Iran Parliament Bans Inspector Access to Military Sites - Ali Akbar Dareini (AP)
With some lawmakers chanting "Death to the America," Iran's parliament voted Sunday to ban access to military sites, documents and scientists as part of a future deal with world powers over its nuclear program.
Parliament also demanded the complete lifting of all sanctions against Iran.
The Druze Abandon Assad - Hassan Hassan (Daily Beast)
A quiet insurrection against the Assad regime has been building for the past year in the Syrian province of Sweida, home to the bulk of the country's Druze population.
This week a prominent religious figure, Sheikh Abu Fahad Wahid Balous, declared that the Druze were no long obliged to serve in the Syrian Army.
A mass Druze abandonment of the regime could prove pivotal in how the war progresses.
The writer is associate fellow at Chatham House's Middle East and North Africa Program.
Israel Must Be Realistic about Involvement in Syria - Eyal Zisser (Israel Hayom)
One could justify Israel's willingness to provide humanitarian aid to its neighbors by saying that, given the chaotic security situation on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, Israel would be wise to maintain open lines of communication with the armed groups operating beyond the border.
However, any assistance must be lent with eyes wide open and be devoid of expectations or illusions.
Regardless of whether we are dealing with Syrian Druze or moderate Sunnis rebels, they see themselves as part of the Arab and Syrian spheres and could turn against Israel in the blink of an eye.
Moreover, the Syrian Druze have made it clear that they do not want Israel's help.
Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
After 3 Years, Egypt Appoints New Ambassador to Israel - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
Egypt has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, the Israel Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said on Sunday. Hazem Khairat served previously as Egypt's representative to the Arab League and then as ambassador to Chile.
Cairo's last ambassador to Israel, Atef Salem, was recalled in 2012 in the wake of Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
Intelligence Warnings of Possible Attack on Israeli Tourists in India (CNN-IBN-India)
Indian intelligence agencies have issued an advisory to the police about a possible threat to Israeli tourists in India.
Security will be increased at the Israeli embassy and other places.
Israel Raid Destroys Own Crashed Drone in Lebanon (AFP)
Israel carried out an air strike in eastern Lebanon on Sunday targeting an Israeli drone that crashed in the area, a Lebanese security source said.
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- UN Report on 2014 Gaza War Criticizes Israel and Palestinians - Jodi Rudoren
A report released on Monday in Geneva by a commission of the UN Human Rights Council found "serious violations of international humanitarian law" that "may amount to war crimes" by both Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza during their bloody battle last summer. The Israeli government refused to cooperate with the Human Rights Council inquiry, saying it was inherently biased.
The commission cited the "inherently indiscriminate nature" of rockets and mortars fired by Palestinians at Israeli civilians, condemned the Palestinians' execution of suspected collaborators, and said Palestinian authorities "have consistently failed" to bring violators of international law to justice. (New York Times)
See also Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
See also below Observations - The Gaza War 2014:
The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted - Hirsh Goodman and Dore Gold, eds.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- U.S. Says Iran's Support of Terrorism "Undiminished" - Felicia Schwartz
The State Department said Iran's support for terrorism was "undiminished" in 2014, and the U.S. remains very concerned about the activities of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and its proxies in the Middle East, according to its annual report on global terrorism, released Friday. Of particular concern was Iran's continued support of Hizbullah and its assistance to Syrian President Assad's regime.
Tina Kaidanow, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said sanctions on Iran related to terrorism would remain in place even if a nuclear deal is reached. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Steinitz: U.S. Report on Iran Terrorism Should End Delusions about Nuclear Program - Dana Somberg
The U.S. State Department report released on Friday detailing Iran's continued sponsorship of international terrorism proves that Tehran cannot be trusted to curb its nuclear program, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Saturday. He said the report's conclusions "dealt a death knell" to "the American delusion, according to which an easing of sanctions as part of an interim nuclear treaty would lead to a moderation of its position. That's why the report should serve as a warning sign for anyone who thinks Iran will moderate its behavior after a final-status nuclear treaty."
The report faults Tehran for continuing to fund proxy organizations throughout the Middle East - namely Hizbullah and Hamas - during 2014 and for expanding its foreign operations in Africa, Asia and South America. The report also notes that "Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups....These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deaths from attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank." In 2014, "militants from Gaza also infiltrated Israeli territory using tunnels in six separate attacks and, for the first time, by a sea-borne operation." (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Murdered in West Bank Terror Attack - Raanan Ben Tzur
Danny Gonen, 25, was murdered on Friday after being shot near Dolev in the West Bank. Gonen and another Israeli were driving in the area when a Palestinian signaled for them to stop as if to ask for help, before firing at them at point-blank range.
- Israeli Border Policeman Critically Hurt in Jerusalem Terror Attack
An Israeli Border Police officer was stabbed in the neck on Sunday at Damascus Gate outside the Old City of Jerusalem. The officer sustained critical wounds but managed to critically wound his assailant.
- Netanyahu: French UN Initiative Trying to Push Us toward "Indefensible Borders"
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday:
"In the international proposals being made to us, which - in effect - they are trying to force on us, there is no reference to the security needs of the State of Israel and our other national interests. They are simply trying to push us into accepting indefensible borders while completely ignoring what will be on the other side of the border."
"The way to reach agreements is only through bilateral negotiations, and we strongly reject attempts to force international diktat on us in regard to both security and peace. Peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations between the parties that will take into account our national interests, especially security." (Prime Minister's Office)
- "Barbarism" with Chlorine Gas Goes Unchecked in Syria - Editorial
On March 6, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria and threatening sanctions or other enforcement action if it was used again. Since March 16, there have been more than 30 chlorine attacks in Idlib province, according to the Syrian American Medical Society. More than 540 civilians have suffered from exposure, and at least 10 have died.
In every case, Syrian government helicopters - no other force has such aircraft - have dropped containers filled with chlorine and sometimes other chemicals on civilian areas. There have been no such attacks by the regime against the Islamic State, or even against Syrian rebel forces - just on civilians behind the front lines.
"We are certain that the preponderance of those attacks have been carried out by the regime," said Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Tuesday. The State Department confirmed the attacks were chemical, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria ratified in 2013. They blatantly cross the "red line" President Obama once drew against the use of chemical weapons by Syria. But the Security Council, paralyzed by Russian obstructionism, has taken no action.
It is well within the power of the United States to put a stop to the horrific attacks. It could impose a no-fly zone in northern Syria or simply shoot down the Syrian helicopters carrying out the attacks.
- Filling in the Blanks: Documenting Missing Dimensions in UN and NGO "Investigations" of the Gaza Conflict - Gerald M. Steinberg and Anne Herzberg, eds.
UN Watch and NGO Monitor's 215-page book, Filling in the Blanks: Documenting Missing Dimensions in UN and NGO "Investigations" of the Gaza Conflict, focuses on some of the central dimensions related to international humanitarian law and human rights that are essential to understanding the context and combat in asymmetrical war. These issues include the production and import of rockets and missiles to terrorist organizations based in Gaza and the financing of Hamas in violation of international law; evidence regarding the abuse of humanitarian aid provided by different sources to Gaza and Hamas; and the credibility of reports and allegations from NGOs regarding the 2014 conflict.
(NGO Monitor and UN Watch)
- The Lessons of Operation Protective Edge - Anat Kurz and Shlomo Brom, eds.
The Lessons of Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 Gaza War) covers: the implications of Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket/missile defense system; the challenge of the tunnels; the legal aspect of Israel's military action; the potential demilitarization of Gaza; relations between Israel and the Palestinians and the balance of power in the Palestinian arena itself; the civilian front in wartime; Israeli public opinion; the implications for Jewish-Arab relations in Israel; economic ramifications; the role of Arab nations during the campaign; a regional approach as the key to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement; Israel's relations with Egypt; with Turkey; and with the U.S.; and the enhanced efforts to delegitimize Israel in light of the fighting.
(Institute for National Security Studies)
The Gaza War 2014:
The War Israel Did Not Want and the Disaster It Averted - Hirsh Goodman and Dore Gold, eds.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Though the images of the moment may have reflected massive damage in Gaza during the 2014 war, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced on Nov. 6, 2014, that Israel had gone to "extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict." An analysis of UN satellite photos taken during the war shows that 72% of all damaged areas in Gaza were "within two miles of the Israeli border."
- While this was a war Israel did not want, it was a war that inadvertently preempted a terrorist massacre inside Israel's heartland, principally through a network of sophisticated tunnels built deep under the border, and intended to stream hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated terrorists, many on suicide missions, in the quiet of night, to destinations where they could kill as many innocent people as possible and leave Israel mauled as never before. This was potentially Hamas' terrorist version of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli forces in Sinai and the Golan Heights.
- Israel suffered 74 dead in the war. Had the Iron Dome system not intercepted 735 rockets fired from Gaza, the Israeli casualty count would have been incalculably higher. Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15, as did Israel, Palestinian wartime fatalities would have numbered less than 200, as opposed to more than 2,100 who died by the time Hamas agreed to a final ceasefire on Aug. 27. Thus, Hamas was fully responsible for more than 1,800 Palestinian deaths.
- While UN and Palestinian sources claimed that 72-84% of Palestinians in Gaza killed during the war were civilians, there are strong reasons to argue that the percentage of civilian casualties was less than 50%, a low one-to-one combatant-to-civilian ratio that is unprecedented in modern-day warfare. In addition, we don't know how many Palestinians in Gaza died as human shields or of natural causes during the 50 days of war, or how many were casualties of the 875 Palestinian rockets known to have landed inside Gaza.
- A discerning look at the facts would lead to the conclusion that it is Hamas, not Israel, which should be in the dock for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
See also The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Ex-Generals: IDF's "Scrupulous Adherence" to Laws of War Cost Israeli Lives (Friends of Israel Initiative-UN Watch)
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