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August 11, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hamas Executed Dozens of Tunnel Diggers - Marissa Newman (Times of Israel)
    Hamas executed dozens of diggers responsible for its extensive tunnel system in past weeks, fearing the workers would reveal the site locations to Israel, a report on the Mako (Hebrew) website said.
    "Anyone they suspected might transfer information to Israel on the tunnels was killed by the military wing," a source in Gaza said. "They were very cruel."
    The digging of tunnels began four years ago and has demanded 40% of Hamas' budget, the Times of Israel has learned.

Israeli Poll: 74 Percent Say Goal in Gaza Is Demilitarization (Maariv-IMRA)
    Asked what should be Israel's goal for Gaza, 74% of Israeli Jews said demilitarization under the supervision of an international force; 16% said replace Hamas with Abbas' government; and 8% said just security quiet, according to a Maariv poll published on Friday.

Video: Palestinian Rocket Attack Forces Closure of Israel-Gaza Border Crossing (IDF Spokesperson)
    At 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 10, Palestinian terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza continuously fired rockets at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the sole point of entry for essential humanitarian aid and supplies for Palestinian civilians in Gaza. More than 30 trucks of humanitarian supplies were passing through the crossing during this time.
    At 12:30 p.m., another barrage of rockets was fired at the Kerem Shalom crossing, striking inside the crossing and endangering the lives of the workers there.
    The Kerem Shalom crossing has remained open throughout Operation Protective Edge despite incessant rocket fire in the area.

Hamas Liaison for Murder of Three Israeli Teens Was Freed in Shalit Prisoner Exchange - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    The Hamas liaison in Gaza for the cell that kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens in the West Bank was Mahmoud Qawasmeh, exiled to the Strip after the 2011 prisoner exchange that freed captive soldier Gilad Shalit.
    According to Israeli defense sources, Mahmoud Qawasmeh was responsible for transferring money from Gaza to the West Bank to fund the June 12 kidnapping of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah.
    Qawasmeh was serving a 20-year sentence when he was released in 2011. The leader of the cell was Mahmoud's brother Hussam, who was arrested by Israeli counterterrorism police in July. The two Palestinians who murdered the three teens, Marwan Qawasmeh, a third brother, and Amer Abu Aisheh, are still at large.

Erdogan Wins Turkey's Presidential Vote - Suzan Fraser and Elana Becatoros (AP-ABC News)
    Prime Minister Erdogan won Turkey's first direct presidential election Sunday, as he embarks on another five years at the country's helm.

Israel's Iron Dome Missile-Defense System Is an Ironclad Success - Uzi Rubin (Reuters)
    Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system works, and impressively so.
    The 84% success rate achieved in the Gaza war of 2012 has improved to 90% in the current conflict, according to both Israeli and U.S. officials who have been in the command rooms and privy to top-secret interception data.
    After 60 heavy rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, not one impact has been registered to date within city limits, save for the debris of intercepted rockets.
    The writer is the founder and first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization.
    See also South Korea Interested in Buying Israel's Iron Dome (Reuters)
    South Korea is interested in buying the Israeli short-range Iron Dome rocket interceptor.
    Yedidia Yaari, CEO of Iron Dome's manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., told Israel's Army Radio Sunday that the system's performance had fueled interest in buying it, including by South Korea, which is in an armed standoff with North Korea.

Gaza War by the Numbers - Jeremy Binnie (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
    The IDF said that Palestinian militants fired 3,356 rockets at Israel and another 356 at its ground forces operating inside Gaza. The IDF said it destroyed a third of the Palestinians' rockets before they could be launched.
    The IDF said 32 tunnels had been found and destroyed, 14 of which extended into Israel.
    The IDF suffered 64 fatalities and another 463 soldiers were wounded. Three civilians were killed in Israel, one of them a Thai national.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • New Cease-Fire Holding in Gaza as Talks Resume in Cairo
    Israel says a new cease-fire with Hamas is holding in Gaza. The military says no rockets were fired Monday at Israel after the cease-fire went into effect at midnight Sunday. The two sides agreed to resume talks in Cairo. (AP-ABC News)
        See also Hamas Fires Rocket Barrage at Israel Prior to Truce - Herb Keinon
    Rocket sirens were sounded in Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Kiryat Malachi at 11:45 p.m. on Sunday. The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted two rockets over Ashdod and an additional rocket landed in an open area. An additional rocket fired at Tel Aviv fell in an open area.
        Hamas refused to extend the previous truce, which expired Friday morning, and resumed firing rockets and mortars. The IDF responded by hitting dozens of terrorist targets in Gaza. Israel, one government official said, was going into this truce well aware of with whom it was dealing, and of how Hamas and Islamic Jihad had broken numerous cease-fires over the last month. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Threatens Major Escalation in Rocket Strikes on Israel - Jason Burke
    Hamas deputy information minister Ihab al-Ghussein threatened a "major escalation" of rocket strikes against Israel on Saturday if Israel did not respond to Palestinian demands, as sporadic rocket fire from Gaza into Israel continued. (Observer-UK)
  • U.S. Conducts New Iraq Airstrikes Against Islamic State Insurgents
    U.S. fighter jets and drone aircraft carried out a wave of airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq on Sunday, targeting armed trucks and a mortar position, in the fourth set of U.S. airstrikes since President Obama last week authorized the new campaign in Iraq. The U.S. is attempting to thwart the Islamic State advance in northern Iraq that threatens to overrun Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region. (VOA News)
        See also Aided by U.S. Airstrikes, Kurdish Forces Retake 2 Towns from Islamic State - Rod Nordland and Helene Cooper
    With the support of American airstrikes, Kurdish forces counterattacked against Sunni militants of the Islamic State in northern Iraq on Sunday, regaining control of Gwer and Mahmour, two strategic towns about 20 miles from Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. (New York Times)
  • Fighters Abandoning al-Qaeda Affiliates to Join Islamic State, U.S. Officials Say - Greg Miller
    "Small groups from a number of al-Qaeda affiliates have defected to ISIS," or the Islamic State, as the group is also known, said a U.S. official with access to classified intelligence assessments. "And this problem will probably become more acute as ISIS continues to rack up victories" in Iraq and Syria.
        The launching of U.S. airstrikes has raised new questions, including whether the bombings will hurt the Islamic State's ability to draw recruits or elevate its status among jihadists. U.S. officials expressed concern that the Islamic State may now place greater emphasis on carrying out attacks against the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officials estimate that the Islamic State has as many as 10,000 fighters, including 3,000 to 5,000 from countries beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. (Washington Post)
  • President Obama on the World - Thomas L. Friedman
    President Obama made clear in an interview that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor-no vanquished.
        I asked the president whether he was worried about Israel. "It is amazing to see what Israel has become over the last several decades," he answered. "To have scratched out of rock this incredibly vibrant, incredibly successful, wealthy and powerful country is a testament to the ingenuity, energy and vision of the Jewish people. And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don't worry about Israel's survival."
        Asked whether he should be more vigorous in pressing Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, to reach a land-for-peace deal, the president said it has to start with them. Prime Minister Netanyahu's "poll numbers are a lot higher than mine" and "were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza," Obama said. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Standoff at Gaza Cease-Fire Talks in Cairo - Avi Issacharoff
    At the Gaza cease-fire talks in Cairo, Israel and Egypt are jointly determined not to give Hamas what it wants. There's an Israeli readiness to ease border restrictions and to expand fishing rights off the Gaza coast, but nothing more than that. Cairo, too, is emphasizing to Hamas that it can forget about a seaport or an airport unless or until all of Gaza is demilitarized.
        For now, at least, Hamas wants to be seen as refusing to capitulate. Hence its decision to allow others to fire rockets at Israel. Hamas hopes there'll be enough pressure on Jerusalem to give it some kind of gain that would allow it to come out from the corner it's painted itself into. (Times of Israel)
        See also At Gaza Cease-Fire Talks in Cairo, Sides Remain Far Apart - Zvi Bar'el
    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi doesn't think Hamas and Israel will sign a cease-fire agreement in the coming days. Egypt is unwilling to discuss the opening of the Rafah border crossing as part of the negotiations, and it rejects the claim that its closure is part of the siege of Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas Obtains Cash for Salaries in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas has brought millions of dollars into Gaza to pay the salaries of thousands of its workers, the Gaza-based Sawa news agency reported on Sunday, after two months in which no such payments were made. Payment of the salaries has been one of the key demands by Hamas for a cease-fire. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Holds Body of IDF Soldier
    Israel is utilizing diplomatic channels in hopes of retrieving the body of Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, a soldier declared killed in action in Gaza last month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday. Ya'alon told the Shaul family that the soldier's body was in the hands of Hamas, and that Israel will insist that the body be returned. "We are committed to bringing Oron to burial here in Israel," he said. "We won't rest until this happens, and we are dealing with this issue."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Will Not Get Dragged into a War of Attrition - Ron Ben-Yishai
    A few days of patience may make it clear to Hamas that continued rocket fire into Israel will cause more damage to its position in the negotiations than improve it. Senior Israeli officials clarify that if the IDF detects the slightest possibility that Israel is being dragged into a war of attrition, it will not hesitate to enter Gaza to complete the disarming of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
        In the current stage, the goal is to reach a stable cease-fire, and to meet the basic needs of 250,000 people with no roof over their heads and no clean drinking water. Yet Hamas is presenting exaggerated demands, betting that global public opinion will allow aid to be brought in, and then the Egyptians will give in as well. Hamas is gambling again, holding the civilian population hostage.
        Israel is seeking to demilitarize Gaza of weapons and military infrastructure under international supervision in return for a large aid package to rebuild the Strip. Demilitarization includes removing rockets and launching pads, destroying launchers, and removing 160- and 120-mm. mortar shells. At the same time, manufacturing will be supervised and the excavation of tunnels will be thwarted. (Ynet News)
  • Amidror: Israel May Need to Retake Parts of Gaza - Elhanan Miller
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is too weak to regain control over Gaza, leaving Israel with the option of either recapturing part of the Strip or learning to live with a low-level war of attrition, former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said Sunday. "The reoccupation of Gaza is on the table now more than ever before," Amidror said. "The price which the Israeli public is willing to pay is much higher than it was in previous operations in Lebanon and Gaza."  (Times of Israel)
  • Internal Security Minister: Israel Needs "a Magician" to Stop Rockets through Talks - Attila Somfalvi
    Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said Monday that Israel should expect a re-escalation with Hamas in Gaza after the current three-day cease-fire agreement is concluded Wednesday night. "There is little chance of reaching an agreement," said Aharonovich regarding talks in Cairo.
        "I'm pessimistic regarding the outcome of negotiations," he said. "The distance between Hamas' demands and our desire is tremendous."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Hillary Clinton: "Israel Did What It Had to Do to Respond to the Rockets" - Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Hillary Clinton
    Discussing the Gaza war, Hillary Clinton offered a vociferous defense of Israel. This is noteworthy because, as secretary of state, she spent a lot of time yelling at Netanyahu on the administration's behalf over Israel's West Bank settlement policy. Now, she is leaving no daylight at all between the Israelis and herself. "I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets.... Israel has a right to defend itself."
        "There's no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict....So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made." "It is striking...that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria...more than 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine on both sides...and yet we do see this enormous international reaction against Israel....This reaction is uncalled for and unfair."
        Clinton also blamed Hamas for "stage-managing" the conflict. "What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It's the old PR problem that Israel has....The PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel."  (Atlantic)
  • Hamas Needs the Palestinians' Deaths in Order to Claim Victory - Bassem Eid
    The majority of Palestinians has opposed firing rockets into Israel. These rockets will achieve nothing. Palestinians have called on Hamas to stop firing on Israel and to try to negotiate. But Hamas has never considered Palestinian needs. So they have continued to fire rockets at Israel, knowing full-well what the result would be: Hamas paved the road for the death of our people. Indeed, Hamas needs these deaths in order to claim victory. Death of its own people empowers Hamas, enabling it to accrue more money and more arms.
        The lesson is that we must rid ourselves of Hamas and completely demilitarize Gaza. Then we will open up the border crossings. I say this as a loyal Palestinian and because I care for my own people. The writer is a human rights activist and a political commentator. (i24 News)
        See also Why Isn't Gaza Revolting Against Hamas? - Elhanan Miller
    Bassem Eid, a veteran Jerusalem-based human rights activist and political analyst, said, "There is no doubt there's an atmosphere of fear and terror in Gaza." He cited the killing of Hamas official Ayman Taha in Gaza last week over suspicions of corruption and collaboration with Arab intelligence agencies. "Others were executed in various gatherings under the pretext of their being collaborators with Israel."
        "Hamas has a physical presence in almost every house in Gaza and can listen to what's being said. It's a Stasi regime par excellence," he continued, referring to the East German secret police. "The population is much more scared of Hamas than it is of the Israeli soldiers."  (Times of Israel)
  • No Donor Conference for Gaza - Michael Rubin
    Albert Einstein quipped that insanity was doing the same action repeatedly but expecting different results each time. Once again, as the smoke clears in Gaza, the European community is stepping in with calls for a donor conference. That's simply crazy. The Palestinians have received more per capita than any other national community, but have the least to show for it. The problem is not Israel, but rather an unwillingness to foreswear terrorism and concentrate instead on internal development.
        If Hamas knows that the international community will always step in and rebuild houses, schools, or government buildings, then it makes it easier to dedicate what revenue the Palestinian government does have to terrorism and military adventurism. The international community's knee-jerk reaction has always been to subsidize the Palestinians further. Clearly, that strategy has neither worked nor furthered peace.
        Perhaps it's time to stop treating taxpayer dollars as an entitlement to Palestinians who have made bad choices. Only when Palestinians in Gaza realize that Hamas brings nothing but ruin can there be a possibility for something better. The writer is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official. (Commentary)

The Betrayal of the Intellectual - Yair Lapid (Huffington Post)

  • Too many American and European intellectuals have taken moral relativism to its absurd extreme, falling back upon the "validity of every narrative" and repeating the mantra that "every story has two sides." They treat those who have a clear moral stance as primitive. For them, if you take a moral stand or choose a side in a conflict you must lack the necessary tolerance to "see the other side."
  • Not long ago intellectuals did the exact opposite. They were the ones who helped us differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong, between justice and injustice. They didn't ask whether the Germans felt a genuine sense of hardship. The debate wasn't over feelings but the essence of truth.
  • During Israel's operation in Gaza, there should be no question as to who enlightened people should support; on one side stands a Western democracy, which warns civilians before striking legitimate terrorist targets. On the other side stands an Islamist terrorist organization, homophobic and misogynistic, committed to killing Jews, which does all in its power to murder innocent civilians.
  • When Hamas forces civilians to stand on the roof of a building which is used as a terrorist command center despite knowing that the building will be attacked (and they know because we warn them), who are we to hold responsible? When Hamas places rockets and explosives inside UN schools and fires from within hospitals, who are we to hold responsible?
  • Hamas sees Western intellectuals who buy into their gruesome propaganda as a tool, to be used and to be mocked.

    The writer is Israel's Minister of Finance.

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