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September 12, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Terrorized UN Workers and Confiscated Humanitarian Aid During Gaza War - Noam Rotenberg (Jerusalem Post)
    In a number of incidents during the Gaza war, Hamas terrorists threatened to kill UNRWA personnel if they revealed that the Islamist group was using UN facilities for purposes of war, the Jerusalem Post learned from credible sources this week.
    In addition, on a number of occasions, armed Hamas operatives forcefully confiscated medical supplies and food that were to be distributed by UNRWA to residents of Gaza in need of humanitarian aid, taking them for their own use.
    In a few cases, both during and after the Gaza war, trucks carrying supplies to UNRWA facilities were intercepted and taken over by Hamas terrorists.
    These revelations add to the question of whether reconstruction aid can be provided without it falling into the hands of Hamas.

Iran: Baluch Sunni Rebels Fighting Revolutionary Guards (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Heavy fighting between Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Baluch Sunni rebel group Jaish Al-Adl broke out on Tuesday in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan.
    Jaish Al-Adl said in a statement: "Rebel forces managed to kill 10 regime soldiers and completely destroy the Askan border post by sending a 600-kg. explosive device fitted on a car into the compound and triggering it remotely."
    Earlier this year, 13 Iranian border guards were killed and another five abducted in an ambush in the province.
    The majority of Iran's Baluch population are Sunnis, many of whom feel disenfranchised by the Shi'ite central government.

Turkey Sends Back 830 European Jihadists - Fevzi Kizilkoyun (Hurriyet-Turkey)
    Turkey has deported 830 citizens of European countries attempting to cross into Syria to fight with the Islamist jihadists over the past two years.
    Anti-terror teams and intelligence units have focused on border-crossings, airports, and bus and train terminals, while new teams have been established at border-crossing points.
    Around 1,000 Turkish citizens are thought to have joined the Islamic State.

Egyptian President Denies Offering Part of Sinai to Palestinians (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
    President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has denied news reports of his approval of the expansion of the Gaza Strip into Sinai.

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Palestinians Hire Advisors in U.S. - Rosie Gray (BuzzFeed)
    The Palestinian mission to the UN has signed a three-month contract with Independent Diplomat, a diplomatic advisory firm helmed by Carne Ross, a former high-level British diplomat, to "provide advice...on its diplomatic strategy," records filed with the U.S. Department of Justice this week show.
    The Palestinians' move to hire advisers in the U.S. comes as they have increasingly gone to the UN to seek recognition of a Palestinian state.
    The firm will "seek the views of the U.S. Government by meeting with key officials and desk officers in the State Department and other U.S. agencies."
    Independent Diplomat has other clients seeking statehood, including Somaliland and Western Sahara.

Heavy Blow Administered to Assad's Foes - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Ahrar al-Sham is a 10-20,000-strong group of jihadist-Salafi fighters which constitutes the main component of the "Islamic Front" fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. The group was considered to be second in strength to the Islamic State.
    On Sep. 9, Ahrar al-Sham was dealt a major blow in what appears to have been a suicide attack that cost the lives of at least 46 (and perhaps as many as 70) top military officers and political leading figures of the group.
    In January 2013 the group claimed to operate 83 units across Syria, including in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
    Unlike the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham seeks a state run on Islamic principles that would also protect women's rights, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.
    Four of the main leaders were killed in the attack: Hassan Abud, founder and emir of the movement, and head of the political department of the Islamic Front; Abu Talha al Ghab, military chief; Abu Ayman Ram Hamdan, former head of the Badr brigade and responsible for planning; and Abu Abdel Malek al Shari, its religious leader.
    The attack was a blow to a key element that could have rallied to the American cause.
    The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

Egyptian Daily on ISIS: "Eat Them for Lunch Before They Eat Me for Dinner" - Patrick J. McDonnell and Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times)
    Reacting to President Obama's vow to "destroy" the Islamic State, the Egyptian daily Al-Watan featured a headline: "Obama declares war against ISIS ... to eat them for lunch before they eat me for dinner."

Despite Cease-Fire, U.S. Renews Israel Travel Warning - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
    Even though the Gaza war has ended, the U.S. State Department Wednesday renewed its travel warning to Israel.
    It warns U.S. citizens to familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter, says visitors are responsible for buying their own gas masks, and warns U.S. government personnel not to use public buses.
    The government of Israel no longer sees any need to distribute gas masks, and in the past the Israel Embassy in Washington has protested such harshly worded warnings.

40 Jordanian MPs Oppose Plan to Import Israeli Gas (Jordan Times)
    At least 40 members of the Jordanian Lower House on Wednesday signed a statement calling on the government to halt plans to import Israeli gas.
    They said that the solution to the energy problems in Jordan lies in plans to generate electricity from alternative sources or resorting to buying from Arab countries, rather than from the "Zionist murderers."
    Jordan imports 96% of its annual energy needs at a total cost of 20% of its GDP. It used to rely on Egyptian gas supplies, which have come to a complete halt due to terrorist attacks on the pipeline.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • CIA's New Estimate Triples Number of Islamic State Fighters - William M. Welch
    A new CIA intelligence assessment estimates the Islamic State group "can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,'' up from a previous figure of 10,000, CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said Thursday. "This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate."  (USA Today)
  • U.S. Wins Arab Support for Syria-Iraq Military Campaign - Jason Szep
    The U.S. signed up Arab allies on Thursday to a "coordinated military campaign" against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. After talks in Jeddah, Secretary of State John Kerry won backing from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and four other Gulf states. (Reuters)
        See also Arabs Give Tepid Support to U.S. Fight Against ISIS - Anne Barnard and David D. Kirkpatrick
    While Arab nations allied with the U.S. vowed on Thursday to "do their share" to fight ISIS, the underlying tone was one of reluctance. (New York Times)
  • ISIS Fight Raises Fears that Efforts to Curb Iran Will Slip - David E. Sanger
    After President Obama's decision to engage in a lengthy battle to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Israeli officials are concerned that the Iranians, finding themselves on the same side of the fight against ISIS, would use it as leverage to extract concessions from the president. "ISIL is a five-year problem," said Yuval Steinitz, Israel's strategic affairs minister. "A nuclear Iran is a 50-year problem...with far greater impact."
        "The Iranians may well think we need them to help defeat ISIS and that this will make us more accommodating in the nuclear negotiations," said Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institution. "If they do think that, it is an illusion."  (New York Times)
  • Evidence Growing that Hamas Used Residential Areas as Cover for Firing Rockets at Israel
    Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas militants used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel. Ahead of a UN investigation, the Israeli military has released reams of evidence, including satellite photos and aerial footage, to support its claims that it acted responsibly and attempted to minimize Palestinian casualties.
        Throughout the war, the Israeli air force compiled dozens of video clips showing rockets flying out of residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, schoolyards and mosque courtyards. There are also images of weapons caches uncovered inside mosques.
        During the fighting, many observers witnessed rocket launches from urban areas. One video distributed by AP captured a launch in downtown Gaza City that took place in a lot next to a mosque and an office of the Hamas prime minister. "I don't think there's any doubt urban areas were used to launch rockets from the Gaza Strip," said Bill Van Esveld, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Israel's Defense Minister Bolsters Strategic Ties with Azerbaijan - Barabara Opall-Rome
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon visited Azerbaijan on Wednesday, aiming to bolster burgeoning ties with a strategic and defense trade partner that borders northeast Iran. With nearly $4 billion in arms deals over the past three years, Azerbaijan has risen to the top ranks of Israeli export markets. Rapidly expanding security ties between Israel and Azerbaijan have antagonized Iran, where some 25 million Azeris form the country's largest minority, noted Michael Segall, a retired colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. (Defense News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Fully Supports President Obama's Call for United Action Against ISIS
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism on Sept. 11th: "I want to say a few the people of the United States. We remember that day thirteen years ago and we mourn with you on this day for the thousands who lost their lives in that horrific attack. All of Israel mourned on September 11th. In Gaza, they were dancing on the roofs. They were handing out candy. That's the moral divide. We mourn; they celebrate the death of thousands of innocents."
        "And then when the U.S. took out Bin Laden, speaking for virtually the entire country, I congratulated President Obama. In Gaza, Hamas condemned the U.S. and called Bin Laden a holy warrior of Islam. That's the moral divide. We celebrate; they mourn the death of an arch-terrorist."
        "Israel fully supports President Obama's call for united action against ISIS. All civilized countries should stand together in the fight against radical terrorism that sweeps across the Middle East, sweeps across the world. And we are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some things are less known. We have always viewed it as our common battle for our common future."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel Commemorates 9/11 Attacks (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Better-Prepared for Post-Gaza Legal Fight - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Any time Israel uses ground forces, the UN will greet it with a new Goldstone- like report and investigation, a former IDF top official said. Such UN investigations are unavoidable.
        Israeli officials say the state learned a lot from fighting the Goldstone report, has made huge improvements in its investigations, and will therefore leave the International Criminal Court no basis to intervene, since it only intervenes if a state does not self-investigate adequately. The IDF has unveiled a new fact-finding apparatus composed of teams with legal and expert military training, none of which were involved in the operations being investigated. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Shuts Nazareth Offices of Hamas-Linked Group - Justin Jalil
    Israeli security personnel have closed the offices of Amara al-Aqsa wa al-Muqadasat, an Islamic institution in the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, following a recommendation by the Israel Security Agency. The institution was outlawed by the Defense Ministry in August after intelligence revealed that it was responsible for a spate of riots on the Temple Mount and was cooperating with Hamas personnel in Jerusalem. The institution was founded in Nazareth in 2009 by the Islamic Movement in Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli President Rivlin: Gaza Can Be "Paradise" If Hamas Is Disarmed
    Rebuilding Gaza "is one of our interests as much as it is of all the free world," but "the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza" must be tied to "the demilitarization of Gaza," President Reuven Rivlin told visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende on Sunday. If Israel's security needs are fulfilled, Gaza could become a "paradise" for its residents, he added. Otherwise, "the Hamas people once again will spend all the money" on "military aims and the ability to attack Israel once again."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Islamic State

  • Islamists Are Not Our Friends - Dennis B. Ross
    A new fault line has emerged in Middle Eastern politics that will have profound implications for America's foreign policy in the region. It is characterized by a fundamental division between Islamists - both Sunni and Shiite - and non-Islamists. What the Islamists all have in common is that they subordinate national identities to an Islamic identity.
        Today, the non-Islamists want to know that the U.S. supports them. For America, that means not partnering with Iran against ISIS. It means actively competing with Iran in the rest of the region, independently of whether an acceptable nuclear deal can be reached with Tehran.
        It means recognizing that Egypt is an essential part of the anti-Islamist coalition, and that American military aid should not be withheld because of differences over Egypt's domestic behavior.
        These non-Islamists are America's natural partners in the region. They favor stability, the free flow of oil and gas, and they oppose terrorism. The forces that threaten us also threaten them. Do not reach out to Islamists; their creed is not compatible with pluralism or democracy. The writer was the U.S. chief negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1993 to 2001 and a special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Weakens Al-Qaeda Groups Around the World But Hasn't Wiped Any Out - Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock
    In declaring that the U.S. would degrade and "ultimately destroy" the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq and Syria, President Obama articulated an objective that the U.S. has yet to achieve against any of the Islamist adversaries it has faced since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Through two wars, thousands of drone strikes and hundreds of covert operations around the world, the U.S. has substantially weakened al-Qaeda and its affiliates, eroding their capabilities in ways that have reduced the threat they pose, though the U.S. is still battling al-Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. (Washington Post)
  • 14-Year-Old Yazidi Girl Describes Being Given as a Gift to an ISIS Commander - Mohammed A. Salih
    The militants divided us by gender and age: One for young and capable men, another for girls and young women, and a third for older men and women. They placed the girls and women in trucks. As they drove us away, we heard gunshots. Later we learned that they were killing the young men. (Washington Post)

  • The Gaza War

  • Dealing with Hamas' Military Force Reconstruction - Amos Yadlin
    Israel did not succeed in imposing on Hamas the demilitarization of Gaza and the establishment of mechanisms that would deny Hamas the ability to reconstruct its force. However, this goal must be central to Israel's demands in the negotiations on a long-term arrangement. Hamas will make every effort to reconstruct its force and prepare for the next military round. Placing Palestinian Authority government and security services in Gaza will not be enough to prevent Hamas' reconstruction. However, Hamas is not expected to be able to reconstruct its force massively anytime soon.
        If the talks in Cairo do not result in an agreement that provides an effective response to reconstruction, Israel must formulate a strategy without Hamas' consent, though coordinated with Egypt and the U.S., that will deal optimally with Hamas' future force reconstruction. Furthermore, Israel must convince its U.S. and European allies that Hamas' manufacturing strategic weapons and digging offensive tunnels are a causus belli for Israel, and that these are legitimate reasons for Israel to take military action in Gaza. INSS director Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin served as the IDF's chief of Defense Intelligence (2006-2010). (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Victory and Defeat - Abdel-Moneim Said
    When one side suffers 2,100 dead, thousands of others wounded, a large portion of its civilian infrastructure and its tunnels destroyed, and a good amount of its military capacities depleted because of the skilled commanders who were killed, while the other side loses 72 dead, the results of the recent war in Gaza can hardly be chalked up as a Palestinian victory. Yet Hamas leaders have proclaimed victory.
        We celebrated victory because the enemy failed to achieve its objectives as we defined them. While Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh might believe themselves victorious, in the manner of other Arab leaders who preceded them, the fact that the Palestinian people are convinced by their logic is truly amazing. According to an opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 79% of Palestinians say that Hamas was victorious in this last war. They are simultaneously telling us that if elections were held today Hamas would win. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • A Guide to International Law and the Gaza War - David Daoud
    As Oscar Schachter, a former president of the American Society of International Law, emphasized, "[a] State is not obliged to turn the other cheek" in the case of an ongoing armed attack. Israel was provoked into launching Operation Protective Edge on July 8 by continued rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into southern Israel, for which Hamas, as the ruling government in Gaza, is ultimately responsible. Between July 2 and 7, 230 rockets were launched by Palestinians in Gaza into Israel. Additionally, for some time Israel possessed intelligence that Hamas had built a large offensive tunnel network leading into Israel, discovering three tunnels in 2013.
        Israel agreed and adhered to multiple humanitarian ceasefires of varying duration, but Hamas repeatedly violated them. Essentially, when a country goes to war, it is allowed to use as much force as is necessary to stop the threat that caused it to go to war to begin with. (The Tower)
  • IDF Seeks to Strike Rockets Before They're Launched
    During the Gaza war, the IDF struck hundreds of terrorists as they were firing rockets at Israel. A senior commander in the Gaza Division revealed that the IDF tracks terrorists, maps hostile locations and monitors movements to provide initial indications of upcoming rocket fire. "We operate several methods in order to make sure that we are targeting an enemy. We always strive to confirm 100% that the suspect isn't a civilian."
        "Hamas fires mainly from within the civilian population and sensitive areas. Schools, mosques and medical facilities are often used to fire rockets at Israel....Hamas terrorists know we are humane, they know that we don't want to harm civilians. So they put their own civilians in danger in order to kill ours."  (Israel Defense Forces)
  • New IDF Program Helps Prevent Post-Traumatic Stress among Gaza Fighters - Meital Yasur Beit-Or
    The Gaza war was the first military campaign to implement a new program developed by the Israel Defense Forces to minimize post-traumatic stress disorders experienced by soldiers on the battlefield. The Magen program gave combat soldiers special training to help them recognize symptoms of acute trauma experienced by their peers, equipping them with the basic tools necessary to offer shell-shocked soldiers initial assistance.
        "The reports we received from the field suggest that overall, and compared to previous operations, there was a significant decrease in the number of shell-shocked soldiers," a senior Medical Corps officer said. (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • The Middle East's Maze of Alliances - Victor Davis Hanson
    It's increasingly difficult to navigate the web of transitory enemies and allies in the region. President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan were said to have a special friendship. But based on what? Erdogan is strangling democracy in Turkey. He is a big supporter of Hamas and at times a fan of Iran. A NATO ally, Turkey recently refused to let U.S. rescue teams use its territory to stage a rescue mission of American hostages - two of them eventually beheaded - in Syria.
        Ostensibly, America supports moderate pro-Western consensual governments that protect human rights and hold elections. But there are almost no such nations in the Middle East except Israel. About the best choice for the U.S. is to support without qualification the only two pro-American and constitutional groups in the Middle East, the Israelis and Kurds. The writer is a historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. (National Review)
  • Foreign Powers Also Try to Manipulate the Democratic Process in Israel - Gerald Steinberg
    Re: "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks" (New York Times, Sept. 7): The problematic impact of foreign government funding for political advocacy nongovernmental organizations and think tanks is not unique to American democracy. For many years, the EU and European governments, including Norway, which you cite, have channeled tens of millions of euros to Israeli political groups in order to manipulate the democratic process. NGO Monitor research over a decade has demonstrated that funding processes are closely guarded state secrets, and Britain, the EU and other governments routinely deny related freedom of information requests in order to prevent critical public debate.
        If European states are active in this manipulation of democracy, it is hardly surprising that your reporting shows that Qatar and other closed regimes follow a similar route. The writer is president of NGO Monitor and a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. (New York Times)
  • Asymmetrical Morality and Asymmetrical Victory - Lenny Ben-David
    The current conflicts swirling from the Sinai and Gaza to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are not only asymmetric in tactics and weaponry; this warfare is characterized by asymmetrical morality and asymmetrical definitions of "victory." This warfare is conducted by decentralized, transnational armies that are well-financed and well-armed. For some forces, such as Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah, the training and rocketry are provided by Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
        Psychological warfare is a major weapon of these 21st century jihadi warriors. The video-taped massacres of minorities and enemy soldiers spurred mass flight by locals. There are no restraints, no Geneva conventions, no "rules of war." What the West calls "genocide" is not a crime for ISIS and its ilk when committed in the service of Allah. Traditional standards of "victory" do not apply since the jihadists and their supporters live for martyrdom.
        As Western nations stir from their slumber to confront the Islamic State and its forces, they have lessons to learn from Israel's experience in the Gaza conflict. Asymmetrical conflicts and asymmetrical morality cannot be fought with outdated methods, tactics and rules. (Times of Israel)

UN Human Rights Council Inquiry Is Tainted at the Core - Irwin Cotler (Canadian Jewish News)

  • The International Commission of Inquiry established by a special session of the UN Human Rights Council is "tainted at the core." The resolution giving birth to the inquiry presupposes Israeli guilt, condemning "in the strongest possible terms, the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory." It is thus an Alice in Wonderland resolution, where the conviction and sentence are secured before the inquiry begins.
  • The biased commission mandate not only presupposes Israeli criminality - which it references 18 times in the resolution itself - but it makes no reference at all to the Hamas spectrum of war crimes and crimes against humanity, let alone its ongoing terrorist war, during which it has launched 10,000 rockets targeting Israeli civilians since 2007.
  • The resolution refers to Israeli perpetration of "hate crimes," but makes no reference to the Hamas Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.
  • It is therefore not surprising that the European Union characterized the UN Human Rights Council's mandate as "inaccurate, unbalanced and prejudging the outcome."
  • The commission is the creature of a fatally flawed resolution whose biased mandate presupposes Israeli guilt, and the systemic and systematic bias of the UN Human Rights Council is in gross violation of the UN Charter guarantee of "equal treatment of all nations, large or small."
  • The Human Rights Council appointed Prof. William Schabas to chair the inquiry. Schabas has accused Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression committed "on the territory of Palestine since 2002," while acknowledging that "much of [my] effort" is focused on bringing about the prosecution of Israelis at the ICC. Simply put, Schabas' appointment to an already fatally flawed commission raises, at a minimum, a reasonable apprehension of bias, if not actual bias, and is a standing violation of the elementary principles of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.

    The writer, professor emeritus of law at McGill University, is a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.

        See also UN Gaza Commission Head Presumes Israel Is Guilty - Daniel D. Edelman
    Prof. William Schabas, chair of the UN commission investigating alleged Israeli war crimes during the recent Gaza conflict, told the BBC on July 17, before the Israeli ground offensive, that "prima facie there is evidence of disproportionality" by Israel sufficient to declare its air strikes unjustified because "there are a huge number of civilian casualties on one side and virtually no civilian casualties on the other."
        UN war crimes courts have a rule that: "a judge may not sit at a trial or appeal in any case in which his impartiality might reasonably be doubted on any substantial ground." Moreover, Schabas himself, in a respected work he authored on UN war crimes tribunals, wrote: "a judge should not only be subjectively free from bias, but also...there should be nothing in the surrounding circumstances that objectively gives rise to the appearance of bias."
        On Sept. 4, Schabas championed his commission's adjudicatory relevance in a CNN interview, stating: "the International Criminal Court is sitting in the wings," and the commission will likely "provide materials that would go to the prosecutor of the ICC and so that's a pretty big stick if we come to the conclusion that there were war crimes."  (New York Jewish Week)
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