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November 2, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Russian Plane Crashes in Sinai, 224 Killed - Jethro Mullen and Arwa Damon (CNN)
    All 224 people on a flight from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg died on Saturday after their airliner broke into pieces in midair.
    "Disintegration of the fuselage took place in the air, and the fragments are scattered around a large area (about 20 sq. km.)," said Viktor Sorochenko, executive director of Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee.
    The flight's black boxes - the data recorder and cockpit voice recorder - have been recovered and will be analyzed.
    While the Sinai Peninsula, where the flight crashed, is home to ISIS-affiliated militants, officials in Egypt and Russia dismissed their claim of responsibility for bringing down the Russian passenger jet.
    The Egyptian military said militants in Sinai have shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons that only shoot as high as 14,000 feet, far short of the 30,000 feet at which the plane was flying.
    See also Israeli Military Says Ready to Help with Crashed Russian Plane (Reuters)
    "Since this morning the IDF assisted with aerial surveillance in the efforts to locate the Russian airplane that lost contact over the Sinai Peninsula. The IDF has offered continued assistance to both Russia and Egypt if required," the Israeli military said Saturday.

29 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Officers Killed in Syria in Past Two Weeks (MEMRI)
    Reports by the Mashregh website (, affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reveal the deaths of 29 IRGC officers in the fighting in Syria in the past few weeks.

Report: Syrian Rebels Lock People in Cages to Use as Human Shields (Reuters)
    A video posted online by the Syrian opposition Shaam News showed men and women in iron cages being driven on the back of pickup trucks to be used as human shields.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday that the people were military officers and their families who had been captured by rebels.

Video: Russia Fires Deadly Flamethrower Missile in Syria - Tom Parfitt (Sunday Express-UK)
  A video released by the Syrian army shows the Russian "Blazing Sun" missile launcher in action as it fired at ISIS positions in the mountains northeast of Latakia.
    The weapon - also known as the TOS-1A - is thought to be especially suited to mountain areas containing bunkers and tunnels.
    Temperatures soar to 1,000 degrees Celsius at the epicenter of the explosion - burning up all the oxygen in the immediate area.

As Syria Crumbles, More Golan Druze Seek Israeli Citizenship - Tamar Pileggi (Times of Israel)
    The number of Golan Druze seeking Israeli citizenship is 80 so far in 2015, compared to only two such requests in 2010, Israel Channel 1 TV reported Thursday.
    Of the 20,000 Druze residing in the Golan, only a few hundred have accepted Israeli citizenship since 1981, as Druze leaders openly swore allegiance to Syria.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Sends Special Operations Forces to Help Fight ISIS in Syria - Peter Baker
    President Obama announced on Friday that he had ordered several dozen Special Operations troops into Syria to advise local Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State. In addition, Obama authorized deploying A-10 and F-15 warplanes to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The A-10s are capable of providing close-in air support to fighters on the ground. (New York Times)
  • Khamenei Orders Blocking of Imports from U.S.
    Iran's Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, said Saturday, "We will implement the blockade on imports of American goods" in line with a directive from Ayatollah Khamenei to develop an "economy of resistance."  (Press TV-Iran)
        See also Khamenei: Talks with U.S. on Regional Issues Are Pointless
    Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed the idea of Iran-U.S. negotiations on regional issues, saying the totally contrasting policies of the two countries make such talks pointless. The Supreme Leader dismissed as a Western illusion the notion that Iran's foreign policy has undergone a change. (Tehran Times-Iran)
        See also Iran Not to Implement Nuclear Deal until Sanctions Repealed, Iranian Lawmakers Say
    In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, 213 Iranian lawmakers said no practical measure should be taken with regard to the implementation of the nuclear agreement before the U.S. and EU officially declare the lifting of all financial and economic sanctions against Tehran. (Press TV-Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Three Border Police Officers Wounded in West Bank Car-Ramming Attack - Gili Cohen
    Three Israeli Border Police officers were wounded in a car-ramming attack on Sunday north of Kiryat Arba in the West Bank. Earlier on Sunday, a knife-wielding Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces near the Palestinian village of Beit Anun after he tried to stab a soldier. (Ha'aretz)
        See also West Bank Stabbing Foiled - Yaakov Lappin
    Two terrorists attempted to stab a soldier Monday morning in the West Bank near the Gilboa Crossing on the Palestinian side. One terrorist was shot and injured, while the other was arrested. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Israelis, One American Wounded in Weekend Terrorist Attacks - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    In Jerusalem, an Arab with a drawn knife charged at pedestrians who stood by a light-rail train station near Ammunition Hill on Friday. He stabbed an American student, 22, in the chest, and then tried to stab another student before being shot and killed by police and security guards. In the crossfire, an Israeli man was struck in the leg.
        In the West Bank on Friday, two Palestinian assailants drove to the Tapuah junction checkpoint on a scooter and then drew knives and stabbed a Border Police officer in the hand. Border Police killed one assailant and seriously wounded the other. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Terrorist Killed after Attempted Attack - Daniel J. Roth and Yaakov Lappin
    A Palestinian terrorist who attempted to stab Israeli security personnel at the Gilboa Crossing north of Jenin was shot and killed on Saturday. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Kamil Abu Rokon, head of the Crossings Authority, said, "The guard followed procedure exactly the way he was trained."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Border Policewoman Foils Terrorist Attack - Elisha Ben Kimon
    A female Border Police fighter, Corporal "A," foiled a terrorist attack on Friday when two terrorists attempted to stab a fellow border policeman at the Tapuach junction. When "A" realized that two men had knives and were approaching her partner, she shot them. "I understood that if I hesitated for a second, the fighter beside me won't be alive anymore," "A" said. "I did my part. This is what I came to Israel for - to protect the country," said "A," who immigrated to Israel from France. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinian Violence Part of Worldwide Islamic Terror - Moshe Arens
    Understanding the roots of the latest wave of Palestinian violence can provide the key to dealing with it effectively. Those who go out to stab Jews or run them over in the street are not doing so because they have lost hope in the peace efforts chaperoned by John Kerry. What we have seen on the streets of Jerusalem in recent weeks is just another chapter of the wave of radical Islamic terror that has attacked targets around the world during the last few years. The perpetrators are inspired by the gruesome decapitations carried out by ISIS.
        The knife wielders in Hebron are probably longing for the "good old days" when their ancestors butchered the Jewish community there with knives and hatchets in 1929. These terrorists cannot be appeased. Their aim is death to the infidels - to the Jews and the "Crusaders." The resumption of negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas is not going to placate those brandishing knives in the streets of Jerusalem and Hebron. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic State Inspires Knife Attacks in Israel - Jonathan Spyer
    Cooperation between Israeli security forces and those of the Palestinian Authority has not broken down as a result of the violence in Israel and the West Bank. The PA leadership does not control the young people carrying out the stabbings. In spite of Abbas' rhetorical condemnations of Israel, he evidently prefers not to throw away the relative stability of the last years. The Tanzim and other Fatah armed groups have been instructed not to engage in violence.
        Moreover, the general chaos in the surrounding area - in Syria, Sinai, Iraq - has not escaped the attention of Palestinians and serves as a disincentive to participation in violence among wide sections of society. The Second Intifada was not that long ago. The suffering it entailed is still remembered by all those over the age of 30.
        The attacks are emerging from Palestinians too young to remember the last Intifada. But other than expressing anger, a leaderless, directionless trend of this type ultimately is capable of only a limited impact. The stabbings will not produce any gains for the Palestinians. The inspiration for the wave of knife attacks is fairly obvious. It is the Islamic State which has "pioneered" murder with cold steel in the Middle East. The writer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (The Australian)
  • Russia in Southern Syria: Israeli and Jordanian Concerns - Nadav Pollak
    On Oct. 28, Russian jets reportedly targeted rebel forces in southern Syria at Tal Harra - less than 12 miles from the Israeli border - and other locations in Deraa province. In mid-October, the Syrian army, Hizbullah reinforcements, and local militias loyal to the regime turned back a rebel offensive in the southern province of Quneitra. The Syrian air force has been hesitant to execute airstrikes near the Israeli border since Sept. 2014, when one of its fighter jets was shot down after crossing into Israeli airspace.
        If Hizbullah and Iran use Russian air cover to move closer to the border, they will cross one of Israel's redlines. Earlier this year, Israel reportedly targeted Hizbullah and Iranian commanders in the Golan Heights for that reason. Jerusalem has conveyed this and other redlines to the Russians more than once. Moscow does not want to aggravate Israel by facilitating Iranian provocations, but it needs Iranian boots on the ground to fight the rebels. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Sorry Bill, It's Not Up to Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • Bill Clinton spent the years after he left the White House loudly and bitterly lamenting the fact that Yasir Arafat cost him a Nobel Peace Prize. Clinton hosted a peace summit at Camp David in the summer of 2000 at which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state including almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza in exchange for peace. Arafat said no and months later launched a terrorist war of attrition.
  • But in spite of this, Clinton told a huge crowd in Tel Aviv on Oct. 31 that "it is up to you" in order to make peace in the Middle East. Clinton was an honored guest at a peace rally/commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's murder. It is all well and good to praise the search for peace. But the last 22 years have taught us that it clearly is not up to the Israeli people.
  • Barak repeated the offer the next year, and Ehud Olmert sweetened it in 2008. Both times the Palestinians against refused. Before that, Ariel Sharon withdrew every soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza, hoping to create an opening for peace. Each time Israel took the kind of risks for peace that its friends and critics had been urging it to do, yet got neither peace nor credit for the sacrifice.
  • What more can Israel do to convince the Palestinians to make peace than they have already done? According to the Obama administration and critics of the Netanyahu government, they need to stop building homes in existing settlements in the West Bank and 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or release more convicted terrorists.
  • But does anyone really think that will convince the Palestinians to make peace when offers like the ones Barak and Olmert made were not enough? Did Sharon's experiment in trading land for peace - which turned out to be an exchange of territory for terror - not go far enough?
  • The problem isn't Israel not recognizing Palestinians' rights and aspirations. The problem is that even PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian lauded by President Obama as a moderate and a champion of peace, won't recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
  • It's not the Israelis who need the lectures from Clinton and Obama. It's the Palestinians. Israel has taken plenty of risks for peace. It's time for Americans to stop ignoring that fact and start putting pressure on Israel's foes to take some risks of their own.

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