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December 28, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Sixty People Charged with Terrorism in U.S. in 2015 - a Record - Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post)
    The U.S. Justice Department has charged at least 60 individuals in 2015 with terrorism-related crimes, an unprecedented number that officials attribute to a heightened threat from the Islamic State and the influence of social media on potential recruits.
    "The common connection we're seeing is - in almost every case - a tie to social media," said John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
    More than 55% of those charged are under 25, and about 1/3 are 21 or younger. "That's not the same age demographic that we saw with al-Qaeda," he said.
    Islamic State supporters inside the U.S., inspired by its leaders' calls to attack where they reside, are increasingly plotting or attempting to carry out attacks domestically, officials said.
    In 2015, prosecutors brought more than 15 cases against such individuals.

Israel Donates Food, Water Tanks to Kenya Flood Victims - Manuel Odeny (The Star-Kenya)
    The Israeli government made donations on Monday to Migori county flood victims in a show of friendship with Kenya following a request by the governor.
    Governor Okoth Obado said the county received 100 bags of maize, 44 bags of beans, three bulls, 400 blankets, 192 rubber boots, six water tanks, 200 mosquito nets and several cartons of cooking oil.
    The Israeli government also donated a solar water heater for a school. Obado said Israel was the first country to respond to his pleas.

Spain Lifts War Criminal Designation from Netanyahu, Other Israeli Officials (JTA)
    Spain's National Court has canceled the registration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and six other Israelis as war crimes suspects in connection with the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, El Diario daily reported.

World Sailing to Investigate Malaysia after Israel Unable to Send Youth to Championships - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    World Sailing announced on Sunday that it is holding an investigation of Malaysia over the Youth Sailing World Championships that began in Langkawi on Monday after Israel was unable to send a delegation to the event.
    The Malaysian organizers demanded that the windsurfers not compete under the Israel flag and should an Israeli win a gold medal, the Israeli national anthem would not be played.
    World Sailing President Carlo Croce said: "A member of the World Sailing Executive is on route to Malaysia to investigate this issue....World Sailing expects the organizing authority of its events to allow sailors from all nations to compete on an equal basis."
    Israel Sailing Association chairman Gili Amir said that as of 24 hours before the team's scheduled departure date, they had not yet received visas.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Wary of Threat from Islamic State - Batsheva Sobelman
    Israel's military has stepped up intelligence and preparedness efforts with the Islamic State in mind. In particular, Israeli forces are keeping an eye on Islamic State's branch in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Sooner or later, Israel believes, Islamic State could attempt a strike on the country.
        Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, directly threatened Israel on Saturday. "No, O Jews, we did not forget Palestine for one moment," Baghdadi said in a speech monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group. "Soon you will hear the crawl of the mujahideen, and their vanguards will surround you on a day you believe is far but that we see is close....Palestine will be your graveyard."
        According to Israeli media, Israel's military trained last month for the possibility of an abduction of its soldiers by Islamic State forces. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also below Observations: Hamas and ISIS Aid Islamic State in Sinai - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
        See also The Palestinian Authority Will Find No Friend in ISIS - Pinhas Inbari
    PA officials have been challenging ISIS to turn its gaze toward Israel. They are playing with fire, because if ISIS does decide to act against Israel, it will undoubtedly act against the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah as well. The PLO wants to establish a Palestinian state. That goal totally contravenes ISIS' ambition to destroy the existing states and create a sharia-based caliphate in their stead. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Top Syrian Rebel Leader Killed in Russian Airstrike - Anne Barnard
    Zahran Alloush, commander of the Army of Islam, one of the most powerful Syrian insurgent groups, was killed Friday in a Russian airstrike in the suburbs of Damascus. The Army of Islam was an enemy of the Islamic State and was seen as crucial in keeping IS from encroaching closer to Damascus. (New York Times)
        See also Russia Seeks to Dictate Who Will Run Syria - Zvi Bar'el
    The Army of Islam numbers over 20,000 soldiers with 26 branches around Syria. In 2014 it merged into the Islamic Front, which represents most of the Islamic militias that are fighting to remove the Assad regime. Despite its radical religious agenda, the Army of Islam is considered one of the "moderate Islamist" groups with which the U.S. is willing to cooperate.
        Russia, in contrast to the position of the Obama administration, does not make any distinctions between the moderate Islamic groups and those considered to be more extreme. To Russia, the only legitimate rebel groups are the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish militias, which it assists by providing arms and intelligence. Saudi Arabia and Turkey support the Army of Islam. (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Soldiers Stabbed in West Bank, One Stabbed in Jerusalem on Sunday - Roi Yanovsky and Elisha Ben Kimon
    Two IDF soldiers were wounded on Sunday afternoon in a stabbing attack by two Palestinians at the Hawara checkpoint in the West Bank. The soldiers shot and killed both attackers, Muhammad Sabana, 17, and Noor al-Deen Sabana, 23, from Qabatiya.
        An IDF soldier was stabbed in the back Sunday morning near Jerusalem's Central Bus Station. The terrorist tried to stab him a second time but the soldier fought back and pushed his attacker to the ground. A security guard helped to overcome the terrorist. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Woman Arrested after Stabbing Attempt in West Bank Sunday
    Israeli security forces arrested a Palestinian woman on Sunday morning who tried to stab a security guard at the gate of Ma'ale Shomron, a Jewish village in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Soldier Hurt in Car-Ramming in West Bank on Saturday - Nir Hasson
    On Saturday, an Israeli soldier was wounded in a car-ramming attack in Hawara in the West Bank. The assailant, Maher al-Jabi, was shot and killed. Earlier Saturday, a knife-wielding Palestinian was shot dead after he attempted a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Condemns Terror, Palestinian Authority Praises It - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that just as the scope of Jewish terrorism can in no way be compared to the much greater Palestinian terrorism, so too the reaction of Israeli society is completely different than that of the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu noted that in Israel there was widespread condemnation of the phenomenon of Jewish terror by the government, various institutions and leaders.
        "In the PA they name squares and streets after them [the terrorists], and pay them salaries," he said. "There is a huge difference between the healthy approach of Israeli society and Israeli democracy that rejects terrorism, condemns it and acts against it, and the PA that unfortunately encourages it and incites towards it."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Russia's Role in Syria Challenges Hizbullah's, Iran's Interests - Hanin Ghaddar
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah faces a number of issues of concern. First, he must face the bitter fact that Russia allowed Israel to assassinate Samir Kuntar. Moreover, the ongoing coordination between Russia and Israel makes any Hizbullah retaliation far more complicated.
        In addition, U.S. sanctions against Hizbullah were recently increased. Some economic analysts in Lebanon say that the purpose of these sanctions is to make sure Hizbullah does not receive much-needed money after the sanctions against Iran are lifted.
        The third issue is Russia's role in Syria. The Iranian and Hizbullah leaderships know that Russia's priority is to save Assad's regime, not to protect Iran's interests. (NOW-Lebanon)
        See also Iran Moves Troops from Syria to Iraq - Manaf Al-Obaidi
    Well-informed political sources revealed that Iran withdrew Revolutionary Guard units from Syria, moving them to Iraq after a Russian-Iranian dispute escalated in Syria. "After Hizbullah's commander Samir Kuntar was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Damascus, several facts surrounding the Russian-Iranian relationship were exposed. It is evident that Russia is more concerned with Israel's interests over those of Iran or Syria," the source said. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Bethlehem Christmas Celebrations Limited after Muslim Threats - Bassam Tawil
    Palestinian Christians have now become a tiny minority in Bethlehem. On Christmas day, Muslim Palestinians hurled stones at the car taking the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, head of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, to Bethlehem. On the eve of Christmas, it became clear that the real reason behind the PA's decision to cancel public celebrations in Bethlehem had nothing to do with Israel or the "intifada."
        The decision, it turned out, came after threats by Muslim extremists to target Christians and their holy sites. Christian residents of Bethlehem and Ramallah said they received threats and demands to cancel celebrations from various Islamic groups. The Christians in the West Bank and Gaza are no different from their brothers in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya, who face a ruthless campaign of persecution and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Islamic State and other Islamist groups. (Gatestone Institute)

Hamas and ISIS Aid Islamic State in Sinai - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)

  • In the past three years, Hamas has been significantly helping Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which now calls itself Sinai Province after swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, to upgrade its military and operational abilities.
  • While two years ago, its videos mainly documented peasants equipped with small arms (Kalashnikov rifles and grenades), today they document advanced weapons and camouflage.
  • Today, Sinai Province operates Fajr rockets, aerial defense systems, advanced antitank missiles, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, explosives, mortars, advanced communication means, and satellite phones.
  • According to updated estimates, Sinai Province numbers 500-1,000 members, including 100-200 who received combat training in Syria and Iraq from global jihad elements.
  • A few days before the Russian plane crash in Sinai on Oct. 13, which left 224 people dead, Western intelligence agencies saw a significant increase in the volume of written and spoken communication between senior members of Sinai Province and elements affiliated with ISIS' Security and Intelligence Council in Iraq and Syria, the body responsible for ISIS' most important secret activities and special operations.
  • Shortly after the crash, this communication almost completely stopped.

        See also ISIS in Sinai Receiving Millions in Aid from Abroad - Yoav Zitun
    Sinai Province, a branch of the Islamic State, has recently started enjoying millions of dollars in aid from abroad. Recently, Sinai Province has posted videos in which it calls for carrying out attacks against Israeli targets. (Ynet News)

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