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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 16, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Gazans Rush to Enjoy Life after Ruinous War - Hamza Hendawi (AP)
    After a ruinous war, Gaza is rushing back to a veneer of normalcy at astonishing speed. Street cafes and beaches are packed with people until late at night. Commercial streets are choked with shoppers. Wedding halls are booked solid.
    However, Gazans acknowledge the revelry thinly masks trauma and widespread despair. Many complain that none of the gains they hoped for from the war have been realized.
    Hamas security agents are so omnipresent people nickname them the "ground drones" - a play on the Israeli drones that often hover over Gaza.
    Most main squares are adorned with giant billboards extolling jihad against Israel.

Britain to Curb Muslim Brotherhood Operations in London - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    Britain is set to impose curbs on Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations and block activists moving to London after a report by Sir John Jenkins, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia, raised concerns over the group's links to extremists.
    While the report stops short of proposing a ban on the Brotherhood, it accepts that some of the movement's activity amounts to complicity with armed groups and extremists.

Islamic State Attracts Female Jihadis from U.S. - Alistair Bell (Reuters)
    At least three Somali families in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have female relatives who have gone missing in the past six weeks and may have tried to join Islamic State, said community leader Abdirizak Bihi.
    In a separate case, a 19-year-old American Somali woman from St. Paul snuck away from her parents on Aug. 25, flew to Turkey and joined IS in Syria.
    In addition, law enforcement officials say they learned of 15-20 men with connections to the Minnesota Somali community fighting for extremist groups in Syria.
    Moreover, scores of European Muslim women, mostly from Britain and France, have joined IS.

ISIS May Target Israelis, Jews Abroad, Counter-Terrorism Bureau Warns - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau released a travel advisory on Monday ahead of the High Holy Days, warning that Western Europe could become the scene of Islamic State terrorist attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets.
    In addition, the bureau renewed a severe travel warning for the Sinai Peninsula, and said that security threats to Israeli business targets in Africa had also grown.
    In total, the bureau listed 41 countries and regions around the world posing dangers of varying severity.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Pulls Troops from Syrian Golan Heights - Joshua Mitnick
    The UN said it temporarily evacuated hundreds of peacekeeping forces from Syria's side of the Golan Heights to Israel-controlled territory, saying the troops were threatened by escalating fighting in Syria's civil war. The move marks a major redeployment for the 1,200-member UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has monitored a 40-year truce between Israel and Syria since the 1973 war. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also End of an Era: UN Peacekeepers Stop Pretending to Keep Peace - Seth Mandel
    Having UN troops retreat from a war zone into the comforts of Israeli protection is yet another reminder that the international community ought to be far more judicious in pressuring Israel to withdraw from territory and put their security in the hands of others. Peace plans tend to suggest that Israel pull back farther than Israeli military leaders are comfortable with, having their place taken by international troops. (Commentary)
  • Kerry Says U.S. Is Open to Talking to Iran about ISIS, Even as Ayatollah Is Dismissive - Michael R. Gordon and Thomas Erdbrink
    The Obama administration is open to talking with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday in Paris, at a conference to which the Iranians were not invited. On Monday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said he was "listening to Americans making statements on combating ISIS - it was really amusing."
        Iran fears that the coalition Kerry is assembling will ultimately undermine Syrian President Assad, who has been receiving extensive financial and military support from Tehran. Iran appears to be arguing that it would not want to be part of any club that would not welcome it as a charter member. (New York Times)
  • ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits from Turkey - Ceylan Yeginsu
    One of the biggest sources of ISIS recruits is neighboring Turkey, a NATO member with an undercurrent of Islamist discontent. As many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports.
        Washington wants Turkey to stanch the flow of foreign fighters and to stop ISIS from exporting the oil it produces on territory it holds in Syria and Iraq. So far, Turkish President Erdogan has resisted pleas to take aggressive steps against the group, citing the fate of 49 Turkish hostages ISIS has held since militants took over Mosul in June. Turkey declined to sign a communique last Thursday that committed a number of regional states to take "appropriate" new measures to counter ISIS. (New York Times)
        See also How the Islamic State Smuggles Oil Through Turkey - Benoit Faucon and Ayla Albayrak (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Islamic State Making Inroads in Villages near Golan in Syria - Elhanan Miller
    The Islamic State terror group is operating sleeper cells in southern Syria near the border with Israel, a spokesman for the opposition Free Syrian Army charged Sunday. The spokesman said that some of the 6,000 Islamist fighters who fled southward toward the borders with Israel and Jordan in July actually belong to the Islamic State, not to the Nusra Front as previously believed.
        Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria at Tel Aviv University, said, "The Islamic State is trying to establish itself all across Syria....Other groups are trying to associate themselves with it and pledge allegiance to it. Some do so out of fear of IS, while others hope to benefit from it in the future."  (Times of Israel)
  • UN Report Calls for Palestinian Unity Government Control of Gaza - Lazar Berman
    A new UN report calls for the Palestinian unity government to assume control of Gaza. "Reconstruction, recovery, governance and security in the Gaza Strip must take place in the context of the return of one legitimate Palestinian Authority to the Strip," reads the report from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
        While the report denied that there was any evidence that cement intended for UN projects was diverted to Hamas' tunnel building effort, it said, "the effort and resources devoted by Hamas to construct this network in order to launch attacks against Israel is unacceptable."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • How Do Israelis Cope? - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Outside my window, in the Palestinian village across the road, they celebrated the supposed victory of Hamas over Israel every night after the cease-fire with fireworks. A poll confirmed that anastonishing 87% of Palestinians support the organization whose deepest religious longing is the destruction of Israel. On the news they're reporting members of Islamic State have infiltrated across the Jordanian border. We've got Hizbullah on our northern border and Hamas to our south.
        During the recent failed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State John F. Kerry suggested that Israel yield control over the West Bank border with Jordan to an international peacekeeping force. Yet last week hundreds of UN peacekeeping troops on the Israeli-Syrian border barely escaped into Israel after al-Qaeda forces overran their position. Who should we rely on to protect us if not ourselves? Israelis watch the fate of the Yazidi and Christian minorities in the Middle East and tell each other: Imagine what would happen to us if we ever lowered our guard.
        We are caught in a pathological pattern. A jihadist enemy fires rockets against Israeli civilians. Israel tries to stop the rockets, often launched from schools and mosques. The result is widespread civilian casualties, which is precisely what the terrorists want. The international community reacts with horror - against Israel. And we emerge from each round of fighting one step closer to becoming the world's pariah state. We cope because we have no choice. The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Gaza Waiting to Rebuild - Terrence McCoy
    Apartment rents in Gaza have more than doubled since the war ended, as thousands of displaced residents elbow into an already saturated housing market. As of Monday, it remained uncertain when rebuilding Gaza would begin - or how long it would take. Egypt is set to host a donor conference next month. But some experts noted that numerous Gaza buildings destroyed in previous Hamas-Israel wars were never rebuilt.
        An Israeli official said, "We need to first have mechanisms in place that will ensure the cement that is supposed to go to hospitals and to schools will actually reach those hospitals and schools, and not be used for Hamas' terror infrastructure."  (Washington Post)
        See also Gaza Landlords Refusing to Rent to Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Landlords in Gaza are refusing to rent apartments to Hamas members and their families, senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk revealed on Sunday. "The phenomenon of refusing to rent out homes to families of resistance fighters is a dangerous one," Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page. Earlier this month, tenants of the Daoud Tower in Gaza City demanded that Hamas evacuate its offices from their building. During the Gaza war, the IDF destroyed three residential towers in Gaza City. (Jerusalem Post)

From Gaza to ISIS: Assessing Change in Today's Middle East - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • For Egyptians, their national security order of priority is Sinai (through which they also see a Hamas hand), then Libya, then ISIS and other regional problems. The threat from Libya spills into Egypt in terms of attacks on Egyptian troops and security personnel and weapons smuggling. We should not be surprised if a force led by Egypt and Algeria intervenes in the Libya conflict to prevent the jihadist groups there from running amok.
  • Egypt is building a second Suez Canal that will allow two-way traffic in the famed waterway. The plan is essentially "dig now, ask questions later." No one could cite professional feasibility studies or other assessments of how Egypt is going to make money from this grand undertaking.
  • Egyptians of all stripes have contempt for Washington. Some are driven by conspiratorial views of U.S. policy, i.e., that the White House is controlled and directed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Among serious people it is born of what they see as the inexplicability of Washington being unable to see where U.S. interests lie. Egyptians want a relationship with Washington and can't figure out why it isn't happening.
  • During the Gaza war, the U.S.-Israel relationship was brought to the brink of real crisis; after intervening in the normal procedure for the disbursement of military goods to Israel, it will be difficult for the Obama administration to again say that the U.S.-Israel security relationship is unshakable. After all, it was just shaken, during wartime no less.
  • By the end of the conflict, a very real opportunity emerged - thanks to Egyptian-Israeli understandings - to change the dynamic in Gaza and leverage the outcome to begin the long process of shifting power there from Hamas toward the PA. This included the idea of linking reconstruction to disarmament, or at least preventing rearmament; the idea of conditioning international reconstruction efforts on PA security control of the crossing points; and the idea of conditioning the transfer of outside funds to pay local salaries on using only PA-controlled financial institutions, not Hamas. But one key player has balked - Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the PA.
  • I don't believe a single word of the fantasy news stories that Sisi offered a piece of Sinai to the Palestinians to create a state. But one should appreciate the core reality - that Israel and Egypt view the regional situation in a similar way and act on that convergence of analysis and interests. This is one of the most hopeful elements of the Middle East today.

    The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute.

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