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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
August 27, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Families of Syrian Brass "Fleeing" Ahead of Feared U.S. Strike (Times of Israel)
    "The families of some of the heads of the [Syrian] regime" were flying out of Latakia Airport ahead of an anticipated U.S. strike against regime targets, Israel Channel 2 TV reported Monday.
    Israel TV reported on Saturday that chemical shells were fired last Wednesday by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, commanded by President Assad's brother Maher.
    Israeli military sources reiterated Monday that it was "highly unlikely" that Syria would directly strike at Israel in response to outside military intervention, since this would prompt an Israeli response that would "break the tie" between Assad and the rebel forces seeking to oust him.
    Israel is concerned, however, that Syria might try to retaliate via terror groups in south Lebanon or internationally.

Israel Wary of Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria - Amir Rapaport (Israel Defense)
    IDF sources say 90 different rebel groups are currently active in Syria. 10 maintain active forces in the Golan Heights area, not far from the Israeli border.
    On the day following the collapse of the Assad regime, one particular group in the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights is regarded as highly dangerous - Jabhat Al Nusra.
    They always wear black and everyone grows a thick beard, while keeping his head bald and shaving off his moustache.
    The group regards itself as a partner in the ideology of Al-Qaeda. Most of its members are not Syrian, but Jihadists assembled from far away.
    For them, the toppling of the Assad regime is only the first step on the way to a more significant struggle against the "Zionist infidels."
    There are currently several hundred members of Al Nusra in Syria, and only a small part are in the southern Golan. Most are located near Aleppo in northwestern Syria.

What Human Rights Watch's Homepage Features - David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy)
    President Assad has attacked civilians with chemical weapons, killing hundreds and injuring more.
    The Egyptian government has slaughtered hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who in turn have been engaging in pogroms against Egyptian Christians.
    So I decided to see which of these stories Human Rights Watch featured most prominently on the front page of its website.
    You guessed it! The most prominent HRW story is how Israeli demolition of illegal Palestinian structures "raises war crime concerns."
    The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Syria's Use of Chemical Weapons "Undeniable"
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday: "What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable."
        "This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all....President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences....All peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again."  (State Department)
  • Blasts in the Night, a Smell, and a Flood of Syrian Victims - Ben Hubbard, Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler
    Thousands of sick and dying Syrians flooded the hospitals in the Damascus suburbs before dawn, hours after the first rockets landed last Wednesday, their bodies convulsing and mouths foaming. Their vision was blurry and many could not breathe. Doctors worked frantically, injecting the antidote atropine, until supplies ran out. Cars were bringing in entire families - fathers, mothers and children - all of them dead.
        It was the largest mass killing of the Syrian civil war, and the deadliest chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein's troops killed thousands of Kurds with sarin gas in 1988. When the full U.S. National Security Council assembled, with President Obama presiding, on Saturday morning, "the focus had really shifted to how we respond to this event, not whether we respond," a senior official said. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syria: Israel "Will Come under Fire" If Syria Is Attacked - Roi Kais
    A member of the Syrian Ba'ath national council, Halef al-Muftah, said Monday that Israel "will come under fire" should Syria be attacked by the U.S. He told the American radio station Sawa in Arabic: "We have strategic weapons and we can retaliate. Essentially, the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel."  (Ynet News)
        See also Iran: Israel Will Be First Victim of U.S. Strike in Syria
    The director-general of the Iranian parliament for International Affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam, said Monday that "the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria."  (Algemeiner)
  • U.S., Israel Officials Discuss Syria, Iran
    A delegation of Israeli officials headed by National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror met with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice in Washington on Monday to discuss the latest developments in Syria, Egypt, and Iran. (Times of Israel)
  • Video: Border Police Come Under Attack in West Bank, Three Palestinians Killed - Yaakov Lappin, Khaled Abu Toameh, and Tovah Lazaroff
    A large-scale Palestinian attack against Israeli security forces in Kalandiya on Monday, in which rioters shot at army jeeps and hurled washing machines and large concrete blocks from rooftops, left three Palestinians dead. A senior army source said forces were sent to arrest a senior terrorist figure who dealt in weapons and organized past disturbances in Kalandiya, north of Jerusalem. Palestinian gunfire was directed at the jeeps, and four bullet holes were later discovered in the vehicles.
        The source said the soldiers acted properly, proportionally, and in line with the rules of engagement. "This could have ended with many more casualties had the soldiers acted differently," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Observations: The West Bank Terror War - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
        See also U.S. Denies Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Canceled
    The U.S. State Department on Monday denied reports that peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians had been canceled following clashes in the West Bank. (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Bombing Syria: What's the Goal? - Robert Satloff
    In Syria, the Assad regime and its Iranian sponsors apparently believe they can put a stake through the heart of U.S. power and prestige in the region by testing the president's "red line" on the use of chemical weapons (CW). For the Iranians, Assad's CW use makes Syria - not Iran's nuclear facilities - the battlefield to test American resolve. Assad probably miscalculated - there is a line beyond which even the most reluctant president cannot go.
        Given the strategic stakes at play in Syria, the wiser course is to take action that hastens the end of Assad's regime, and not just dispatch cruise missiles against Syrian military installations. This will also enhance the credibility of the president's commitment to prevent Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Politico)
  • Taking Punitive Military Action Against the Syrian Regime - Jeffrey White
    A punitive attack does not mean a weak or token attack. It should be a punishing strike mounted with enough strength to inflict serious damage on the targets. It should also be conducted in a highly visible manner to ensure that its impact is seen, heard, and felt by the regime and the opposition.
        Specific targets should include the Damascus-area headquarters, barracks, and support facilities of the 4th and Republican Guard Armored Divisions (two units heavily involved in the bombardment of civilian areas). Allied forces should also strike higher-level military and intelligence headquarters and command-and-control facilities associated with military operations around the capital. This means putting enough weapons on the targets to ensure high levels of destruction. The writer, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence officer, is a Defense Fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hizbullah in Syria - Nicholas Blanford
    Hizbullah's commitment in Syria is illustrated by the growing duration of each fighter's tour. Initially, fighters served a week at a time, later extended to 20 days during the battle for Qusayr in May. Today, each fighter spends 30 days on the Syrian front lines. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah recently pledged to double the number of fighters in Syria if need be.
        The Syria conflict is also preoccupying Hizbullah domestically. Car bomb attacks in the southern suburbs of Beirut as well as roadside bombings of Hizbullah vehicles in the Bekaa Valley and continuing cross-border rocket fire into the northern Bekaa has compelled Hizbullah to adopt unprecedented security measures.
        Israel's retaliatory airstrike for the rocket firing from Lebanon last Thursday was little more than a routine signal of displeasure. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command base at Naameh traditionally has served as a retaliatory target for the Israeli air force when Israel either cannot find more appropriate targets or does not want an escalation along the border.
        While the actual figures are not known, it is probably safe to assume that there are some 8,000-10,000 Hizbullah fighters serving in Syria at any one time. (Daily Star-Lebanon)

The West Bank Terror War - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • The fact that the IDF is forced to enter built-up Palestinian areas in order to track down terrorist suspects shows just how unreliable the Palestinian Authority is as a peace partner. Moreover, the willingness of mobs in these towns to rally and attack the IDF with gunfire and rocks is testimony to how deeply rooted support for terror operations is in the Palestinian population.
  • The relative lack of terrorism directed at Israel from the West Bank is a function of proactive IDF actions there like the raid in Kalandiya, where the Israelis can arrest those planning or guilty of having committed terrorism.
  • Going after these terrorists is dangerous work, especially when ordinary Palestinians are willing to risk injury to prevent their arrest. The notion that IDF troops should submit to live fire as well as lethal rock showers without seeking to defend themselves is not a standard that anyone would apply to any other army or police force in the world.
  • If the PA and the Palestinian people want such incidents to cease, then they have only to police their own population - as they promised to do in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

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