Video: Hamas Continuing to Produce Rockets that Reach Tel Aviv - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV aired a report on Wednesday documenting the continued production of M-75 rockets that can reach Tel Aviv. The report included footage of the rocket assembly process that was taken last week.
The broadcast included the caption: "The production process continues from the factory straight to the battlefield."
UN: "Barbaric" Sexual Violence Perpetrated by Islamic State Militants in Iraq (UN News Center)
"We are gravely concerned by continued reports of acts of violence, including sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities," two senior UN officials said Wednesday in Baghdad.
"Atrocious accounts of abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner."
Some 1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery.
Islamic Militants' Siege on Mountain in Iraq Is Over, Pentagon Says - Helene Cooper and Michael D. Shear (New York Times)
Defense Department officials said Wednesday that U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish fighters had broken the Islamic militants' siege of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, allowing thousands of Yazidis trapped there to escape.
ISIS Leaflets in London Encourage British Muslims to Join Jihad - David Churchill (London Evening Standard-UK)
Dozens of leaflets were circulated on Oxford Street in London's West End by radical students encouraging British Muslims to join the Islamic State (ISIS).
The leaflets said it is the responsibility of Muslims to pledge allegiance to the "Khaleef" - a reference to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed leader of extremists waging a murderous campaign across northern Iraq.
Don't Count on Abbas in Gaza - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
Though a lot of people are counting on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to be the linchpin of a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the notion that he is strong enough is based on blind hope, not reality.
The notion of trusting Fatah security forces to keep weapons out of Gaza or to make sure that building materials are directed to humanitarian rather than "military" projects is a joke.
Fatah's people are even more corrupt than Hamas' despots and are just as dedicated to Israel's destruction.
IDF Operated Unmanned APC in Gaza - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
During the Gaza war, the Israel Defense Forces used an unmanned armored personnel carrier to deliver supplies to soldiers on the battlefield.
"This is the first time in history, throughout the world, that such a thing has been done," said Lt. Avidav Goldstein, the head of the IDF's unmanned vehicle unit.
The unmanned APC can travel 50 km. per hour and hold four tons of equipment. It was operated remotely by soldiers in a control vehicle located inside Israel.
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- White House Now Scrutinizing Israeli Requests for Ammunition - Adam Entous
White House and State Department officials were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval. Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel.
After Israel had submitted a request through military channels for a large number of Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, the Pentagon was about to release an initial batch when top officials at the White House instructed the U.S. military to consult with the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests. White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.
The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.
The White House and State Department have decided to require their approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say. Each case is now subject to review - slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.
Moreover, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting in Gaza, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also U.S. Clears Air Missiles Sales to Turkish Army (Hurriyet-Turkey)
See also U.S. Agrees to Send 5,000 More Hellfire Missiles to Iraq - Steve Almasy (CNN)
- On Israeli Kibbutzim near Gaza, Residents Come Home to an Uneasy Truce - Carol Morello
For the past month, frontline Israeli communities on the Gaza border such as Nahal Oz and a neighboring kibbutz, Kfar Aza, resembled ghost towns. Noam Stahl, 47, who was born and raised in Kfar Aza, said he worries some may never return to the kibbutz, which got 15 direct hits from Gaza rockets. "People are so tired of living as refugees in their own country," he said.
Kfar Aza has hundreds of bomb shelters, from large underground communal ones to small concrete hives placed beside walkways, bus stops and soccer fields. So many rockets have fallen over the years that the shells are used as planters and garden decorations. (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Gaza Militants Break Cease-Fire with Rockets on Israel - Ilana Curiel
Rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Wednesday evening, two hours before a 72-hour cease-fire was set to expire at midnight and again after it was extended by another five days. Hamas denied it was behind the rocket fire. IDF forces responded to the rocket fire at Israel, and hit at least four targets in Gaza. Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.
See also Still No Agreement on Long-Term Cease-Fire - Avi Issacharoff
The announcement of another 5-day cease-fire through to Monday night does not necessarily indicate that a long-term cease-fire is close. The sides' agreement in principle to another 120 hours of calm stems principally from their failure to find a solution, not a dramatic narrowing of the gaps between them. Egypt has no desire for an agreement that would give any legitimacy to Hamas.
Gaza's Islamist rulers want an end to the conflict, but they know that without a significant gain they will be subjected to immense criticism. Meanwhile, the Hamas military wing is urging the political leadership not to compromise. Thus, the likelihood of a re-escalation is certainly as realistic as the likelihood of an agreement.
(Times of Israel)
- Netanyahu: The Moral Divide - Israel and the U.S. vs. ISIS and Hamas
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday:
"Just as you wouldn't put America and ISIS on the same moral plane, you'd never put Israel and Hamas on the same moral plane. Remember that Hamas celebrated 9/11; they celebrated the murder of thousands of innocent people....They were standing on the roofs cheering while all the people of Israel grieved with the United States. When the United States killed Bin Laden, [Hamas] accused the United States...of committing crimes."
"This is the kind of moral divide that is evident today in the world. On one side you have Israel and the United States representing democracies committed to human rights, committed to a real future for our people; and on the other side, you have the likes of ISIS and Hamas, Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.
I thank you for coming here and standing on the right side of the moral divide." (Prime Minister's Office)
- Is Israel Facing a War of Attrition against Hamas? - Udi Dekel
It has become clear that Hamas feels it has nothing to lose and that it is prepared to resume the armed conflict in order to force Egypt and Israel to hand it a significant achievement.
At the negotiations in Cairo, neither Egypt nor Israel is prepared to allow Hamas the semblance of success.
Hamas survived the IDF campaign, a fact that has strengthened it. Hamas did not lose the desire, motivation, or ability to continue firing rockets and mortar shells at the Israeli home front. Its military leadership was not damaged, nor was it deterred. In other words, Hamas is alive and kicking.
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Udi Dekel served as head of the negotiations team with the Palestinians in the Annapolis process under the Olmert government.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Hitting ISIS Where It Hurts - Patrick B. Johnston and Benjamin Bahney
ISIS currently brings in more than $1 million a day in revenue and is now the richest terrorist group on the planet. Yet there are options for noncombat assistance that would help degrade the group's finances. America could send expert teams to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in developing the financial intelligence needed to plan military operations against key ISIS elements. Targeting the terrorist group's bookkeepers, its oil business and its cash holdings could both disrupt ISIS' financing and provide additional intelligence on its inner workings.
Contrary to the common myth that the group relies on wealthy donors abroad, ISIS records show that its money came mostly from protection rackets that extorted the commercial, reconstruction, and oil sectors of northern Iraq's economy. The group also made considerable money through war itself, plundering millions of dollars from local Christians and Shiites.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces should make it a priority to displace the group from oil wells in northern Iraq, and to restrict its ability to process oil at its refining facilities in eastern Syria.
Patrick B. Johnston is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, where Benjamin Bahney is a member of the adjunct staff.
(New York Times)
See also Islamic State Funds Caliphate with Mosul Dam Revenues - Mahmoud Habboush and Aziz Alwan
Islamic State militants who last week captured the Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest, told workers they would get their salaries as long as the dam continued to produce electricity for the region under their control.
- Mr. Secretary General, When Will You Have the Courage to Stand Up for Israel? - Ben-Dror Yemini
Following the civil war in Somalia in 1991, the UN sent international forces to Mogadishu.
The fighters the UN soldiers were operating against turned women and children into a human shield.
Throughout the clashes, UN soldiers continued to fire directly at innocent people when rebel fighters were hiding between them. Hundreds of dead were left on the streets. The UN forces received the full backing of the UN, despite the many civilian casualties.
In the summer of 2009, Sri Lanka decided to crush the Tamil Tigers after years of terrorist activities. According to a UN report, 40,000 civilians were killed, or slaughtered, during the operation. Not only was there no global protest, but the Human Rights Council praised Sri Lanka.
The claims being made against Israel are disproportionate. Israel's response is not disproportionate.
Hamas is highly encouraged by your declarations about the current conflict. Hamas will never defeat Israel on the battlefield, but it is trying to defeat Israel in a propaganda war, by putting out false accusations and blaming Israel for war crimes.
Your pronouncements only strengthen Hamas. (Fox News)
No Iran Deal Is Better Than Any (Feasible) Deal - James F. Jeffrey (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Obama administration appears headed toward a nuclear agreement that will do little more than memorialize the limited Iranian concessions made in last year's Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). This is a bad deal for the U.S.
- Almost any feasible formal agreement would represent a major defeat for the U.S. - in the current global context, a JPOA-like deal would be seen as yielding to Iran and giving hostile states more legitimacy.
Moreover, such a deal would not much reduce the Iranian nuclear threat.
- With these problems in mind, the administration may want to consider another course of action that does not depend on reaching a formal agreement. If the deadlock persists, Washington should freeze the negotiations and keep existing sanctions at their current level.
- The U.S. should lay out clear redlines for military action that would apply if Iran approaches a nuclear weapons capability or blocks inspections. Moreover, the U.S. should cooperate with, rather than attempt to rein in, Israel's deterrent threat. This includes providing more weapons and systems to Israel that could facilitate a strike, and continuing the improvement of U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, especially missile defense.
- Central to this alternative is a U.S. commitment to use force if a redline is crossed, or eventually face a nuclear-armed Iran.
The writer served as U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Iraq.
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