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June 7, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Tests Bunker Buster Bombs, Destroys Replica of Underground Nuclear Facility - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    The Pentagon recently completed a series of field exercises on U.S. soil during which a replica of an underground nuclear facility was destroyed, Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.
    The results of the experiment were relayed to friendly nations with the aim of reassuring them of the U.S.' ability to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities in a single strike.
    The experiment included several GBU-57 B bunker buster bombs that penetrated the underground facility's concrete ceilings.
    The tests were declared a resounding success, exceeding all expectations.

Hizbullah Joins the Battle for Aleppo - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    The Syrian government's success in retaking the town of Qusayr after a three-week siege was achieved due to the assistance of hundreds of Hizbullah fighters.
    Syrian citizens and rebel fighters who crossed into Turkey in recent days say they have seen Hizbullah members fighting in villages and suburbs around Aleppo, where the rebels control about half of the city and its surroundings.
    Ahmed Ramadan, a fighter in the Free Syrian Army, said that he saw Hizbullah fighters in the suburbs of Aleppo. "They had heavy weapons, machine guns and missiles; we only had our Kalashnikovs and little ammunition."
    "They did not hide their identity," he said. "They wear around their heads bands saying that they are 'soldiers of Hussein, son of Ali' (founder of the Shia stream in Islam)."
    Hussein Hussein, a resident of Aleppo, said: "You barely see Syrians fighting anymore. The rebels now come from all the world, Afghan, Pakistanis, Chechens, Saudis, even volunteers from Europe and the U.S. On Assad's side we almost never see, any longer, soldiers who are Syrian, rather mainly Hizbullah men and Iranian officers."
    According to sources in Lebanon, the number of Hizbullah members killed in Syria is as high as two hundred.
    See also Hizbullah Losses Laid Bare after Victory in Syrian Town (Deutsche-Presse Agentur)
    Sources close to Hizbullah told DPA that more than 100 of its fighters had been killed and as many as 200 were wounded in Syria.

Gaza Develops Underground Rocket Launch Network - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Senior military elements in Gaza understood after the 2009 Gaza War that rocket launchers had become very easy targets for the IDF, due to Israel's technological superiority.
    Initially, they tried firing from populated areas, inside schools and even cemeteries, but relatively precise counterterrorism efforts demanded they find another solution.
    So in recent years, tunnels in Gaza have been converted for use as hidden rocket launchers. When necessary, a window opens and the launcher emerges, returning immediately inside after shooting.
    The conversion of tunnels made the firing of rockets more efficient, especially during the fighting in November 2012.
    An intricate underground network was created, intended to preserve the ability of terrorists to fire rockets after an IDF attack, even if one tunnel is hit.
    According to sources in Gaza, during the 2012 fighting there were no fatalities of men in the launch pits.

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Five Church Schools in Gaza Face Closure after Hamas Order - Judith Sudilovsky (Catholic Herald-UK)
    Five schools in Gaza - two Catholic and three Christian - face closure if the Hamas government follows through on an order forbidding co-educational institutions, according to the director general of Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and Israel.
    Fr. Faysal Hijazin said: "We don't have the space and we don't have the money to divide our schools."
    Although the order did not specifically single out the Christian schools, the five are the only schools with mixed enrollment in Gaza.

CNN Whitewashes Soccer-Playing Member of Palestinan Islamic Jihad - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
    A sympathetic CNN profile Thursday of Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak neglected to mention that he is an admitted and active member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a violent Muslim group that carries out terror attacks against Israel.
    "The reporter makes a romantic figure out of someone with ties to Islamic Jihad," said Andrea Levin, director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
    "Islamic Jihad is a terrorist group responsible for suicide bombings in nightclubs, restaurants, and supermarkets."
    CNN centered its story on Sarsak's unsuccessful attempts to convince the European Football Association (UEFA) to cancel its European Under-21 Championship, which is being hosted in Israel for the first time.

Palestinians from Syria Torch Hizbullah Aid (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Some 1,500 packages of food aid donated by Hizbullah were burned by Palestinian refugees from Syria in Saadnayel, Lebanon, on Wednesday, the second such incident in a week.
    Omar Halabi, the head of the Saadnayel Youth League, said, "When the refugees realized that the aid was from the same party which is killing their people in Qusayr and in other places, they, with dozens of locals, took the boxes from the Palestinian Cultural Center and burned them."
    Last Thursday, Palestinian refugees from Syria set fire to humanitarian aid donated by Hizbullah in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.

Sebastia: The Hilltop Capital of Biblical Kings - Daniela Berretta (AP)
    The ancient town of Sebastia, the hilltop capital of biblical kings, is one of the major archaeological sites of the Holy Land, with a history dating back nearly 3,000 years.
    Sebastia served as the capital of the biblical Kingdom of Israel under the name of Samaria in the 8th and 9th centuries BCE.
    The remains include a Crusader cathedral, an ancient Roman city boasting a forum, a colonnaded street and a temple to Augustus, and the remains of the palace of Omri, the 9th century ruler of the Kingdom of Israel.

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Israel Campus Beat
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Jalili Calls for "100 Percent Enrichment" - Nasser Karimi
    Hard-line presidential candidate Saeed Jalili was quoted by a semiofficial news agency as calling for the "100 percent enrichment" of youth, a possible reference to the process used to produce higher grade uranium that the West fears could be used for weapons. "We have to move to a direction that our capacity to enrich the youth reaches 100 percent from 5 and 20 percent," Jalili, who was Iran's top nuclear negotiator, was quoted as saying. (AP)
        See also Iranian Presidential Candidate Saeed Jalili Calls for Enrichment to 100 Percent - Lt. Col. (res.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Austria to Quit UN's Golan Force over Syria Violence - Crispian Balmer
    Austria said on Thursday it would pull out of a UN force on the Golan Heights after battles between Syrian troops and rebels there. The Austrians make up 380 of the 1,000-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) that has been in place for 40 years. (Reuters)
        See also UN Seeks Replacement Troops for Austrian Peacekeepers in Golan
    UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said Thursday that the Austrian decision to withdraw its forces from the Golan significantly harms UNDOF's "operational capacity." He said discussions are underway "with other troop-contributing countries to provide replacement troops." Two UNDOF peacekeepers were injured Thursday when a mortar shell landed in their outpost. The Israel Foreign Ministry said it regretted Austria's decision and expected the UN to uphold its commitment. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Rushing to Complete Golan Fence - William Booth
    Concerned that the Syrian civil war, jihadist terrorists or Lebanese Hizbullah fighters will spill into Israel, the country's military engineers are rushing to complete a new "smart fence" in the Golan Heights. Israel is replacing an old fence - so low that a goat could hop over it - with a steel barricade featuring concertina and razor wire, touch sensors, motion detectors, infrared cameras and ground radar. The 45-mile fence is to be finished in the coming months.
        "These obstacles work. Maybe they are ugly, maybe they are not nice, but they do what they are supposed to do," said Col. Yonathan Bransky, deputy commander of the Israel Defense Forces division that patrols the Gaza perimeter and the Sinai fence. (Washington Post)
  • Russia Announces Permanent Mediterranean Naval Presence - Alexei Anishchuk
    In Russia's first permanent naval deployment in the Mediterranean since Soviet times, it has stationed 16 warships and three ship-based helicopters in the region. President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the deployment was not "saber-rattling" and not meant as a threat to any nation. Russia cooperates with NATO navies against piracy and its ships call at Western ports. (Reuters)
  • Kerry Quietly Approves $1.3 Billion in U.S. Military Aid to Egypt
    Secretary of State John Kerry quietly acted last month to give Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, deciding that this was in the national interest despite Egypt's failure to meet democracy standards. Kerry made the decision well before an Egyptian court this week convicted 16 American democracy workers.
        Under U.S. law, the secretary of state must certify that the Egyptian government is "implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law." The government may waive that condition if it deems this in the U.S. national security interest and provides a detailed justification. According to a May 9 memo, the U.S. national interests served by the aid include increasing security in the Sinai, helping prevent attacks from Gaza into Israel, countering terrorism and securing transit through the Suez Canal. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syrian Fighting Reaches Israel's Border - Yoav Zitun
    On Thursday, fighting between the Syrian army and rebels took place only a few dozen meters from IDF soldiers securing the Quneitra border crossing between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights. Dozens of mortar and tank shells were fired, with two mortars landing in Israeli territory. Dozens of Syrians arrived at the border crossing and requested entry into Israel. However, after the IDF decided the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing was no longer dangerous, the group was sent back to Syria.
        The fighting on the Syrian side has led to a number of wildfires that spread to the border area between the two countries. Israeli firefighters are at the scene, while the IDF has instructed Israeli farmers to stay away from their land near the border. The IDF has bolstered its forces in the Golan and has declared the border area a closed military zone. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Campaign to Regain "Occupied" Latrun - Herb Keinon
    In recent days the Palestine Liberation Organization's Negotiations Affairs Department, headed by Saeb Erekat, launched a campaign under the headline "The Latrun Valley - an Integral Part of the State of Palestine." Israel annexed the Latrun salient, through which part of the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway runs, soon after the Six-Day War. Erekat marked the anniversary of the war on Tuesday by taking journalists and diplomats to the site.
        One Israeli official was stunned by the Palestinian campaign over Latrun, saying: "It's almost as if every time we move forward, or every time there is a prospect of moving forward, the Palestinians bring up an issue which they know is a game breaker." The Palestinian decision to make this an issue "raises concerns as to their seriousness."
        All peace plans have always put Latrun inside Israel, the official said. "No Israeli government, no Israeli prime minister, can seriously entertain that this area would be going to the Palestinians."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Sharp Rise in Attempts to Kidnap Soldiers - Gili Cohen
    There has been a significant increase in attempts to abduct soldiers in recent months, a source in the Israel Defense Forces said on Thursday. Since the beginning of the year, the IDF has counted 27 attempted or planned abductions of soldiers, mainly by terrorist cells. This is the same number as for the whole of 2012.
        Most of the incidents involved detainees who admitted under interrogation that they were planning to abduct a soldier. "Most of the incidents were carried out by operatives affiliated with Hamas," a senior officer explained. Israel Security Agency sources said some of the prisoners freed in the deal for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, especially those who have been deported overseas, are encouraging other terrorists to abduct soldiers. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Message from the Ruins of Qusayr - Charles Krauthammer
    On Wednesday, Qusayr fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusayr is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad's Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It's a major strategic shift. Assad's forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo. This is a huge victory not just for Tehran but also for Moscow, which sustains Assad in power and prizes its warm-water port at Tartus, Russia's only military base outside of the former Soviet Union.
        The losers? NATO-member Turkey, the major supporter of the rebels; Jordan, America's closest Arab ally, now drowning in half a million Syrian refugees; and America's Gulf allies, principal weapons suppliers to the rebels. (Washington Post)
  • In Qusayr, Signs of an Intensifying Holy War - Sam Dagher
    A day after it fell to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a four-hour walk in Qusayr revealed the freshest marks of a war that is inflaming Sunnis and Shiites across the region. Rebels fighting here appeared to be under the sway of Jabhat al-Nusra, a Sunni militia that is linked to al-Qaeda: Notices plastered on mosques praised the group's defense of Qusayr. In the main Christian church, scenes of Christ's crucifixion, seen by many Muslims as blasphemous, had been ripped from paintings and altarpieces.
        On Thursday, Shiite religious chants blared from some of the Hizbullah vehicles roaming Qusayr. Graffiti praising holy Shiite figures believed to be persecuted by rival Sunnis more than 1,300 years ago was scrawled on buildings stormed by Hizbullah fighters. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Combating Political Islam - Raheel Raza
    Political Islam, or "Islamism" as we call this phenomenon in the West, is an armed political ideology similar to Bolshevism and Maoism. Islamism is Islamic-flavored totalitarianism, based upon the intolerance of others, including Muslims, and the glorification of violence as martyrdom. Historically, this aberrant thinking has only been espoused by marginal groups and kept in check for centuries. However, in 1926, a marginal sectarian movement inside Arabia, the Wahhabis, allied with the Saudi tribe, captured power, and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which now serves as the bastion of Islamism.
        Political Islam is on the rise in the UK and Europe, where some cities have installed "Sharia zones." There are entire areas of Norway where non-Muslims are not safe. The weeding out of Islamism and the Islamist threat lodged inside the West is the first step in defeating the global jihadi warfare of Islamists. The writer is president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Threaten Their Own Businessmen - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian businessmen who dared to meet with Israeli colleagues in recent days are now facing threats and calls to boycott them and their companies. Last week several Palestinian unions and political groups held a press conference in Ramallah to strongly condemn Palestinians who meet with Israelis. The chairman of the Palestinian Writers' Union, Murad Sudani, threatened to publish a "blacklist" with the names of those caught meeting with Israelis.
        So far, not one PA official has come out against the intimidation of Palestinian businessmen. Many of those responsible for the "anti-normalization" campaign are, in fact, affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah faction.
        The campaign of intimidation will not only foil Secretary of State Kerry's plan to boost the Palestinian economy, but also scare away potential investors from launching badly needed projects in the West Bank. Once again, the biggest losers are the Palestinians. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Labeling Settler Goods Misses the Mark - David Benjamin
    European officials are touting EU labeling of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a "service" to the consumer. This assumes that products originating in the territories are somehow legally or morally tainted. As far as international law is concerned, while the question of whether Judea and Samaria are even "occupied" in the first place is hotly disputed, there are no prohibitions whatsoever on economic activities such as investing in occupied territories or running a business there.
        Certainly there are no restrictions on providing gainful employment to the local residents. Far from being prejudicial to the people living in the area, such activities contribute positively to their economy. These businesses frequently employ Palestinian residents of the territories who will lose their source of livelihood if their employers are forced to relocate.
        In addition, these enterprises are conducive to peace since they provide islands of normal interaction and goodwill between Israelis and Palestinians. For those who want a speedy and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, boycotting products from the few locations that actually give hope for future coexistence hardly seems the way to go. Lt. Col. (res.) David Benjamin is an Israel-based attorney specializing in international law, the law of armed conflict and counterterrorism. (Israel Hayom)
  • Lessons from the Iron Dome - Yiftah S. Shapir
    Israel has been under rocket attack for many years. Particularly memorable are the shelling of Galilee panhandle towns in the 1970s, the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Israel suffered over 4,000 rocket attacks in one month, and the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza over the past decade. Israel is the first country in the world to deploy an operational anti-rocket system to protect the civilian population. Very few countries in the world have suffered such severe attacks on their civilian populations for such an extended period.
        Iron Dome is a system for intercepting rockets and artillery shells with ranges of up to 70 km. Today there are 5 Iron Dome batteries. By late 2013, there are expected to be 9, and the current plan is to purchase a total of 13.
        By April 2012, the Iron Dome system had demonstrated 93 interceptions. Its most conspicuous success was during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 when it intercepted 421 rockets.
        Iron Dome, in spite of its success, does not provide total protection. Rockets penetrated its defense, causing damage to property and casualties. However, the real problem was not the physical damage, which was negligible. The problem was that in every one of the incidents, some one million residents of the State of Israel were forced to sit in shelters, and schools were closed. The other side of the coin can be seen in the victory rally held in Gaza. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). (Military and Strategic Affairs-INSS-Tel Aviv University)
  • Conflict Resolution through Cultural Diplomacy in the Middle East - Alan Baker
    Peace cannot emanate only from documents signed by leaders alone, but from mutual good faith and credibility among the peoples for whom the agreements are signed. UN resolutions adopted with a view to elaborating a culture of peace need to be given greater attention.
        In order for cultural diplomacy to succeed, practically, it needs to include, first and foremost, an acknowledgment by political and religious leaders that peace, justice, and mutual respect are basic values in all religions, as well as central assumptions in international law and diplomacy. There must also be an end to negative public propaganda. Media and social networking should be used to advocate mutual respect, rather than the opposite. Furthermore, there should be acknowledgment of the rights of all indigenous peoples to their indigenous lands, resources, and properties.
        On May 9, 2013, Amb. Alan Baker, an experienced Israeli peace negotiator, addressed a conference in Istanbul, Turkey, on "Conflict Mediation through Cultural Diplomacy in Current Areas of Conflict."  (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • Why Rock Stars Love Israel - Liel Leibovitz
    Israel is among the best places in the world for rock stars to visit. During Justin Bieber's visit to the beach in Israel in the summer of 2011, Israel's security personnel saw that the perimeter had been breached and photographers and shrieking fans were moving in quickly. But the men trained in close-quarter combat in Gaza and Ramallah and southern Lebanon are never without contingency plans. Suddenly, an engine roared and a white scooter appeared from somewhere just by the waterline. Before the paparazzi could give chase, the scooter whisked away the boy wonder toward an undisclosed location.
        For entertainers, Israel is seemingly engineered to provide performers with security. Elsewhere, the men entrusted with keeping fans and paparazzi at arm's length are hastily trained guards, maybe police. In Israel, they are veterans of the Israel Defense Forces' elite units. One security guard explains, "Everywhere they go, people try to grab them, touch them, kiss them. They need to be protected, and it's what we in Israel do best."
        Tair Kesler, an Israeli celebrity handler, has a different explanation for why artists love coming to Israel. In a nation like Israel, Kesler said, heavily burdened with existential concerns, a famous face is nice to see, but no reason to lose one's cool. "Here no one is screaming like they do abroad. It's much calmer here. We see these celebrities as people. We're less excited than other places; other places care a lot about celebrities, but here we have bigger things to worry about." This nonchalance is a major curiosity for stars. (Tablet)
  • After Tech Success, Israel Seeks Life Sciences Growth - Tova Cohen and Steven Scheer
    Inspired by its success in high-tech electronics and software, Israel is hoping to pull off the same trick in life sciences. Israel is first in the world for the number of medical device patents per capita and second in biopharmaceuticals. Israel has nearly 1,000 life science firms, of which 29% are in biopharma, developing proprietary drugs and experimenting with stem cells to treat diseases such as diabetes, Gaucher and leukemia.
        Israel has 23 public biotech companies, a total surpassed by only two countries in Europe. There are about 500 medical device firms in Israel that generated more than $1.6 billion in exports in 2011. (Reuters)
  • The Winning Issues - David M. Weinberg
    The week I just spent with Norwegian friends of Israel taught me how the justice of Israel's cause can be most effectively presented. Israel wins when you speak about justice for Israel; not when you merely proclaim Israel's desire for peace, talk-up its willingness to compromise, and declare its right to defend itself.
        Norway is one of the top funders of the Palestinian Authority. Yet Israel has broad grassroots support in Norway, where friends of Israel have organized an effective and increasingly respected lobby, Med Israel for Fred (, or "With Israel for Peace." MIFF boasts almost 7,000 paid members, and it engages more people on Facebook than some of the major Norwegian political parties. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem also has thousands of members in Norway.
        Norwegian MIFF activists have learned that it is simply not enough to explain Israel's security dilemmas or to revisit Israel's diplomatic generosity toward the Palestinians. What's needed is a much more basic restatement of Israel's cause and purpose: Israel as a grand historic reunion of people and land, as a shelter for the Jewish People, and as a just and moral actor in the medieval and violent Arab Middle East.
        Nobody knows about the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were expelled from Arab lands and absorbed by Israel, and when they learn of this it dramatically changes the discourse. As opposed to a conversation about Palestinian rights vs. Israeli security, the conversation becomes a debate about a balance of rights: about Israeli/Jewish rights and Palestinian/Arab rights.
        George Deek, the impressive young Israeli diplomat who serves as deputy chief of mission in Oslo, who is a Christian Arab, adds that one must point out the internal conflicts and ethnic wars within the Arab world. "Norwegians and other Westerners need to understand the warlike patterns of behavior that characterize the region Israel resides in."  (Jerusalem Post)

PA and Fatah Implementing "Popular Resistance" in West Bank (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

  • The concept of Palestinian "popular resistance" (almuqawama al-sha'abiya), as adopted by the sixth Fatah conference in August 2009, has been implemented in Judea and Samaria by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah, and has become a main component of PA policy. "Popular resistance" creates constant, controlled tension in Palestinian relations with Israel in order to exert pressure on Israel.
  • Internally, the PA and Fatah have presented the Palestinian public with "popular resistance" as an acceptable alternative to Hamas' "armed resistance," which the PA and Fatah feel is not useful at the present time.
  • "Popular resistance" is not the placid, non-violent protest the PA pretends it is. It makes massive use of violence, employing firebombs, stones, knives, and hit and run attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians. In 2012 the number of "popular resistance" attacks reached several hundred every month and the numbers have continued to rise throughout the first half of 2013. In 2012 two Israeli civilians were killed in Judea and Samaria: one was stabbed to death and the other was the victim of a hit and run attack. Some 35 Israelis were wounded, more than half of them by stones and firebombs.
  • While the PA has invested effort in preventing terrorism resulting from armed military-terrorist activity, the "cold weapon" violence built into "popular resistance" is not being prevented. On the contrary, both the PA and Fatah encourage it, nurture its continuation, and accompany it with ongoing anti-Israeli propaganda and incitement.
  • According to the Fatah political platform of August 2009, an armed campaign remains a future option, dependent on the political and social conditions of the conflict with Israel. In addition, the PA and Fatah preserve the legacy and symbols of the armed campaign against Israel, manifested in commemorating the martyrs (of all the terrorist organizations) killed while carrying out terrorist attacks.
  • Anti-Israeli Palestinian violence did not disappear, it merely changed form, became more sophisticated, more controlled, and more easily digested by the U.S. and the international community.

        See also Dramatic Increase in Stone-Throwing Incidents on Jews in Eastern Jerusalem
    The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee held a special session Wednesday on the rise in the number of stone-throwing attacks against Jews in eastern Jerusalem. According to police data, such incidents have become a daily occurrence and have recently escalated to include firebombs. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Palestinians Throw Rocks at Two Fire Crews in Eastern Jerusalem
    Palestinians threw rocks at two fire crews that were putting out a wildfire in eastern Jerusalem on Friday, Israel Radio reported. Minor damage was caused to a fire truck. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Throw Firebombs at Israeli Bus near Ramallah (Jerusalem Post)
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