Israeli Intelligence: Assad Concealing Chemical Capability - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
Israeli intelligence believes the Syrian regime is concealing chemical weapons while misleading the international community.
This assessment joins similar ones from intelligence sources in the U.S. and Britain.
There has been no evidence that Syria is transferring chemical weapons to Hizbullah, although the Assad regime continues to try to transfer other advanced weapons systems including anti-aircraft missiles and surface-to-sea missiles.
A senior military source said it is now clear that if Assad falls, the dominant factors among the rebels will be extremist Islamic organizations, some identified with al-Qaeda.
"In terms of the balance of deterrence, it's easier for us when we're dealing with an official address in Damascus, rather than a chaos of gangs as in Somalia."
Israeli Aircraft Spy on Enemy Targets Without Leaving the Country - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
The Israel Air Force revealed Tuesday that its F-15 squadrons frequently uses advanced, long-range cameras to photograph enemy targets without leaving Israeli air space.
On reconnaissance flights, Israeli planes take pictures of targets well beyond Israel's borders, such as a Hizbullah arms warehouse in southern Lebanon, or the location of hostile terrorist forces in Syria.
"It's possible to refrain from entering enemy territory and still gather quality intelligence," said Lt. Omer, a squadron photography officer.
See also Israel Air Force Practices Shooting Down Enemy Drones - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
The Israel Air Force held a large exercise for fighter jets and combat helicopters in recent days to practice shooting down hostile drones.
Shot Ukrainian Mayor Hospitalized in Israel - Taly Krupkin and Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
Hennady Kernes, mayor of the east Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, who was shot and critically wounded on Monday, was flown to Israel and is being treated in Haifa. Kernes is Jewish.
Explosion Sinks Flotilla Boat in Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
A guard in Gaza watching over a boat called Gaza's Ark, which intended to set sail in protest of Israel's blockade, received a call on Tuesday warning him that an attack on the boat was imminent.
Immediately afterward the boat exploded, causing it to sink.
Canadian Charity with Ties to Hamas Listed as "Terrorist" Organization - Olivia Ward (Toronto Star-Canada)
On Tuesday, Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney declared a Canadian charity for Palestinian aid a terrorist organization, and launched an RCMP "terrorist financing investigation" that included a wide-ranging search at its Mississauga and Montreal offices.
The Canada Revenue Agency had previously revoked the charitable status of the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN-Canada).
"Between 2005 and 2009, IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas, a listed terrorist entity," said a statement from the minister's office.
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- Hamas Leader: Palestinian Deal Will Not Change Hamas Policies - Crispian Balmer and Nidal Al-Mughrabi
A Palestinian unity deal will not lead Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist and will not result in any Gaza military forces coming under President Mahmoud Abbas' control, veteran Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar said Tuesday.
He said Abbas was using the unity deal to put heat on Israel, but that he was also worried by a U.S. threat to suspend hundreds of millions in aid. "He is seeking a guarantee that U.S. financial support will continue," Zahar said.
"Abbas is not telling them the truth. He says 'this is my government.' But it is not his government. It is a government of national unity. He is marketing it in this way to minimize the pressure," said Zahar, who took part in the unity negotiations. (Reuters)
- For Peace Talks to Resume, Israel Insists Hamas Must Change - Steve Inskeep interviews Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer
Q: Why is it so bad if you have a unified Palestinian Authority that you can deal with?
Dermer: If you had a reformed Hamas that accepted Israel, that abandoned terrorism, then a unified Palestinian society would be good, because that would be unity for peace. But...Hamas is a terror organization. They call openly for Israel's destruction.
And what we won't accept also is the Palestinians putting forth some technocratic government where Hamas remains in the back office. If Hamas is there in the back office, Israel's not going to be at the negotiating table.
Q: Could the Palestinians push back at you and say, look, there are members of the Israeli governing coalition we don't like, either, but we're willing to talk to Netanyahu?
Dermer: Of course not, because we don't have terrorists who are sitting in the Israeli government. We don't have people who call for the extermination of the Palestinians....You cannot have a political party [in Israel] that would call for the extermination of the Palestinians. (NPR)
See also below Observations: What Would Hamas Have to Do for Israel to Deal with Them? - Christa Case Bryant (Christian Science Monitor)
- Syria Chemical Weapons: The Proof that Assad Launched Chlorine Attacks on Children - Ruth Sherlock
Scientific analysis of samples from multiple gas attacks in Syria shows the Assad regime is still launching chemical weapons attacks on children.
Soil samples from the scene of three recent attacks were collected by trained individuals.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert involved in the testing, said: "We have unequivocally proved that the regime has used chlorine and ammonia against its own civilians in the last two to three weeks."
The use in war of "asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases" - which can be produced by chlorine and ammonia - is banned by the Geneva Protocol, which Syria signed. The attacks were conducted by helicopter and could only have been carried out by the Syrian regime.
In the last two weeks alone there have been eight separate chemical attacks on rebel-held towns and villages in Idlib province.
- U.S. Announces Actions to Enforce Iran Sanctions - Rich Gladstone
The U.S. government escalated enforcement of its Iran sanctions on Tuesday, adding eight Chinese companies, a Dubai company and two Dubai-based executives to blacklists for evading American restrictions on Iranian weapons, oil and banking transactions. The announcements signaled the first significant enforcement of American sanctions directed at Iran in three months, and seemed aimed at dispelling what Obama administration officials have called a misimpression that economic relations with Iran are moving toward normalization.
Despite a temporary accord on Iran's nuclear program that eased some sanctions, administration officials have emphasized that most restraints on dealings with Iran remain in place.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel to Security Council: Hold the Palestinians Accountable - Maya Shwayder
Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor told the UN Security Council on Tuesday:
"While Israel makes tangible concessions to advance peace, the Palestinian leadership has let every window of opportunity fly out the window....The Palestinians have made a career out of squeezing more and more compromises out of Israel, without granting a single tangible compromise of their own."
He added that the financial assistance that foreign governments provide to Abbas' government will now be available to Hamas.
"I wonder how taxpayers in London, Luxembourg and Paris would feel knowing that they will enable Hamas to launch more rockets into Israel, kidnap more Israelis and send more suicide bombers into our cafes," he said.
- Israel to Begin Using Taxes It Collects for PA to Offset Ramallah's Debts
Israel has begun using tax money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to pay off existing Palestinian debts, senior Israeli officials said Monday. The PA owes $285 million to the Israel Electric Company.
(Times of Israel)
- The Real Problem with Kerry's "Apartheid" Myth - David Harsanyi
It's not just the incendiary use of "apartheid" that's the problem, but the well-worn canard about Israel that Kerry rests his position on. The theory goes like this: Arab birthrates in Israel and the Palestinian territories will continue to be higher than those of the Jews. And at some point, Arabs will become the majority in all the areas that Israel governs and then Jews will be impelled to act like a bunch of Afrikaner Brownshirts to survive.
There are two key problems with this theory: 1. The demography apocalypse isn't happening. 2. Even if it was, it would have absolutely nothing to do with today's peace negotiations or the status of the territories administered by Israel.
For decades Israelis have been hearing how they will be outnumbered, yet the population trends haven't changed much. The demographic time bomb is a dud.
Kerry suggests that a change of Israeli or Palestinian leadership might offer better conditions for an agreement on the future Palestinian state. This is an interesting assertion considering Fatah has been the only entity to negotiate for Palestinians, while Israel has engaged in peace talks with the Labor party, Likud party, and Kadima party, and it has made absolutely no difference in the outcome.
- What Kerry Doesn't Say - Jennifer Rubin
President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry never tire of telling Israel all the ills that will befall it if it doesn't make peace with the Palestinians. However, they studiously ignore the Palestinians' refusal to embrace a two-state solution.
The problem is a mind-set that insists there is something Israel can do that will unlock peace. In fact, Israel has repeatedly done what is required - offered statehood and relinquishment of Gaza and virtually all of the West Bank. The barrier to peace is a Palestinian Authority that still dreams of wiping Israel out and a Hamas still engaged in terrorism.
See also Fatah Leader Calls for Israel's Destruction - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Several times recently, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi has openly rejected coexistence with Israel and called for a "return to the option of one Palestine from the river to the sea." (Palestinian Media Watch)
- A New Peace Mindset Is Needed - Ari Shavit
Despite the personal determination, intellectual commitment, and diplomatic dedication of the extraordinary American peace team, Israelis and Palestinians are as divided as they were a year ago and a decade ago. Jews and Arabs are deeply suspicious of one another and do not agree on the fundamentals that could make peace a reality.
Why did the 1993, 2000, 2007-2008, and 2013-2014 peace initiatives not bring about peace? Because as solution-oriented Westerners, we did not wrestle seriously with the fact that the conflict did not begin in 1967 and that it would not necessarily end with the resolution of the problem that 1967 created.
We dismissed the possibility that the Palestinians are victims of an anachronistic political culture whose negative ethos makes it especially difficult to offer the concessions required to reach a historic reconciliation in this day and age.
A new peace mindset is needed, an enterprise designed to reach peace gradually rather than instantly, an endeavor that replaces the castle in the sky of formal peace with the tent on the ground of a de facto peace. It will focus on fostering the conditions that will allow the two states to evolve and flourish side by side. (New Republic)
What Would Hamas Have to Do for Israel to Deal with Them? - Christa Case Bryant (Christian Science Monitor)
- Hamas' charter calls it a religious obligation to wage jihad for the Palestinian cause, and to restore all of Palestine to Palestinian control. That includes modern-day Israel.
- Israel, like the international Quartet - the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia - insists that Palestinian parties to the peace process must recognize Israel, give up violence, and adhere to previous diplomatic agreements. Hamas has done none of these things.
- Therefore, Israel has refused not only to deal with a government that includes Hamas, but also a government that is "backed by" Hamas.
- So even if Abbas led a government with no Hamas members, and it agrees to the Quartet principles, that wouldn't be enough for Israel. Hamas itself would have to adopt those three principles.
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