Hamas Forces Practice Takeover of IDF Posts and Abduction of Soldiers near Gaza (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
On Dec. 23, 2014, Hamas security forces in Gaza held an exercise at an al-Qassam Brigades training facility simulating the storming and takeover of an IDF post.
On Dec, 27, 2014, the al-Qassam Brigades issued a video of dozens of armed operatives simulating attacks on IDF posts near Israel's security fence.
In one of the attacks, "IDF soldiers" were abducted from the post. In another, the operatives made off with the bodies of "dead IDF soldiers."
Publicizing the exercises and boasting of Hamas' military capabilities are meant to deter Israel and raise the morale of Gazans.
PA Arrests Hamas Members in West Bank; Hamas Arrests Fatah Members in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
The Palestinian Authority has arrested dozens of Hamas members in the West Bank in the past two weeks while Hamas forces have arrested dozens of Fatah members in Gaza in a sign of faltering unification efforts, despite a pact signed between the rival groups last year, Palestinian sources said Tuesday.
What about Arab War Crimes Against Palestinians? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
A report published this week by the Working Group for Palestinians in Syria revealed that 2,596 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in that country in 2011.
Journalists covering the Middle East do not believe that this is an important story because of the absence of any Israeli role in the killings.
Some 80,000 Palestinians have fled their homes in Syria due to the ongoing conflict.
Last week Muslim terrorists from the al-Qaeda-affiliated An-Nusra group executed six Palestinians from Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria after finding them guilty of "blasphemy."
Another report published recently revealed that 264 Palestinians have died as a result of torture in Syrian government prisons over the past few years.
Had any one of them died in an Israeli prison, his story and photo would have appeared on the front page of newspapers in the U.S. and Europe.
Holes in the Palestinians' ICC Case Against Israel - Omer Dostri (Israel Hayom)
The International Criminal Court sees itself as an authority of last resort. It is required to investigate only if the accused nation does not have a reliable legal system with which to investigate itself.
Israel has such a body and its High Court has received international praise and recognition.
The Palestinians have also accused Israel of "violating international law" for halting the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.
But the Palestinians owe Israel $380 million - debt that has accrued in light of their refusal to pay electricity bills in recent years. This money belongs to Israel and the government can declare that it is in fact collecting debts.
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- UN Chief Says Palestine Will Join International Criminal Court on April 1 - Edith M. Lederer
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that the state of Palestine will join the International Criminal Court on April 1, a move that will enable the Palestinians to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. The secretary-general announced his acceptance of the documents submitted by the Palestinians last Friday, saying, "the statute will enter into force for the State of Palestine on April 1, 2015." Any Palestinian case against Israel at the ICC would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support to the PA under American law.
- Syria: Dozens of Islamist Fighters Killed in Kobani
41 Islamic State militants and 7 Kurdish fighters were killed in the Syrian border town of Kobani on Tuesday as U.S.-led air strikes helped local forces push the group to the city's edges, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The Kurds now control 80% of Kobani. Islamic State launched an attack on the town more than three months ago.
See also Islamic State Police Official Beheaded
A top figure in Islamic State's police force, which has carried out beheadings, was found decapitated in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.
- Egypt's Sisi: Islamic "Thinking" Is "Antagonizing the Entire World" - Raymond Ibrahim
Speaking before Al-Azhar University and the Awqaf Ministry on New Year's Day, 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said:
"It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible! That thinking - I am not saying "religion" but "thinking" - that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world!"
"Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world's inhabitants - that is 7 billion - so that they themselves may live? Impossible!...We are in need of a religious revolution....This umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost - and it is being lost by our own hands." (Islam Translated)
See also Sisi First Egyptian President to Attend Coptic Christmas Mass
Video footage broadcast by Egyptian state TV showed crowds cheering as President al-Sisi entered Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo with churchmen and saluted Pope Tawadros II on Tuesday on the occasion of the annual Coptic Christmas mass. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas Mastermind Behind Murder of Three Israeli Teens Sentenced to Three Life Terms - Yoav Zitun
Hamas member Hossam Kawasmeh was sentenced on Tuesday to three life terms for planning the abduction of Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, both 16. The three Israeli youths were abducted and murdered in the West Bank on June 12, 2014. (Ynet News)
- Three Palestinians Convicted of Planning Terror Attack on Jerusalem Wedding Hall - Yonah Jeremy Bob
Anas Ouisat, Basel Abidat, and Ahmed Sarur of east Jerusalem were convicted Tuesday of planning a terrorist attack on a wedding hall in Jerusalem. Ouisat planned a shooting attack on the Nof Yerushalayim wedding hall where he had worked because there could be many casualties (800 to 1,500 attendees). They planned to enter the hall dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews, with mini-Uzi guns under their clothes.
- The Palestinian Strategy: Internationalization of the Conflict Combined with a Popular Intifada - Yoni Ben Menachem
On Jan. 4, 2014, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds revealed a conversation between Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary of State John Kerry, which dealt with the Palestinian motion at the UN Security Council. When Kerry despaired of convincing Abbas to desist from his move, he reportedly threatened Abbas with the words: "You will lose the Authority, you will lose the two-state solution, and you will lose yourself."
Muhammad Ashtiyeh, a member of the Fatah Executive Committee and a close associate of Abbas, defined the Palestinians' new strategy in an interview with Al Jazeera on Jan. 4: "The Palestinians are now moving to a strategy of internationalization of the conflict with Israel, but it will not win real success if it is not accompanied by a nonviolent popular intifada." (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The Palestinians Go to the ICC: Policy Implications - David Makovsky
PA President Mahmoud Abbas' signing of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) creates an entirely new arena for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, casting the relationship in criminal terms. The move is likely to shut down any political space for further negotiations any time soon and may move the entire discourse toward unilateralism.
The PA's move is bound to face opposition across the Israeli political spectrum, while a December poll of Palestinian public opinion showed 80% approval for Abbas moving to the ICC.
Signing the Rome Statute is unlikely to produce short-term Palestinian legal victories for a variety of reasons, not least because other parties will probably make countermoves. The writer is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- War Crimes Case Against Israel over Gaza May Never Get Started - Peter Cluskey
The decision on whether or not to launch an investigation of Israel will be taken by the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, having examined the merits of the case. Even if Bensouda was to begin an investigation, she would then have to decide whether its findings should lead to indictments against named individuals - as distinct from the Israeli state or the Israel Defense Forces.
But most politically complex of all is the possibility that the ICC may have to rule on whether or not Palestine is legally a state, because only sovereign states can join the ICC. If Palestine is not a state, then it cannot join. If it is a state, then, before proceeding with any investigation, there will be the task of defining its territory. Such a case, says Leiden law professor Carsten Stahn, "could take close to a decade, at least." (Irish Times)
- How and Why the Palestinians Lost Palestine - Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad
We have always held the Arab regimes responsible for the loss of Palestine and have equally faulted the Western regimes for their collusion and unlimited support for Israel. But what is our share in bearing responsibility?
Many applauded us at international forums and we received "theoretical" recognition as a country. But where is the practical result on the ground?
Oddly, everyone believes they are close to achieving their goals: Fatah believes it's a step away from achieving statehood, while Hamas thinks it's on the brink of liberating Palestine.
Yet the struggle has become intra-Palestinian, in which each of the sides tries to prove that his option is best and the other's has failed. We tried a Fatah government and corruption was rampant in both the administrative and security services. Then came a national unity government, but it only took two months before it reached its demise. As has become our custom, we are rushing from failure to greater failure.
As a result - after six decades - Palestine has vanished and its blood has been divided between the different tribes/factions. This op-ed, published in recent days in Arab media, was translated by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Times of Israel)
Time to Call Abbas' Bluff - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- By blowing up the latest U.S. attempt to negotiate peace with an end run to the UN and its affiliated agencies, the Palestinians have come to believe they can conduct a diplomatic war on Israel with impunity. The PA thinks it has a blank check to avoid peace and the freedom to carry on the conflict in any manner it chooses.
- So long as the PA thinks it can keep receiving the subsidies it gets from the U.S. and the rest of the West without keeping their commitments, there will never be any motivation for them to make peace.
- That is why Israel is withholding the tax revenues it normally passes along to the PA as well as advising Congress to put a halt to its generous aid.
- Abbas' aide Saeb Erekat has threatened that the PA may just dissolve itself and end security cooperation with Israel. Washington should call the PA's bluff immediately.
- The notion that Abbas and his Fatah kleptocracy would simply go home and abandon the huge patronage scheme they have created on the West Bank is absurd. Abbas operates his Ramallah government for the sake of his party and cronies, not for Israel. Fatah's ability to skim money from international aid is its raison d'etre.
- Moreover, the security cooperation with Israel is as much if not more in Abbas' interests as it is for the Jewish state. He relies on Israel to protect him against threats to his life and his government from Hamas and other terror groups backed by Iran.
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