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August 4, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Tractor Driver Kills One in Jerusalem Terror Attack - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
    A tractor driven by a Palestinian rammed into a bus in central Jerusalem on Monday. A 25-year-old male pedestrian was run over by the tractor and killed.
    The bus was overturned and the bus driver as well as five others were hurt.
    A police officer and Prisons Service official who realized what was happening ran up to the tractor and killed the terrorist.
    The attacker had worked at a nearby building site.

Congress Approves More Money for Israel's Iron Dome - Dana Bash and Tom Cohen (CNN)
    U.S. lawmakers united in support of Israel on Friday before going on a five-week summer recess, with the Senate approving another $225 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system. The House followed Friday by voting 395-8 in favor of the measure.
    "We could not go out for a month or five weeks and not act to help the Israelis replenish their supply of Iron Dome missiles," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
    On Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blocked the Iron Dome funding requested by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel because it would add to the budget deficit.
    McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) then spoke to Coburn about the critical moment facing Israel, Graham said, adding that "to his credit, he let it go."

Civilians Killed in Rocket Attacks in Syria - Sam Dagher (Wall Street Journal)
    At least 51 people, many of them civilians, were killed in airstrikes and rocket attacks Sunday by Syrian regime forces on the town of Kfar Batnah and city of Douma in the rebel-held suburbs east of the capital Damascus.

Islamic State Now Controls Unmatched Resources and Territory - Terrence McCoy (Washington Post)
    What was recently a ragtag cadre of former al-Qaeda operatives has now morphed into a transnational, fully-militarized and very rich operation said to control more than one-third of Syria's territory.
    The Islamic State "now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations," wrote defense expert Janine Davidson of the Council on Foreign Relations.
    Experts estimate the group is pocketing as much as $3 million per day in oil revenue.

    See also Islamic State Seizes Territory in Lebanon - Maria Abi-Habib (Wall Street Journal)
    Fighters from the extremist group Islamic State streamed across the border from Syria into Lebanon on Sunday, taking over the city of Arsal after overrunning police posts and a military barracks.
    In a coordinated response in Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city, masked, armed men affiliated with the Islamic State whizzed by on motorbikes, attacking soldiers there.

    See also Islamic State Advances - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    In recent weeks, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, formerly ISIS) has been expanding its borders.
    There is mounting evidence that IS has obtained a chemical weapons capacity and has utilized it on at least one occasion during intense combat against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria.
    In Syria, IS captured the Division 17 base from regime forces and subsequently executed over 200 members of the garrison.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 50 of these men were decapitated. Footage on the Internet shows severed heads placed on a fence in Raqqa city.
    There is also clear evidence of Palestinians, specifically Gazans, fighting in Syria in an organized unit under the IS banner, and of at least one clearly IS-linked group operating in northern Sinai and in Gaza itself.
    Instead of making a bid for Baghdad, IS is concentrating its attention on expanding in a westward and northern direction.

    See also The Islamic State Ends the Centuries-Old Christian Presence in Mosul, Iraq - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Islamic State (IS), that today occupies large regions of Iraq and Syria, issued an ultimatum on July 17, 2014, to the remaining Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul: Either accept Islam, accept dhimmi status and pay a per capita tax to Islamic Sharia courts, or face death.
    Centuries before the Muslim conquest of the region in the 7th century, the Assyrians in the biblical city of Nineveh (today Mosul) converted to Christianity during the 1st and 2nd centuries. In modern times, Mosul had communities of Assyrian Christians, Arab Christians, Syriac Orthodox, and Protestants.
    Parallel to their policy towards Christians, the Jihadists embarked on a campaign to destroy shrines of worship, declaring that those shrines were not accepted by Islam.
    In east Syria, in Tabaka, the IS destroyed the Shiite mosque of Fatima al-Zahraa and the mosque in Rakka named after 'Ammar ibn Yasir, referred to by Shiites as one of the "Four Companions" of the prophet Mohammad. The IS blew up the tomb of Jonah the prophet in Mosul in July.
    The IS attitude toward the Mosul Christians is certainly the model to be applied in other places if and when the IS scores other territorial victories.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Seeks to Gain Advantage by Reversing Course in Gaza - Ilene Prusher
    Israel pulled most of its troops out of Gaza and decided to take a completely different tack in its war with Hamas. After four attempts at a humanitarian cease-fire over the past few weeks, including a much vaunted one Friday that collapsed after two hours, Israel decided that it was no longer pursuing a truce with Hamas. Instead, it opted for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, except for a new buffer zone along the border, in the belief that there was more to be gained from walking away from a merry-go-round of failed cease-fires.
        The move also deprives Hamas of the victory it has sought. "We neutralize their main strategic forces, and leave them alone, without any achievement, without any demand, in their devastated place called Gaza," Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Sunday.
        Previous negotiated cease-fires, like the one in November 2012, served to "hamper" the IDF by limiting how it could respond. By unilaterally pulling troops out of Gaza, Israel believes it has gained the freedom to act as it sees fit. (TIME)
        See also Israel Is Telling Hamas that They're Not Going to Get Anything - Griff Witte and Sudarsan Raghavan
    Israel plans to finish its latest Gaza campaign on its own terms, without negotiating a deal with Hamas. By rejecting further talks, "Israel is telling Hamas that they're not going to get anything," said Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel's military intelligence division. Hamas "will tell themselves a victory story. But this horrible situation in Gaza will be on their hands."  (Washington Post)
  • Divides in Gaza Leadership Hamper Lasting Truce - Jay Solomon and Nicholas Casey
    The fragmented Islamist leadership of Gaza has emerged as a serious obstacle to forging a durable cease-fire, according to U.S., Arab and Israeli officials. Officials from Qatar and Turkey, who have been mediating on behalf of Hamas, said its political leader, Khaled Meshaal, had signed on to a 72-hour cease-fire that was supposed to start last Friday. U.S. officials said there are growing concerns Meshaal's decisions either aren't being followed on the ground, or aren't communicated to battlefield commanders quickly enough. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Public Sees Gaza Operation as a "War of No Choice" - Mick Krever
    International condemnation of Israel's conduct in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza seems to have totally backfired in Israel, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren told CNN. The Israeli public is overwhelmingly supportive of the operation in Gaza - 95% according to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute. "It's just reinforced this notion that nobody outside of Israel really understands what they're going through, that they're surrounded by enemies, and that they have no choice but to defend themselves."
        There is serious palpable fear here, particularly from the threat of the tunnels that go into Israel from Gaza, through which there have been several attempted attacks during this war. And also of course from the ongoing rocket fire, which they have been dealing with for thirteen years now, and has become much, much more intense and also much, much more widespread within Israel." Israelis see the operation as "the war of no choice."  (CNN)
        See also Israelis Regard Soldier Deaths in Gaza as a Price that Must Be Paid - Griff Witte
    "The nightmare of every parent in Israel is three officers knocking on your door," said Yaron Shor, who heard the knock last Monday and learned that his first-born son, Barkai - handsome, generous and eager to serve his country - was a casualty of the conflict in Gaza. The grim ritual has been repeated 63 more times across Israel in recent weeks. But despite a casualty count that is high by modern Israeli warfare standards, the toll has provoked little of the second-guessing that has marked past Israeli conflicts. Instead, the public has remained broadly united in viewing the deaths as the price that must be paid for confronting Hamas.
        Amotz Asa-El, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, said the public's willingness to stomach casualties has to do with the nature of the threat. Hamas rockets and tunnels "represent a direct hit at our society....We are personally targeted - each and every one of us - in our homes."
        Yaron Shor said Barkai: "died protecting the civilians behind him. We are very sorry for his death. But we can't say he died for nothing. He died for the right cause."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Military Withdraws Bulk of Troops from Gaza - Gili Cohen
    The Israel Defense Forces withdrew most of its troops from Gaza's battle zones on Sunday. The IDF has decided to keep some forces within Gaza to protect Israeli communities near the border. (Ha'aretz)
        See also After the Unilateral Withdrawal, What's Next? - Amos Harel
    According to the military plan, the reduction of forces in the field will continue until key positions not far west of the border fence, within Palestinian territory, have been taken up, in order to retain an asset that will exert pressure on Hamas to agree to a proper cease-fire. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Rocket Fire Continues - Yoav Zitun
    Hamas fired 119 rockets and mortar rounds on Israel on Sunday, the IDF said. Eight missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome. Rockets were intercepted over Ashdod and Ashkelon Monday morning with additional rockets hitting southern Israeli communities, hours before a humanitarian cease-fire was set to come into effect. Islamic Jihad's northern district commander, Danyal Mansour, was killed overnight Sunday. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Declares 7-Hour Humanitarian Cease-Fire Monday; Hamas Says It Will Not Hold Its Fire - Herb Keinon and Khalid Abu Toameh
    Israel said it would hold fire in most of Gaza for seven hours on Monday to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and for displaced Palestinians to return to their homes. In response, Hamas said it will not hold its fire.
        One diplomatic official said that Israel did not feel a need to participate in the talks taking place in Cairo, because "there is a growing understanding in the international community that Hamas is not a serious party, and that the assurances it gives are worthless." "There is a feeling among those who put in a lot of effort [into Friday's broken cease-fire agreement brokered by the U.S. and the UN] that Hamas is not serious."
        Rather than concentrating on the developments in Cairo and cease-fire efforts, the official said Israel is determined to "act in our own interest, redeploy, and continue to defend ourselves." The discussions in Cairo are focusing on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's cease-fire initiative, which was announced three weeks ago and accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Sisi: No Alternative to Egypt's Gaza Cease-Fire Initiative
    Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that there is "no alternative" to the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire talks to curb the violence in Gaza. He said that had the Egyptian initiative been applied, "we would have saved a lot of bloodshed and victims."  (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Hamas Lost Big - Eyal Zisser
    In 2007, Hamas became the first Islamic movement to overpower an existing Arab government. The Arab Spring allowed Islamic groups to seize the reins of power in Egypt and Tunisia. But Hamas is the only Islamic movement that has managed to stay in power. The Muslim Brotherhood has shown it is inept at governing. After rising to the top, the Islamists failed to demonstrate that they had what it took to run a country. Hamas' 7-year rule over Gaza has been just as bad. Provoking Israel resulted in a calamity of unimaginable proportions. The operation has shrunk Hamas to its proper dimensions. It has now been reduced to a terrorist organization whose political wing has brought about destruction and ruin for its sympathizers. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Palestinian Official: "Another Month of War Will Put Gaza Back in the Dark Ages" - Daniel Siryoti
    Each day that passes reveals the destruction throughout Gaza. Many areas are in ruins, with hundreds of public edifices, over 1,000 residential buildings, and more than 40 mosques nearly destroyed, according to reports from the Gaza Interior Ministry. A senior Palestinian official said that many public buildings, as well as much of the water, sewage, electricity, and telephone infrastructure, had been wrecked entirely or severely damaged. "Should we say that the Gaza Strip has gone back 100 years? Many parts of the Strip are dust and another month of war will put Gaza back in the Dark Ages. People don't have homes to return to. The infrastructure has been totally destroyed," the official said. (Israel Hayom)
  • Senior IDF Official: We Left Hamas in Power - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF did not take over Gaza or completely destroy Hamas in order to leave the organization in power, a senior IDF source said on Sunday. "There's an Israeli interest to have one address in Gaza, we don't want a Somalization in the Strip, but rather one group to enforce its control of the Strip. This is why the collapse of Hamas was not defined as one of the objectives," the senior source said. "We wanted to have an address on the other side on the day after. This address could be the enforcer against militants and take care of its citizens."
        He asserted that Hamas wanted to stop the fighting and said the current operation in Gaza will lead to a "longer window of security." "The objective is to change the reality from its very core, so we don't have mutual fire in two months. We need to have a balance of hope in the Strip and a balance of security in Israel." Now that "deterrence has been achieved," the source said he hopes the cease-fire agreement reached will be different to ones signed previously. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What Would You Do? - Deutsche Welle interviews Amos Oz
    Amos Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?
        Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
        Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?
        I am afraid that there can be no way in the world to avoid civilian casualties among the Palestinians as long as the neighbor puts his child on the lap while shooting into your nursery.
        This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [an anti-Semitic diatribe] and says that the Jews controlled the world....So I hardly see a prospect for a compromise between Israel and Hamas. I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: "Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays."
        Unlike European pacifists I never believed the ultimate evil in the world is war. In my view the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and the only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force. That is where the difference lies between a European pacifist and an Israeli peacenik like myself. And if I may add a little anecdote: A relative of mine who survived the Nazi Holocaust in Theresienstadt always reminded her children and her grandchildren that her life was saved in 1945 not by peace demonstrators with placards and flowers but by Soviet soldiers and submachine guns. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
  • Gaza: Hamas Are the Terrorists
    A letter by the former presidents of Peru (Alejandro Toledo), Uruguay (Luis Alberto Lacalle), and former government officials in Europe opposes the actions of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil in recalling their ambassadors to Israel, saying "the manipulation of information in Latin America regarding the current conflict in Gaza...intoxicates the citizens" and "inspires wrong and reprehensible policies."
        "Israel didn't start this war. The Jewish State is responding to the constant barrage of rockets and mortars from Gaza falling in Israel." "Hamas is...a terrorist organization designated as such by the U.S. State Department and the European Union and Hamas' foundational charter...calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel and the death of all Jews."
        "Any cease-fire that politically rewards Hamas' armed aggression is a strategic mistake. If there's a real desire for peace, the terror infrastructure must be dismantled in Gaza: Tunnels, rockets, weapons factories."
        "It's an aberration to establish moral equivalence between the two contending parties. Because, on the one hand is terror, the fanatical Islamist tyranny, and the cult of death, while on the other hand is freedom, prosperity, and the defense of life. Barbarism and civilization cannot be at the same level."   (El Medio-Spanish)
  • Cease-Fire between Israel, Hamas Failed Because U.S. Misread Reality - Aaron David Miller
    It is Hamas' military wing - the Boys in the Gaza Bunkers - not the politicians outside like Khaled Meshaal, who are calling the shots in this war. These guys think they're winning; aren't ready to deescalate. U.S./UN mediators relied on assurances from Qatar that Hamas agreed to the cease-fire when common sense and good analysis argued otherwise. This effort at a cease-fire failed in large part because the U.S. misread reality. The writer is vice president at the Wilson Center in Washington. (New York Daily News)
  • The Gaza War Is Not a PR Battle - Editorial
    After more than 2,670 rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in three weeks, some of which misfired and killed Palestinians, Israel will exercise its right to defend its citizens.
        Strategically and economically, the Palestinian people are far worse off now than they were two decades ago when then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat signed the first Oslo accord in Washington in September 1993. The Palestinians acknowledged the State of Israel and pledged to reject violence, while Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, to be a partner in further negotiations for at least five years. Unfortunately, Arafat and Abbas passed up their chances to accept bold compromise deals from subsequent Israeli leaders.
        Palestinians must grasp the reality that however many women and children Hamas sacrifices, Israel has the might to defend itself. It is a proud nation, it is not going anywhere and nor should it. Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorists are in fantasy land if they imagine they can wipe it off the map, which is their driving ambition. (The Australian)

Israel's Unilateral Move: Preferable to a Bad Agreement with a Terrorist Organization - Amos Yadlin (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Israel chose an alternative that, at least in the short term, places Hamas in a difficult strategic position. Israel regained international legitimacy for its actions; Hamas was again cast as a terrorist organization lacking all credibility that for the sixth time violated a cease-fire that Egypt and the international community initiated and Israel accepted.
  • Israel decided to deny Hamas veto power over cease-fires and took the initiative back into its own hands, clarifying that it was not negotiating with Hamas and not granting it any achievement, neither in terms of a cease-fire nor in terms of an agreement.
  • By its action, Israel establishes four premises that present Hamas with a new strategic situation:
    1. The demands for which Hamas went to war are no longer on the table. Hamas is left without the siege being lifted, without an airport or seaport, without salaries, without prisoner releases, and without the reconstruction of Gaza.
    2. Hamas is left with a Gaza in ruins, a humanitarian crisis, hundreds of dead, thousands of wounded, one-quarter of a million refugees - and no way to deal with it.
    3. If Hamas continues to fire at Israel, despite Israel's vastly superior firepower, Israel will continue to pummel Hamas. Its political and military leadership will continue to live in underground bunkers.
    4. Unlike in previous rounds of fighting, Israel and Egypt will ensure that Hamas will be unable to rebuild its force - Egypt by continuing to prevent smuggling and Israel by the freedom of action it has reserved for itself to prevent Hamas' force build-up.
  • Should Hamas continue the current level of rocket fire at Israel, this will force the Israeli government to reconsider the option of expanding the military operation - one that enjoyed a greater element of surprise, and was free of the need to deal with the attack tunnels.
  • Should Hamas choose the "drizzle option," i.e., returning to the situation of limited fire on the Israeli communities bordering Gaza, Israel will have to make it clear that the policy of response preceding Operation Protective Edge is no longer valid and that any fire will be met with an extreme response.

    Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, director of INSS, served as the IDF's chief of Defense Intelligence.

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