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August 22, 2011

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Barak Says Israel Regrets Death of Egyptian Soldiers (Israel Hayom)
  Israel on Saturday issued an apology to Egypt, expressing its regret at the killing of five Egyptian troops in an incident involving Israeli forces who chased Palestinian terrorists fleeing back into the Sinai after carrying out Thursday's deadly terror attacks near Eilat. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday ordered that an apology be issued to Egypt in an attempt to calm growing tension that has developed between Egypt and Israel over the deaths of the Egyptian soldiers.

Lebanon's Hariri Tribunal Broadens Probe to Three Other Attacks - Mike Corder (AP/WTOP News)
  The U.N.-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has widened its probe to cover three other attacks, the court announced Friday. The expansion of the case represents a significant escalation in the work of the court that has so far focussed solely on the Feb. 14, 2005, suicide bombing that killed Hariri.

Iran Sentences 2 Americans to 8 Years in Prison - Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim (Los Angeles Times)
  Iranian authorities imposed a harsh, eight-year sentence on two Americans arrested along the border with Iraq in 2009, Iran's state television cited an unnamed judicial source as saying Saturday, in a stunning verdict that could further strain relations between Washington and Tehran.

Iran Replaces Ambassador in Syria, Who Quit His Post - Abdolhadi Torfi (Al Arabiya - Dubai)
  Iran has appointed a new ambassador to Syria to replace Ahmad Mousavi, who decided to quit his post amid growing popular protests against President Assad and his rule.
  The Kaleme opposition website last week reported that Mousavi was planning to leave Damascus, amid growing opposition protests against President Assad and his Baathist regime. The opposition website reported that Mousavi�s departure was a sign the political situation in Syria was critical. Keleme quoted an unnamed Syrian diplomat saying that Iranian embassy staff have vacated their homes in Damascus and sent their families back to Iran in fear of the regime�s imminent collapse.

Diplomats: Foreign Funds for Hamas Hit by Syria Unrest - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
  Iran has cut back or even stopped its funding of Hamas after the Islamist movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, failed to show public support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats said Sunday.
  Hamas has denied that it is in financial crisis but says it faces liquidity problems stemming from inconsistent revenues from tax collection in the Gaza Strip and foreign aid.
  The diplomats cited Iran's displeasure over Hamas' refusal to hold rallies in support of Tehran's ally, Assad, in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria after an uprising against his rule. Hamas' leadership outside the Gaza Strip is headquartered in Damascus.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Gaza Rocket Fire Persists Despite Truce, Israeli Aircraft Retaliate
    Palestinians militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more rockets and mortars on southern Israel despite a cease-fire agreement. Israel�s military said Monday that 15 projectiles were launched at Israel overnight. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel Mulls Response to Rocket Attacks
    One Israeli was killed and scores were injured after approximately 100 rockets were fired at southern Israel over the weekend, police and military officials said. Rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza fell in Beersheba and the Ashkelon area Sunday morning. One rocket fell on a school in Beersheba causing extensive damage but no injuries.
      An Israeli man was killed Saturday night when a rocket exploded near a house in Beersheba. Six others were injured in the explosion, including two who were in critical condition Sunday. Other Israelis were injured when rockets exploded in Ashkelon, Ofakim, Ashdod and elsewhere in the western Negev over the weekend. (UPI)
  • Rebels Sweep into Tripoli as Gaddafi Forces Crumble - Missy Ryan
    Jubilant rebel fighters swept into the heart of Tripoli as Muammar Gaddafi's forces collapsed and crowds took to the streets to celebrate what they saw as the rapidly approaching end of his four decades of absolute power. Two of Gaddafi's sons were captured by the rebels, but the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself were unknown.
      U.S. President Barack Obama said Gaddafi's rule was showing signs of collapse and called on him to quit now to avoid further bloodshed. (Reuters)
        See also Who Can Unite Libya if Gaddafi Falls? - Michael Georgy (Reuters)
  • Syria's Assad Warns against Military Intervention, Says Regime Is Not in Danger
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday his regime was in no danger of collapse and warned against any foreign military intervention in his country as the regime tries to crush a 5-month-old popular uprising. In his fourth public appearance since the revolt against his family�s 40-year rule erupted in mid-March, Assad insisted that security forces were making inroads against the uprising.
      Assad brushed off President Barack Obama�s condemnation, saying it has �no value.� �I am not worried about the security situation right now, we can say the security situation is better,� he said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israeli Defense Sources: Gaza Terror Groups Changing Tactics to Avoid Iron Dome System - Anshel Pfeffer
    The terror organizations in the Gaza Strip have changed their rocket-launch tactics in an attempt to evade the two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries deployed by the Israel Air Force in southern Israel.
      On Saturday, the terror groups attempted to break through the intercept system's defenses by firing a particularly large volley of rockets at Be'er Sheva. The IAF's Air Defense Corps intercepted 16 of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip since Thursday. Iron Dome is capable of determining which rockets are liable to hit populated areas, and intercepts those rockets only in order not to waste the expensive intercept missiles on incoming rockets that will land in uninhabited areas.
      After the Palestinian launch teams realized that the intercept systems deployed in the past two weeks around Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva provided near-perfect protection from rockets, they began targeting Ashdod and Ofakim more frequently. And when they did aim at Be'er Sheva on Saturday night, they did not fire one or two rockets, as in the past, but rather a volley of seven rockets almost simultaneously. Iron Dome intercepted five of them successfully, but one penetrated the defense system, killing a resident. (Ha'aretz)
  • 'PA Silence over Terror Raises Questions about Statehood' - Herb Keinon
    The Palestinian silence regarding Thursday�s terrorist attack in the South was �deafening,� and raises serious questions about the Palestinian Authority�s readiness for independence, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu�s spokesman Mark Regev said Sunday.
      Government sources noted that even Yasser Arafat would issue pro-forma condemnations of violence during the height of the second intifada, something the PA leadership has not yet done since Thursday�s attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Abbas�s Desperate Gambit Trigger a Third Intifada? - Jackson Diehl
    Over the past four months Mahmoud Abbas has dug himself into a very deep hole in the Palestinian West Bank. Next month, he will try to blast himself out with what he hopes will be a controlled explosion � mass demonstrations by Palestinians that, he supposes, will neither turn against his regime nor get out of hand.
      Abbas�s desperate gambit may turn out to be a dud. It might be called off at the last minute. But it also may be the trigger for another violent upheaval in the Arab Middle East � and one that changes the course of the poorly named �Arab Spring.�
      In theory, this will move countries to vote for Palestinian statehood, make Israel look isolated, attract the attention of Arab satellite channels and create at least the illusion of a triumph when Third World votes push the meaningless General Assembly resolution over the top.
      It�s not hard to imagine what could go wrong in a �third intifada.� The embattled dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria could get a saving break as Arab attention focused on a new Israeli-Palestinian fight. Syria and Iran could promote new marches on Israel�s borders from the Golan Heights and Lebanon. Extremists in Egypt could use anger against Israel to whip up support in crucial elections scheduled for November. And so on. (Washington Post)
  • Al Qaeda�s New Sinai Front - Bruce Riedel
    Al Qaeda sympathizers have opened a new front for the jihadist terror group in one of the most sensitive and combustible parts of the Middle East. The nascent group operates in the Sinai Peninsula where the borders of Israel, Egypt, and Gaza come together. In the wake of last week�s major Palestinian terrorist attack into Israel, which used the Sinai as a base, Al Qaeda�s presence adds another dangerous ingredient in the explosive Arab-Israeli tinderbox.
      None of Al Qaeda�s official media outlets has yet recognized the jihadists in the Sinai as a formal branch of Al Qaeda, but Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian who has replaced Osama bin Laden as emir of Al Qaeda, has publicly congratulated those jihadists who blew up the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline and has called for more attacks on Israeli targets in his latest audio commentary on the Egyptian revolution. Many Zawahiri supporters are among those released in the jailbreaks in Egypt this year, and he has long tried to rebuild the infrastructure of the terror underground he led in Egypt in the 1990s. Also freed in the jailbreaks were terrorists involved in attacks on tourist hotels in the Sinai in 2005 and 2006 that killed more than 100 people. (Daily Beast)
  • Why Is Glenn Beck Going to Israel? - Zev Chafets
    In its long slog through history, the Jewish caravan has acquired a lot of improbable and colorful camp followers, from Bulan, king of the Khazars, to Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Lately, conservative commentator and former Fox News TV personality Glenn Beck has joined their ranks. This week, he plans to set up his tent in the Holy Land for three televised Zionist rallies, dubbed �Restoring Courage,� in Jerusalem and Caesarea.
      The UN is holding another World Conference Against Racism, whose record of open anti-Semitism has prompted the United States, Canada and many European democracies to boycott it. Beck has timed his rallies to push back against these U.N. events, which he considers symptoms of an old malady. At a recent convention in Washington of Christians United for Israel, he electrified the crowd by declaring that, when the time comes to get the Jews, �count me as one, and count me first.� (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Want to Understand Israel? - David Harris (Huffington Post)

  • I believe that anyone who genuinely seeks peace should consider four key factors that inform the Israeli worldview.
  • First, geography. The throwaway line these days is that geography no longer matters in an era of long-range missiles. Not so fast.
  • Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey. To put it into a Middle East context, Egypt is approximately 50 times larger than Israel, Saudi Arabia a hundred times. Until its 1967 war for survival, Israel's borders, which were nothing more than the armistice lines, were 9 miles at their narrowest point, near the country's midsection and most populous area.
  • Topography matters too. When the towering Golan Heights were in the hands of Syria before the Six-Day War, for example, Jewish villages and farms below were regularly targeted by Syrian shelling.
  • Second, history. Notwithstanding Arab claims to the contrary, the Jewish people have been linked to this region for over 3,000 years. The bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is central to the historical narrative. The metaphysical and physical link between the Jewish people and its wellsprings of history and holiness must be acknowledged.
  • Third, psychology. Some dismiss Israel's preoccupation with security as obsessive. But Israel has a history. So do the Jewish people. And it teaches that there are those who wish to do harm and mean what they say. They are not to be neglected or minimized. That history also teaches that, all too often, Israel and the Jewish people have stood largely alone in facing the danger. Pledges of help are more often made than kept. So yes, Israel has every right, indeed obligation, to take Iran's nuclear ambitions seriously -- just as it has every right, indeed, obligation, to take seriously the 40,000 missiles in Hezbollah's arsenal in Lebanon and the desire of Hamas in Gaza to emulate Hezbollah's example.
  • And fourth, yearning. The survivors of the exiles, the pogroms, the inquisitions, the blood libels, the ghettos, and the death camps don't need lectures about why they should seek "normality." When it has credible, committed partners in the search for peace, as history has amply shown, Israel will go to great territorial lengths, even at risk to its own security, to achieve a solution. The writer is the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee.

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