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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
October 1, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran: 464 Iranians Died in Saudi Hajj Disaster (AP-New York Times)
    Iran's death toll from the Saudi hajj disaster has reached 464, Iranian state media reported Thursday.
    Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry reported Saturday that the crush and stampede killed at least 769 people and injured 934.
    See also Iran Diplomat Missing after Hajj Tragedy (AFP)
    Senior Iranian diplomat and former ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, 49, is missing after the deadly stampede at last week's hajj pilgrimage.

Arab Coalition Seizes Iranian Weapons Boat - Sami Aboudi (Reuters)
    Arab coalition forces fighting against Houthi groups in Yemen have seized an Iranian boat loaded with weapons in the Arabian Sea, Al-Arabiya said on Wednesday.
    14 Iranian sailors were on the boat, which was carrying armor-piercing shells, anti-tank rockets and weapons guidance systems.

Kuwait Airline Discriminates Against Israelis on Flights from U.S. - Joan Lowy (AP)
    The U.S. government has found that Kuwait Airways unlawfully discriminated against a passenger traveling on an Israeli passport by refusing to sell him a ticket for a New York to London flight.
    "A 'foreign air carrier may not subject a person, place, port, or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination,'" said Blane Workie, the U.S. Department of Transportation's assistant general counsel for enforcement, in a letter to the airline.

New Israeli UAV Can Reach Iran (Walla News-Globes)
    Israeli security company Aeronautics sold its largest unmanned system, the Dominator XP, to the Mexican government.
    The new UAV can carry hundreds of kilos of equipment, specialized sensors, and cameras. It can fly at an altitude of 27,000 feet and reach Iran from Israel.
    The UAV can also be used for civilian purposes like following icebergs in the North Pole and monitoring oil installations and offshore gas rigs.

Poll: Egyptians View Israel as Most Hostile State - Ro Yeger (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian public perception views Israel as the most hostile state, according to a poll conducted in May 2015 and reported by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research on Tuesday analyzing the perceived hostility or friendliness of 26 countries.
    Saudi Arabia was found to be the most friendly country toward Egypt, followed by the UAE.
    Israel was ranked as the most hostile country, with the U.S. second.
    Earlier this month, a high-level Egyptian source said that relations between Israel and Egypt are perhaps the best they've ever been, because of ongoing security coordination.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinian President Says No Longer Bound by Oslo Accords - Zeina Karam
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that he is no longer bound by agreements signed with Israel, though he stopped short of dissolving the Palestinian Authority. Abbas also called upon the UN "to provide international protection for the Palestinian people." Abbas' tough talk could be an attempt to mask his political weakness as hopes of setting up a Palestinian state have been derailed. (AP-MSNBC)
        See also Text of Abbas' 2015 Address to the UN General Assembly (Times of Israel)
        See also below Commentary: Abbas' Empty Bombshell - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Raise Flag at UN - Hugh Bronstein
    Palestinian officials cheered on Wednesday as their national flag flew for the first time at UN headquarters in New York. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas officiated at the ceremony, saying: "The day for raising this flag will come soon in Jerusalem, the capital of our Palestinian state." The General Assembly approved a Palestinian resolution this month saying flags of non-member states "shall be raised at (UN) Headquarters." The U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution, saying that symbolic moves like raising flags do nothing to move the peace process forward. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Warns Russia Against Striking Non-Islamic State Groups in Syria - Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor
    U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that Russia's first airstrikes in Syria appear to have targeted areas that do not include Islamic State fighters. Secretary of State John Kerry said he told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov of U.S. "concerns about the nature of the targets, the type of targets and the need for clarity with respect for them." "It is one thing obviously to be targeting ISIL. We are concerned obviously if that is not what is happening," Kerry said. (AP-U.S. News)
        See also Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say - Dion Nissenbaum (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Calls on Palestinian Leader to Resume Direct Talks - Tovah Lazaroff
    Responding to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again called on the Palestinian leader to resume direct talks. Netanyahu will address the UN on Thursday.
        The Prime Minister's Office responded to Abbas' accusations that Israel was violating the status quo on the Temple Mount by allowing Jewish visitors to the site. "In contrast to the Palestinians, Israel is strictly maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and is committed to continuing to do so in accordance with the agreements between us and the Jordanians and the Waqf."
        "We expect and call on the [Palestinian] Authority and its leader to act responsibly and accede to the proposal of the Prime Minister of Israel and enter into direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions. The fact that he - time and again - has refused to do so is the best possible proof of the fact that he does not intend to reach a peace agreement."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Arabs in ISIS-Inspired Terror Cell Planned Attacks on IDF, Police - Hassan Shaalan and Itay Blumenthal
    Seven Israeli Arabs were indicted in Nazareth's District Court on Thursday. The accused "created an Islamic State cell with the intention of carrying out terror attacks," the Israel Security Agency said. Some had been in contact with several Israelis who joined ISIS in Syria. Some had trained in the woods in the Lower Galilee in preparation for the planned attacks. Ahmed Mahagna, Mohammad Sharif, and Mohammad Ghazali were charged with contacting a foreign agent and an illegal organization while planning to attack Israeli military targets - specifically, to open fire at a police vehicle and an IDF base. (Ynet News)
  • 50,000 Jewish Worshipers Attend Priestly Blessing at Western Wall during Sukkot Holiday - Kobi Nachshoni
    50,000 people attended the priestly blessing at Jerusalem's Western Wall on Wednesday morning. The blessing, Birkat HaCohanim in Hebrew, takes place during the Sukkot and Passover holidays. (Ynet News)
        See also Photos: The Priestly Blessing in Jerusalem - Jeremy Sharon
    The relaxed and convivial atmosphere of the Sukkot holiday was very much in evidence in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall on Wednesday. Thousands of people were present at the Western Wall in the afternoon when the Hakhel ceremony was performed. Hakhel was originally observed in the Temple following a sabbatical year [one of which just ended], when the Jewish people were commanded to gather during Sukkot to hear the Torah being read. The custom was reintroduced in 1945. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Abbas' Empty Bombshell - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not announce his resignation or the dismantlement of the PA. Instead, he repeated his old threat to abandon signed accords with Israel. This is another conditional threat by Abbas and not a straightforward announcement abrogating the Oslo Accords and other agreements with Israel.
        In his speech, Abbas did not abandon the peace process with Israel. He did not even suspend security coordination with Israel - without which the PA would not be able to survive. Abbas' speech is not going to change anything on the ground. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Will Abbas' UN Speech Have Much Impact? - Ken Bredemeier and Cecily Hilleary
    Analysts questioned whether Abbas' UN speech will have much impact at a time when the Middle East peace process is far down the international community's agenda. "Mahmoud Abbas has a major strategic dilemma on his hands," said Josef Olmert, adjunct professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, "and that is how to make the Palestinian question in general, and the Palestinian Authority in particular, relevant again, at a time when the burning issues in the Middle East are Syria, Iraq, refugees and ISIS."  (VOA News)
  • Will There Be a Third Intifada? - Shlomi Eldar
    Will a third intifada erupt on the Temple Mount and spread like wildfire across the West Bank? A senior Palestinian official explained that without a prominent body like Fatah coaxing the street, there will be no intifada on the scale of the two previous ones, which began in 1987 and 2000. But Fatah's senior members are preoccupied with who will succeed Abbas.
        By all indications, an all-out conflict with Israel is not really seething below the surface. Yunes Aida of Hebron said, "I was 14 when the second intifada broke out. There were many fatalities and casualties. It was a big mess. It didn't bring us a solution. People know that another intifada and more fatalities will only make their lives harder. They don't have the energy for that. It's not just my own personal opinion. I'm telling you what all the people here are saying."
        The Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority leaders are not interested in a return to total chaos and the destruction of PA institutions, which were painstakingly built and are now considered by West Bank residents to be their legitimate political and civilian establishment. (Al-Monitor)

Syria: Time to Reformulate the Rules of the Game - Udi Dekel (Institute for National Security Studies)

  • The Western powers, led by the U.S., are not willing to pay the price needed to dismantle the Islamic State's military capabilities and to replace the Assad regime.
  • Furthermore, at this point the U.S. and its allies are not eager to attack the Islamic State with the required effectiveness because its collapse could result in increased power for Assad.
  • In practice, Syria is already divided into areas under the influence of external powers. As the Russians deploy, the coastal region will all but come directly under their control. Northern Syria, especially the Kurdish region, is under Turkish influence. The central axis of Syria - from Damascus to Homs and Aleppo - and the Syrian-Lebanese border are, with Hizbullah's help, under Iranian influence. Eastern Syria is the battlefield for the war by the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State.
  • The only area not claimed by an outside force as a critical interest is southern Syria, including the Golan Heights. It is critical that Israel retain operational freedom of action in this sector and in Lebanon.

    Brig. Gen. (ret.) Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff.

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