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September 8, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Troops Saved Irish Peacekeepers on Syria Border - Jim Cusack and John Drennan (Sunday Independent-Ireland)
    The Sunday Independent has now established from senior sources that Irish soldiers would have been killed or taken hostage by Islamist extremists if it wasn't for the military intervention of the Israeli army during last week's battle to save besieged UN soldiers.
    The Israeli military, which has posts on high ground overlooking the UN observer bases in Quneitra, was able to guide the Irish troops and help them avoid concentrations of the more heavily armed al-Nusra force.
    There are also unconfirmed reports that the Israelis directed fire at the Islamists to stop them from attacking the Filipino and Irish soldiers.

PA Radio Doesn't Talk about "Victory" in Gaza - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
    Every day, PA Voice of Palestine radio devotes two hours to a program called "Bridges to Gaza," where experts are interviewed about the aftermath of the Gaza war.
    They highlight the damage, destruction, loss of life and psychological damage, particularly among children, rather than victory.

Brussels Museum Shooting Suspect Was Syria Hostage Torturer - Robert Mendick, Duncan Gardham and David Chazan (Telegraph-UK)
    Nicolas Hanin, a freed French hostage who was held by ISIS militants along with British aid worker David Haines, has identified one of his kidnappers as Mehdi Nemmouche, the jihadist accused of a terrorist attack on the Jewish museum in Belgium.
    In a video issued by ISIS last week, Haines' kidnappers warned that he would be the next to be murdered.
    Hanin said, "When Nemmouche was not singing, he was torturing." Marie-Laure Ingouf, Hanin's lawyer, said Nemmouche had been identified by all four French hostages who were freed in April.
    See also Brussels Shooter Planned Massive Attack in Paris (Times of Israel)
    Mehdi Nemmouche, who killed four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum earlier this year, plotted a large attack during Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on July 14, the French daily Liberation reported Monday.

Iran Denies Cooperation with U.S. on ISIS in Iraq (Fars-Iran)
    Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzeiyeh Afkham on Friday denied a BBC Persian report alleging that senior Iranian commanders have been meeting their U.S. counterparts to coordinate attacks on ISIS in Iraq.
    In Washington, U.S State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf repeatedly denied that U.S. officials were working with Iran in a military or intelligence capacity.

Hamas and the Delusion of Victory - Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    As I watched Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh boasting on live television about his group's "historic victory," he punctured the global media's narrative, according to which Israel triggered the recent mini-war. "We started the war by striking Haifa with rockets," Haniyeh boasted.
    Haniyeh cannot admit defeat because that would expose him to the charge of reckless adventurism. He and his associates ignored the advice of Carl von Clausewitz, not to join a battle without having at least a 50% chance of winning it.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Enlists 9 Allies to Help in the Battle Against ISIS - Helene Cooper
    President Obama recruited at least nine allies on Friday to help crush the marauding Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Diplomats and defense officials from the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark huddled to devise a two-pronged strategy: strengthening allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while bombing Sunni militants from the air.
        "There is no containment policy for ISIL [ISIS]," Secretary of State John Kerry said. "They're an ambitious, avowed, genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi-state with an irregular army, and leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us." Enlisting support from Sunni populations in Syria and Iraq is crucial, experts said, because airstrikes alone will not suffice. (New York Times)
        See also Arab League to Back Iraqi-U.S. Campaign Against Islamic State - Lin Noueihed and Omar Fahmy
    Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday are backing Iraqi and U.S. efforts to confront Islamic State insurgents who have declared a caliphate, diplomats said. (Reuters)
        See also Sunni Tribes Join Iraqi Forces in Battle Backed by U.S. Airstrikes - Matt Bradley
    Sunni tribes joined forces with Iraq's Shiite-dominated military, backed by U.S. airstrikes, in a coordinated assault on Islamic State militants around Haditha, where a strategic dam is located, teaming up on Sunday for the first time since American airstrikes began a month ago. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas Leader: No to Israel's Disarmament Demand
    Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Friday rejected Israel's demand that the group be disarmed. "We cannot accept or deal with any international decision to disarm the resistance," he said. Israel has said it will press for Hamas' disarmament in indirect talks in Cairo. (AP)
        See also Hamas Urges West Bank Uprising, Vows to Rebuild Tunnels (Times of Israel)
  • Abbas Slams Hamas Claims of Victory, Says 120 Gazans Executed During War - Abraham Rabinovich
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas ridiculed Hamas claims of victory in the Gaza war, noting that while 4,000 rockets had been fired into Israel, only three persons had been killed. He told journalists in Cairo Saturday, "Hamas also conducted atrocities at the war's end when it executed 120 people without trial because they breached the curfew."
        "If Hamas won't accept a Palestinian state with one government, one law and one armed force, there won't be any partnership between us," he declared. Abbas said that the PA alone must be responsible for decisions on peace or war, and that Hamas cannot make such decisions unilaterally. Hamas is at present heavily dependent on Abbas since the international community would refuse to channel funds for Gaza's reconstruction through Hamas, only through the PA. (Washington Free Beacon)
  • IAEA: Iran Fails to Address Nuclear Bomb Concerns - Fredrik Dahl
    Iran has failed to address concerns about suspected atomic bomb research by an agreed deadline, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Friday. Iran has implemented just three of five nuclear transparency steps that it was supposed to by Aug. 25. It has not provided information on alleged experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields. Iran told the IAEA last week that most suspicions over its program were "mere allegations and do not merit consideration."
        The IAEA had also observed via satellite imagery "ongoing construction activity" at Iran's Parchin military base, where Western officials believe Iran once conducted explosive tests of relevance in developing a nuclear weapon. (Reuters)
        See also Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in Iran - 5 Sept. 2014 (IAEA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Official: Hamas Has Begun Repairing Gaza Attack Tunnels - Barak Ravid
    Israel has received intelligence indicating that Hamas has begun reconstructing the attack tunnels destroyed during the Gaza war, a senior Israeli official said on Sunday. The official said that Hamas has returned to arms smuggling through several tunnels under the Egyptian border. The official added that production of M75 rockets - capable of reaching Tel Aviv - has resumed inside Gaza, where, 40% of Hamas' capability to produce rockets remains intact. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Proposes Extending Gaza into Sinai for Palestinian State - Aliel Shahar
    Israel Army radio reported Monday that Egyptian President al-Sisi offered to provide the Palestinians with an area in Sinai five times larger than Gaza and adjacent to it to establish a Palestinian state. The Palestinian refugees would return to this country and it would be demilitarized. (IDF Radio-IMRA)
        See also Abbas Rejects Egyptian Offer to Settle Refugees in Sinai - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
  • PA Pressured Not to Pay Hamas Salaries
    The international community has threatened to boycott the Palestinian leadership if it pays the salaries of former Hamas employees in Gaza, PA unity government Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told AFP on Sunday. Since signing the unity agreement with the PA in April, Hamas has demanded the new government take responsibility for paying its 45,000 employees. (AFP-Ma'an News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Qatar's Support of Extremists Alienates Allies Near and Far - David D. Kirkpatrick
    Qatar is a tiny, petroleum-rich Persian Gulf monarchy where the U.S. has its largest military base in the Middle East. But Qatar has for many years helped support a spectrum of Islamist groups by providing safe haven, diplomatic mediation, financial aid and weapons. The state has provided assistance to the Taliban of Afghanistan, Hamas of Gaza, al-Qaeda-linked rebels from Syria, militias in Libya and allies of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region. Qatar openly provides a base for leaders of Hamas - deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel - as well as money to help prop up its government in Gaza.
        In Libya, the UAE is backing former fighters for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, while Qatar is backing a coalition that includes militant Islamist groups. During the 2011 uprising, Qatar supported an Islamist militia in Benghazi known as Rafallah al-Sehati that had relatively Western-friendly leaders but extremists in its ranks. The extremists later broke away to form Ansar al-Shariah, the militant group that played a role in the death of the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens. (New York Times)
  • Israel Won Gaza War After All - Isaac Ben-Israel
    Is there a single parameter in which Hamas is better off today than it was before the Gaza war? In terms of military assets, Hamas lost most of its rockets, the tunnel system in which it invested a fortune, a long list of senior military members, about 1,000 fighters, headquarters, emergency supplies, etc. All of its attempts to surprise Israel - like launching a terror cell from the sea, using drones, kidnapping soldiers for bargaining purposes - failed. In the diplomatic arena, Hamas has lost the support it had left in the Arab world. Politically, its demands have been rejected.
        Hamas takes pride in two "achievements": Resisting the "Zionist army" and opening the crossings for humanitarian aid, while ignoring the fact that they were closed only because of the rocket fire. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel is chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and the National Council for Research and Development. (Ynet News)
  • Kissinger: Iran a Bigger Problem than ISIS - Scott Simon
    Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told NPR: "I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS. ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can became a strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS - important as it is - is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran."  (NPR)

The Ethics of the Gaza War - Asa Kasher (Jewish Review of Books)

  • A state's right to defend itself when attacked is just as unquestionable as an individual's right to self-defense when attacked. This right is invoked on the level of international relations and is confirmed by Just War doctrine, international law, and the UN charter, not to speak of common-sense ethics. Thus, Israel has both the international right and the domestic duty to respond when Hamas attacks its citizens.
  • No state has or should shoulder as much responsibility for the safety of enemy civilians as it does for its own people.
  • Does the presence of large numbers of non-combatants in the vicinity of a building that is directly involved in terrorist assaults on Israelis render that building immune to Israeli attack? The answer must be, no. Israel cannot forfeit its ability to protect its citizens against attacks simply because terrorists hide behind non-combatants. If it did so, it would be giving up any right to self-defense.
  • Moreover, most IDF combatants are conscripts. As citizens in military uniform, they are entitled to ask whether they are being placed in greater jeopardy to save the lives of enemy non-combatants who have been repeatedly warned to leave the scene of battle. Israel, like every state, has a primary duty to protect its own people's lives that is different than the responsibility it has to enemy non-combatants.
  • The norms of proportionality make it incumbent upon a military commander to minimize collateral damage, but they do not prohibit all collateral damage. No war has ever been fought without collateral damage. The requirement of the Just War doctrine is that the opposing forces do their utmost to avoid it. Israel does so, while Hamas' strategy aims at the death of both Israeli and Palestinian non-combatants.
  • The IDF approaches its legitimate task of self-defense with great restraint. It has been forced into a war with Hamas that is both strategically and morally asymmetric. This does not mean that it has acted perfectly in every case (no army ever has), but it does mean that the charges against it are grossly unfair.

    The writer is Professor Emeritus of Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice at Tel Aviv University. He led the writing of the first IDF code of ethics.

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