killed Thursday by terrorist fire near the Egyptian border. He joined Yamam in 1985, took part in numerous operations, and received two citations for bravery. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Airstrike Kills Top Terrorists in Gaza - Elior Levy
    The Israel Air Force struck a building in Rafah used by terrorists, and Palestinian sources reported six dead in the strike, among them senior operatives in the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). Palestinian news agencies reported that the PRC was responsible for the attacks in southern Israel. (Ynet News)
        Among those killed were Kamel Nirab, the head of the PRC; Imad Hamed, the person responsible for its military activity in Gaza; Khaled Shaath, a leading member of the PRC's military wing who was involved in rocket attacks on Israel; and Khaled Masri, who was involved in kidnapping soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. The Israel Security Agency suspects that Hamed is the one who planned Thursday's attack near Eilat. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu: "Those Who Gave the Order to Murder Our Citizens Are No Longer Among the Living"
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday: "We witnessed today an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching attacks from Sinai.... When the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength.... Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Suicide Bomber Explodes near Egyptian Soldiers on Israel Border - Anshel Pfeffer
    A suicide bomber exploded Friday morning next to a group of Egyptian soldiers on the Israeli-Egyptian border. The man is thought to be part of the group that carried out the terror attacks on Thursday. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Had Warning of Possible Attack - Yaakov Katz
    Intelligence provided several days earlier by the Israel Security Agency referred to a large attack that the Popular Resistance Committees planned to launch from Sinai. For that reason, the Golani Brigade's Reconnaissance Battalion and the Israel Police's Yamam Counter-Terrorism Unit were already deployed along the border and able to respond quickly to neutralize the terrorists. Had they not been there, a senior IDF officer said Thursday, the number of casualties would have been significantly higher.
        It was thought that the terrorists were mostly interested in abducting a soldier or a civilian, and would therefore infiltrate Israel in the middle of the night and not, as they did, in the middle of the day. The IDF also did not think that the gunmen would cross into Israel directly under an Egyptian military outpost. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Terror Attack on Egyptian Border

  • The Terrorist Attack on Southern Israel: Under the Authority of Hamas, Using the Tactics of Al-Qaeda - Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    The terrorist attack in southern Israel on Aug. 18 in which eight Israelis were killed was initiated and executed by the Palestinian terrorist organization known as the Popular Resistance Committees, which operates as a terrorist†arm of Hamas. The PRC was responsible for the October 2003 bombing attack†on a U.S. convoy in Gaza in which three American security personnel were killed.† The PRC joined forces with Hamas and Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), which is†identified with al-Qaeda, to conduct an attack in June 2006 on Israeli†forces inside Israel, just north of Gaza, in which IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped.
        The responsibility for the attack belongs to Hamas, which employs various terrorist wings and provides them with sanctuary in its territory. Hamas hopes to escalate the confrontation with Israel in order to influence the direction of the popular revolts in the Arab world and direct them to the issue of Palestine.† The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Attack in the Israeli Desert - Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein
    What headlines described as a terrorist attack in the desert just north of the Israeli resort city of Eilat was in fact a sustained assault, a complex military attack that included missiles, mortars, improvised explosive devices, small arms and, on the bodies of two of the seven assailants killed, explosive vests. For years under the reign of Egyptian President Mubarak, it was nearly impossible for Bedouin tribesmen or militants from northern Sinai to get past military checkpoints blocking the way south, where the Red Sea resorts on both the Egyptian and the Israeli side made tempting targets for terror attacks. But roads that were heavily patrolled a year ago are now largely open to north-south travel. (TIME)
  • Vacuum in Sinai - Avi Issacharoff
    Thursday's attack was one of the worst terror attacks Israel has experienced in recent years. Israel's warnings of the implications of the Egyptian regime's weakening following the revolution, warnings that were roundly criticized in the world, turned out to be correct and even relatively optimistic. About six months after Hosni Mubrak was deposed, Sinai constitutes a shelter for World Jihad activists. Another attack like this one is only a matter of time. (Ha'aretz)
  • Not Just Another Terrorist Attack - Barry Rubin
    This isnít just another terrorist attack - itís a major escalation. First, it is the bitter fruit of the U.S-backed downfall of the government of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, opening the Egypt-Israel border as a new front in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Second, it is probably the first successful al-Qaeda attack on Israel. (The Palestinian Popular Committees, a Gaza-based al-Qaeda affiliate, is the prime suspect.)
        According to several eyewitnesses, the attackers were wearing Egyptian army uniforms. The post-Mubarak successor regime is not so committed to the Egypt-Israel peace. This is not just an isolated incident but the opening of a new phase. It will get worse. An important question is how decisively will the Egyptian military react and how supportive of the attack will be Egyptian public opinion.
        Nothing can be expected from Washington except words of dismay. The Egyptian regime will assure everyone that it is committed to the peace treaty and will take strong action. But what will happen when the military hands over power to a parliament with an Islamist/far-left majority in a few months? Anyone want to hand over Israelís West Bank border to sovereign Palestinian control? (Pajamas Media)

  • Syria

  • Assad and the Palestinians - Editorial
    Does anything match the treatment of Palestinians by their ostensible champions in the Arab world? Bashar Assad's regime last week launched an assault on a Palestinian neighborhood in Latakia, and some 10,000 residents have fled, died, or gone missing. Will the UN now ask Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate? Syria's nearly 500,000 Palestinians are not citizens - they have been frozen into refugee status for 63 years to be used as pawns against Israel. Now they're in the regime's gun sights.
        We haven't heard much by way of support for Latakia's Palestinians from the pro-Palestinian movement. Compare this international reaction to what has happened in Latakia to the outrage after last year's Turkish flotilla incident involving Israel. No wonder Mr. Assad has spent the past months thinking he can get away with anything. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Truth About Syria - Editorial
    President Obama has finally - and unequivocally - called for the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to step down and end his murderous war against the Syrian people. Mr. Obama also ordered a stiff new array of sanctions, including freezing all Syrian government assets in the U.S. and banning American citizens and corporations from doing business with the Syrian government. Washington has limited economic and diplomatic leverage with Damascus. But if there ever was a time to use it, it is surely now. (New York Times)
  • Why the U.S. Should Speak Out for Freedom in Syria - Editorial
    Assad has been slaughtering Syrians for months. They have taken to the streets seeking freedom from the brutality and stagnation his dictatorship has delivered. He has unleashed tanks and, in his latest innovation, gunboats, which have fired on unarmed civilians in the port city of Latakia. By barring foreign press and stifling his own, Assad has managed to kill thousands with relatively little international attention.
        Over many decades moral support from the U.S. has been immensely important to people who take risks for freedom - to dissidents in prisons and protesters in the streets alike. It would be important again in this case, not because Syrians would expect U.S. intervention, but because they would know that they are not alone - that people lucky enough to live in freedom are watching and admiring and rooting for them. (Washington Post)
  • Why It's Time to Rein in Syria - and Turkey - Tony Badran
    The total absence of reform in Damascus has revealed a contradiction in Turkey's strategy. A "zero problems with neighbors" policy is possible only if those neighbors have no problems with each other. Once the Syrian people sought to overthrow the regime, Turkey faced an uncomfortable choice: did it have zero problems with the regime or with the people? Turkey tried to hedge its bets by supporting Assad while pushing him to reform, but the Syrian dictator consistently rebuffed the effort.
        Turkey's zero-problems policy is predicated on good relations with both Syria and Iran. But as the Turks reached out to the Syrian opposition they incurred the wrath of Tehran. Iran's official media accused the Turks, for instance, of complicity in a U.S. plot against Syria and claimed that Turkey was arming Syrian protestors. Iran has reportedly frozen its intelligence cooperation with Turkey against Kurdish militants.
        The U.S. does not owe Assad a soft landing. Strategically, it should favor his ouster and the breaking up of the Iranian alliance system. Morally, the U.S. should favor policies that might actually prevent slaughter on Syrian streets. Those who claimed that Assad is the last bulwark against chaos should realize by now that his regime is, in fact, destabilizing to the entire region.
        ††It is time to actively back a democratic Syria, without Assad. Only a great power could do so and balance the complex agendas of the Middle East's several regional players. Turkey is not a great power. That role remains America's alone. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Affairs)
        See also Turkey's Tough Talk on Syria Is Unlikely to Be Matched by Action (Economist-UK)

  • Other Issues

  • While Palestinians Talk of Protest, Little Sign of Action - Crispian Balmer and Alastair Macdonald
    Calls for Palestinian protests to back a diplomatic push for statehood at the UN next month have put Israel on guard. Yet to many, a sustained Intifada, or uprising, appears unlikely. To ordinary Palestinians, the significance of UN maneuvers is hard to fathom, their leaders in the West Bank are wary of violence with Israel, and their national movement remains weakened by a deep schism. To many Palestinian analysts, the idea of an imminent outbreak of widespread insurrection, similar to those that are reshaping the rest of the Arab world, seems fanciful.
        "There might be some protests," said Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian political analyst. "But not with the size that the Palestinian leadership expects because the people feel they are marginalized. There is a great lack of confidence." On the ground, there are few signs of preparation. "It's meaningless. I talk to people and they make fun of the issue," said Bahaa al-Din Zaid, as he stacked loaves in a bakery. "We don't have the foundations of a state." "People are not interested in this subject - they are interested in making ends meet." Like many Palestinians, he remembers the uprisings of the 1980s and a decade ago as failures.
        One Fatah organizer in the West Bank said the leadership's call for protests was not serious: "The potential for Palestinian protest is there, but it cannot be the result of government directives."  (Reuters)
  • Human Shields: Back to Reality - Amnon Rubinstein and Yaniv Roznai
    While the prohibition against using civilians as human shields is widely acknowledged under international humanitarian law, the current law and its application have become incompatible with modern warfare and lead to undesirable results.
        In recent conflicts, including in Gaza in 2009, the strongest criticism has been directed at the counter-attacking party, usually an army of a democratic state, rather than the parties that utilized civilians in order to shield themselves, usually forces of a non-democratic state or irregular organizations such as al-Qaeda or Hamas. The counterattackers are vilified; the shielders are ignored or even exonerated.
        The current application of the law encourages the belligerent to use human shields against military counter-attacks. This leads directly to unfortunate results, since the flagrant use of human shields can effectively prevent an attack on a legitimate enemy target. Amnon Rubinstein is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, and a former Minister of Education. Yaniv Roznai is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Understanding Is Key to a Two-State Future for Israelis and Palestinians - Lorna Fitzsimons
    BICOM organized a recent roundtable discussion in Israel for a group of young media professionals from the UK. The guest speakers were a young leader of the Israeli Likud party from Tel Aviv and a young Palestinian activist from the Fatah party in Ramallah. The two had an unusual story to tell. They had met at an international forum for young leaders and had struck up a close friendship, clearly visible in the warmth they showed for one another.
        Over the course of the discussion each of them spoke about the conflict from their perspective. Their versions of the present reality and how we got here were starkly different. But they did not argue with one another. They listened respectfully to each other's stories.
        Both sides have core strategic concerns that need to be reconciled. Neither side is going to abandon its national narrative or its claim to self-determination. The only way to solve the conflict is if each side comes to understand the other side's claims, and finds ways to reconcile competing demands through dialogue and negotiation. The writer, CEO of BICOM - the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, served in Parliament from 1997 to 2005. (Guardian-UK)

Conference of Presidents Condemns Terror Attacks in Israel (Conference of Presidents)

  • Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, Chairman and Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, conveyed their condolences to the families of those who were killed as well as prayers to those who were injured in the brutal Palestinian terror attacks in southern Israel.
  • "This devastating incident underscores the need for Israel to take whatever measures possible, including strengthening the defensive blockade of Gaza, to ensure that everything is done to prevent a reoccurrence of such terrorism in the future."
  • "The international community, rather than engaging in the folly of the Palestinian unilateral declarations at the UN, should be pressing for an end to Palestinian terrorism and incitement to terror. Providing monthly stipends to Palestinians sitting in jail for terrorism and declaring tributes to those who carry out terror attacks are perfect examples of incitement and reward for terror, and today we saw the results."
  • "Let all those who so readily and vigorously condemn Israel on any occasion now speak out as forcefully against terror and murder."
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